AS I SEE IT: Social networking, good or bad?

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SO then... Facebook and Twitter... Pointless drivel, derived from good old fashioned gossip mongering, or a useful way to take advantage of modern technology to stay in regular touch with friends and relatives?

I have a foot firmly in both camps. I’ve been frankly amazed, on occasion, to see the most private and personal details being revealed by people who I thought, nay, hoped would have known better than to use the equivalent of a massive, all reaching, international public notice board to declare their innermost feelings, hopes and dreams. I have seen arguments, bullying, sniding and snitching in my day-to-day surfing, but what of the good side of these vast networks that have become part of essential daily living for so many thousands of users?

MPs have recently voted to allow “tweeting” during parliamentary debate, which has been met with the usual disapproving whispers from traditional quarters. I totally disagree. How brilliant that MPs can communicate directly with their “followers”, on topical here-and-now debate about the running of the country and up-to-the-minute breaking news and views, traditionally the proud and private domain of the corridors of power. Never before have we, the public, had such fantastic opportunities to have our say and to keep informed.

Blasting away frontiers and barriers, social networking has opened up channels of communication to an amazing degree. I am now in regular contact with old school friends, past acquaintances, lost friends and treasured family members thanks to Facebook. I’m able to see my friends’ children develop and grow and share pictures and updates with people all over the world. Of course what comes with this is room for abuse of such wonderful opportunities, but surely it is up to us as individuals to safeguard the information we share and think responsibly in the way we integrate these fantastic communication tools into our day-to-day lives? As usual, the critics would be applying the “nanny state” rules, which claim none of us are capable of policing our own communications and in turn, keeping ourselves safe from unwanted correspondence and possible misuse of the information we’re publishing.

I heartily disagree with the critics who bemoan the retirement of pen and paper when it comes to day-to-day correspondence. This technological age affords us so many more opportunities to be in touch and therefore, we’re using them. Would I have taken the time to send a picture of my daughter’s first steps through the post to my cousin in London? I’m ashamed to say, probably not. Would I have written a short note to tell my mum I’m thinking of her just in that second as I caught the scent of her perfume walking down the street? It’s highly unlikely.

Let’s embrace the wonderful facilities that this new era of technology offers us every day, whilst taking personal responsibility for the way that we use it.