WE LIVE ONLINE. PERSONAL MOMENTS, VIDEOS, WE SHARE EVERYTHING WITH THE WORLD FOR ONLINE GRATIFICATION. I’VE HAD A LOT OF THOUGHTS RECENTLY ABOUT HOW THIS NEW MEDIA AFFECTS THE WAY WE CONSUME NEWS AND INFORMATION, AND HERE’S MY HONEST WORDS.
I don’t really know how useful this blog post will serve in terms of how it reads to anyone but me, but i’ve been thinking a lot lately about having ‘a life online’ after attending Summer In The City, and on the flights I took last week alone where I had time to sit and think myself. It’s something that I don’t always know how to put into words, but have had a lot of thoughts about recently. I guess I can see this as more of a diary post to mull over in a few months time to see if I still feel the same, but if you identify with anything, leave me a comment with your thoughts on this topic, too.
As a generation (we are Generation Y) we’re fixated with the internet and our lives upon it. We don’t hesitate for a minute to upload our most intimate moments, our special journeys, our holidays and our parties with our friends publicly for the entire world to see. We hand over our names, our locations, our emails and our personal identification to huge corporations, and we’re monitored 24/7 through websites and apps. We’re both uncensored and desensitised, and we live within our means, uploading and sharing for gratification of numbers from those we don’t even know. We do this as if it is the most normal thing, and for Generation X and earlier to understand, it can be a little mind boggling. But it’s not just us that have changed as people, both celebrities, news and traditional media are now entirely ruled by the internet.
Let’s look at news reporting and the mammoth way in which we consume our news has changed within the last handful of years. I’m going to use the latest and very tragic Malaysian Airlines crash in Ukraine as my example, because I spent most of the time open eyed at the things I was seeing. So unfortunately the plane crashes/is shot out of the sky (i’m not here to be bias by any means, i’m just commenting on the social analysis of the aftermath) and within minutes, videos, photos and amateur footage is all over Twitter, before spilling over onto major news networks websites, and finally on the television. We’re seeing iPhone shot footage of the plane’s explosion, we’re seeing instagrams taken from the passengers of their tickets before they board, and we’re consuming all this within the immediate minutes after the crash has taken place. We’re now a world hooked, gripped by instant news feeds, and no amount of personal detail is spared – right down to the personal instagrams and facebook profiles of the deceased raided for information on the passengers boarding, with their profile photos then displayed all over the world. I feel like choosing a new profile picture is the new ‘wearing nice underwear incase a paramedic has to cut them off’, because it’s the one thing anyone can grab about you immediately to splash everywhere and use without your permission, and without you even knowing – because you handed it over to Facebook as public property within their terms of service. Unfortunately too, and this next sentence is not pretty to read, upon searching the Malaysian hashtag for simple information, I was immediately exposed to photographs taken by people who had trespassed on to the scene, of human remains and limbs of these poor, precious people, strewn all over Twitter to see.
It got me thinking about the age old debate of censorship within the media. Countries have tried in the past to sensor Twitter and while some countries have gone to the length of shutting it down in their country – Turkey most recently – as we saw in Egypt in 2011, the protestors actually used Twitter to their advantage to talk to the world in an otherwise censored media, not willing to expose the issues of the reign of Mubarak over their very biased publications. The world in which we previously lived, was controlled for us by others. Newspapers and major news corporations only showed us what they wanted us to see, only fed us what we needed to know. But then smartphones came along, and then Facebook, YouTube and lastly the most powerful of all: Twitter. So where does this leave us now? This leaves us in a world of mostly uncensored immediate media, both powerful in free speech and freedom but damaging in terms of trauma and desensitivity to younger users, such as the photos I was exposed to of the Malaysian airlines crash.
Does that mean our children will grow up in an even more uncensored world? Sometimes I keep myself awake at night worrying about the world my children will be born into. Will they be holding mobile phones before they can even say ‘Mum?’ Will they be pressured into portraying their entire lives all over the internet, as did their parents? Unfortunately at the moment, the answer is yes. Violence in the immediately accessible media is always on the up, never a bad thing as the world is what it is, but with prior news roll reports, they could at least spare us the bloody details before the watershed of wars and tragedies – but the problem with the internet is that there is no watershed, there is no censorship for the sake of kids. Without sounding like a protective ‘mum against..’ kind of figure, I know that as a parents I won’t want my babies to see things they don’t feel ready to see, without thinking about how and when the right time to experience that is. I want my children to connect to the world in the same way we do right now, but I worry how it will affect the way they view things growing up. I had a lovely childhood, I played with my barbies in the garden and rollerbladed down the street, and had a school upbringing completely void of mobile phones and with old rubbish computers up until the age of about 13, when I think the right time to expose kids to this world definitely is. Our kids wont have that. They’ll be on iPads as toddlers, and state of the art iMacs from the day they start school.
