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Is Twitter destroying your social life?

Posted Oct 21 2012 7:57am

The Guardian, it seems, can’t be bothered to report on yesterday’s TUC march in London, in which an estimated 150,000 took part.

It can find the space, however, to launch one of its regular bullshit attacks on social networking, in “ How social networks can destroy your social life . Written by John Naughton,** an OU professor of “the public understanding of technology” who demonstrates that, while bitching about things he doesn’t like, he really understands little.

**Tried to discover if he has a Twitter account, but got nothing but retweets of the article, so I have no idea. Oddly, the majority of those RTing agreed with the premise of the title, which made me wonder what the hell they’re doing on Twitter anyway. It’s like turkeys tweeting in favour of Christmas!

The guy’s main gripe was about Foursquare (basic argument, is there a more pointless app?), which he managed to turn into a slagging off of social networking as a whole, and especially of Twitter which, of course, attracted the usual trolls in the comments thread. There’s a very much shorter version of this there, too.

More often than not the loudest critics of, say, Twitter, are those who have never been anywhere near it. Or spent an afternoon there, decided no-one wanted to play with them, and went off in a huff.

The whole point of social networking is your network – should be pretty bloody obvious –  and that takes time to build up. And like so much else in life, what you get out of it is directly proportional to what you put in. Just lurking on the fringes and not participating is futile, and leads to entirely wrong conclusions. I know, because I’ve done exactly that, some years ago, before becoming a dedicated Twitter user.

Naughton’s argument, as you’ve no doubt gathered from the title of the piece, is that social networking ruins social lives, completely missing the point that, for the smartphone generation,** it’s actually a large and intrinsic part of their social lives.

**A generation not defined simply by age but by a willingness to embrace new technology and make it a functional part of their lives. By which I don’t mean the sort of teenage numpties who sit next to each other and text back and forth! Talk to each other – you might enjoy the novelty! Mind you, it’s a good way, in a crowded place, to have a private conversation – just don’t overdo it.

As for social networking destroying social lives, I’m not buying it. If it actually does, the social life couldn’t have been up to much anyway. From a personal perspective, having become increasingly housebound over the past few years, I no longer had a social life anyway, but Twitter has changed that and, frankly, that’s where I spend a large part of my day. Not just mindlessly tweeting the minutiae of my life – no-one cares for a start – but making contributions when and where I can.

This is my Kred score today – not too shabby.

And this is what it means



I’m not showing you this to boast (well, maybe a little ;) ), but to demonstrate that to make any sort of an impact, you actually do have to participate and engage with others.

And you can be anyone you want to be – within reason – pretending to be someone else is severely frowned upon, but you can use a nom de tweet if you wish. I don’t, I’m old fashioned enough to believe that whatever I do or say online I stand behind, and do it in my own name but, each to their own.

So here’s a suggestion for any journalist planning a hatchet job on Twitter or FB – well, OK, you can have FB – gain some bloody experience first.

If you were writing about the Taliban, you’d probably be sent to Afghanistan or Pakistan, not Brighton, to do your research. Likewise, if you’re writing about social networking, especially Twitter (on FB total strangers line up to be your friends, on Twitter you need to earn that). Create an account, and run it for a few months, actively engaging with others, following and being followed, generate some interest.

Then go and write from knowledge, not from ignorance and prejudice. Who knows, you might get to like doing that.

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