Tag Archive | social networking

Garden Gnomes and Elephants

Hello! (waves).

Before you start reading this post, please be assured that (a) this is not me in this photo and (b) the comment does not refer to you!

Anyone who knows me in person will know that above all else in life I treasure my family and good old-fashioned values.  I have always believed in the old adage that blood is thicker than water. Our family is growing all the time, with each new marriage or birth bringing with it new family members into the fold. I passionately believe that children thrive on the security a sprawling family structure brings with it. Grandparents, aunties, uncles, cousins and brothers and sisters all have a role to play in supporting parents to bring up their children.

My parents were also very family-orientated, and both my brother and myself were brought up properly. We had a fabulous childhood and always knew our mum and dad loved us very much. We had rows – of course we did – but they always ended up with someone saying sorry and usually a hug or two. We rarely went to bed on an argument. Looking back, the longest-running conflict, I’m ashamed to say, was between myself and Mum. I think it lasted about three years. We clashed spectacularly when I was aged between 13 and 16. I did eventually come to my senses and realised that Mum had actually done me a massive favour by being hard on me.  The same thing happened with my own daughter when she was the same age, so I suppose it was ‘Karma’ coming back to bite me on the bum! A good mum will instinctively be hard on her daughter because it will ultimately ensure she becomes a strong-minded woman.  Women need to be strong to protect their children. It is only human nature. Mothers and teenage daughters fight all the time.

Now what I am saying here, is that, up until relatively recently, family ding-dongs were always conducted face-to-face. Angry words were shouted out, emotions vented in yells of frustration and tears were shed – mostly on poor Dad’s shirt.  We argued, we made up, we hugged, we laughed at some of the stupid things we said and above all, we said ‘sorry’ and the other person could see that we meant it. Hurtful words disappeared and eventually were forgotten.

I remember arguing with friends, too. We pouted our lips, flounced off in a huff,  slagged each other off and then, when confronted with a common enemy (usually in the form of a teacher or a boy) we regrouped and closed ranks, crying into each other’s hair and vowing eternal and everlasting friendship. The lads, we observed, were more physical and arguments sometimes ended in black eyes and broken limbs. Even lads, forced by a hated teacher or a parent to apologise to each other, usually patched up their differences and were soon best buddies again.

Remember? I’m sure you do.

I worry about the changing world and the subliminal but potentially deadly influence of modern communication instead of face-to-face human interaction, but at the same time appreciate and embrace technological advances.

All this technology needs to be handled with care. It can cheapen and denigrate the written word all too easily, but it can also magnify it and turn it into a monster, sometimes spectacularly with terrible consequences.  Just this week a young woman has lost her job, made the national news and has probably been scarred for life by tweeting that she knocked a cyclist off his bike. It was just a few words, communicated in a moment of irritation, but look what has happened now?  Click on this link for the full story.

Used with care and good judgement, social networking and text messaging enriches and brings embellishment and colour to the modern world. People can connect with each other so easily nowadays and I am a big advocate of children using technology to learn. We can’t get left behind. Things change and we can never go back.

BUT ….

The power of the written word can destroy relationships with just a split second’s tap on the return key. The written word is permanent. It can be stored on a phone or sit forever in a mailbox. It can be summoned up and read again, and again, and again …

The words simmer, bubbling just beneath the surface of a spoken apology. The lines of communication become fragmented and disappear into a cauldron full of recriminations, suppressed anger and resentment. When, once, people would knock on each other’s doors or pick up a telephone to clear the air, Facebook sits like an elephant in everyone’s home – just a click away. Before long, a wandering finger will click on the ‘unfriend’ button. Someone will pick up their phone and tap out a text and press ‘send’ when, in the olden days, they would pick up a piece of paper and write a letter, pouring out all their resentment and anger, only to tear it up and chuck it in the bin the next morning, having realised the consequences of posting it. All that has been lost is a night’s sleep, tossing and turning, worrying about the argument or difference of opinion.

The outcome of sending the text or posting that tweet or facebook status is a lost relationship. Gone. Forever with just a twitch of a muscle in a rash moment. It might even be a lifelong friendship or a relative that is sacrificed, all because of modern technology taking the place of human interaction.

Our children, and future children, are much too precious for the technology of the modern world to destroy their basic humanity. Let’s all work together and teach them an old mantra with a modern twist –

“If you can’t say something nice, then don’t say it at all (especially in a text, email or on Facebook)”

As children grow up, we can help them to respect technology and use it with care. As a writer, I am perhaps more aware of the power of the written word than many people.

I really hope this post makes a difference – and more importantly, no one is offended by it.  If you are, then just pick up the phone and ring me so that we can talk about it face to face!