Being at Summer in the City reminded me how young most new YouTubers are these days. I can be totally guilty of forgetting a lot of people in blogging and Youtube are not the same age as me because i’ve been doing it for so long i’ve got a bit of Peter Pan syndrome about it all, but the reality is that bloggers and YouTubers now start their online lives from anything from about 13 upwards. And within short spaces of time, they are sometimes catapulted into ‘internet stardom.’ In the same vein as child actors and child musicians, this is the new future we’re seeing for our kids. The problem with this is that it feels like such a normal thing to do, that most kids will aspire to do it, because it seems within reach.
I click, snap, jot down notes and document my entire life for this blog, my twitter and my instagram. I often forget i’m talking to over 20,000 of you every time I tweet some sort of ramble, and I can see why it’s easy to do. The thing is, as kids we’re learning how to find ourselves, the things we like and the things we don’t. We’re protective, defensive, moody and unresponsive. We don’t want our favourite band to be liked by you aswell, cos you’re lame. We want to be the only ones to be trend setters and set the lead, and this can lead to petulant tweets and brattish videos being uploaded to harsh criticism and somewhat nasty comments. These are the years of our lives that are meant to be sacred, growing up in the privacy of our bedroom with the door locked and MTV on full blast. The reality for me is that teenagers don’t grow up like I did anymore, they don’t hang out in the park or have late night sleepovers gossiping about boys as much as they used to. They can have all that, at the click of a WhatsApp group chat, from the comfort of their bed.
So my question is, as we share more and more of our lives every single day, do we become more social, or simply more anti-social? Will our teenagers be a nation of introverts yet internet extroverts, or will they find their own feet as strongly as we, Generation Y did? We’re viewed by Generation X as being the spoiled, technology advanced young, but the reality is that after Generation X has gone, we will be the last Generation remaining that knew life before the internet. I can actually sit down in front of my grandkids and will be able to tell them I myself am older than the invention of the World Wide Web. Sometimes I feel like I should share everything to get likes, followers and more interaction on my blog and both my social channels, but more than recently i’ve actually been holding back on a lot of personal moments, to keep the photos for myself. I might snap photos of George and I at home just lounging about, or just enjoying our lives away from social media, and have to constantly reiterate to George that the photos are just for memory sake, to remind me of how we were when we were younger, when we’re older.
I would never for a minute be that person to tell you to stop social media, infact I really hate all that. I hate going to a bar where you have to hand over your phone, and the idea of an unplugged wedding does not appeal to me in the slightest, but I totally get it. I see it from both ways, if you want to tweet, be social and share your life – why the hell not? You have all the tools at your disposal. But at the same time, I see why these kinds of unplugged events and gatherings are so important not only for our mind but our wellbeing. I don’t think it’s healthy to be on the internet all the time, and our new culture of extreme internet fame is not healthy for our teenagers either. They need to learn that Zoella is a normal girl just like us, but she’s not there to be hounded at her front door, to be scrutinised on her every move, or to be screamed at in person. She has every right to live her life in privacy, as do a lot of celebrities behind closed doors. Just because the latest internet celebrity has come from sharing their world with you, doesn’t mean you have an AAA to their life, and I do genuinely think a lot about how this will continue in the future. I’ve already seen internet rehabs advertised, where you check in for a week or two, and are completely stripped of any sort of internet interaction. I wonder if this will become more of a problem for our youngsters than drugs or alcohol addiction.
We are after all, a new world online. We live our lives online. After this post i’m going to go back to my normal blogging of sharing my life and the things I do, and to me that’s the most normal yet abnormal thing ever. I think a lot about our world and the things in it, and I think sometimes, it’s good to take a step back evaluate where we are. If anything, for our minds sake we need to open our eyes to the world we are growing into, to try and keep as much of it sacred for the next generation as possible.