The explosion in so called social networking sites and platforms has been so big and so fast that I think it has caught a lot of people by surprise, particularly when used for not particularly social behaviour.
There doesn’t seem to be a day goes by now where the use, or more appropriately, the ‘misuse’ of social media is in the news.
Sometimes I wonder how we communicated, or even survived, before the introduction of social media sites, but I’m positive we did.
I did a little bit of digging (I asked Mr.G…as you do) and whilst I knew that the concept of social media and social networking is relatively new, I was astonished to discover just how new this phenomenon is. Here a few facts I found:
Facebook was only founded in 2004
Twitter was set up two years later, in 2006
These seem to be the most popular and widely used forms of social media, and facebook reportedly has 1.25 billion active users, or to put it in context, almost 18% of the world’s population! That means that something approaching 1 in 5 of the people on planet earth has an active facebook account – how’s that for globalisation?
Thankfully, I am one of the 72% who doesn’t, as I see it as something far removed from when it was originally set up to allow people to keep in touch and perhaps send photographs of their loved ones to family and friends who are in different parts of the world.
These days, it seems to me to be a very simple way of people being able to bully people, snoop on and/or stalk people anonymously, and for occasionally socially challenged individuals to make themselves heard. (although this last point isn’t necessarily a bad one, if used in a positive manner)
The disturbing trend that I can see growing at an alarming rate though, is the significant number of individuals and groups of people who use social media sources to intimidate, threaten, and generally try and make people’s lives unbearable, whilst hiding behind the convenience of the anonymity the sites provide.
Just in the past few weeks you read about ‘internet trolls’ and how some countries are considering bringing new laws out to prevent the sinister and nasty behaviour these trolls indulge in being allowed to flourish.
Not too long ago, the word ‘Troll’ conjured up images of the small mythological people from Scandinavian countries who lived in woodlands or beneath the earth, yet now the very same word will instantly make you think of cruelty and hatred being spread at an alarming rate around the world, usually targetting an individual who has somehow come to the attention of such people who take pleasure from other people’s discomfort.
A couple who had their daughter snatched from their holiday home whilst they were enjoying an evening meal find that they are the victims of cruel and unfounded stories being circulated, some even suggesting that they themselves were behind the disappearance.
A so called troll was ‘exposed’ by a news channel, and not too long later was discovered dead in a hotel room.
And of course, the very recent emergence of a terrorist organisation carrying out atrocities as it sweeps along capturing territory and killing in the most gruesome way anybody in its path who disagrees with their radical views, has found it easy to use social media sites to distribute disgusting videos of themselves carrying out cold blooded and barbaric murders, knowing that it is virtually impossible for them to be stopped from doing so.
This, to me, perfectly illustrates how the very positive and well intended creation of social media and social networking tools has had its day, and is now being abused on a grand scale.
I know it is a forlorn hope, but if it was possible, or in my power, I would shut all social media sites down for a minimum of three months, delete all accounts and profiles which exist, and ensure that if and when they were re-established, this was only done if the exact location of any new posts were able to be identified and recorded by the police and governments around the world.
I know of course that this will not happen. I read about terrorist groups posting horrific images and videos online, and the owners of the social networks claiming that if they censored them in any way then that would take something away from the freedom of speech and the ideology of the network itself.
This is a hefty price to pay for allowing the anonymous nature of social networking to be used for evil purposes, either by individuals intent on bullying people, or the bigger picture of illegal groups recruiting impressionable and perhaps disillusioned young people to commit further acts of terror.
Somehow, some way, this has to be stopped.