Progress has never been a bargain. You have to pay for itPosted on

There is a danger, in the digital age, to blame modern technology for the ills of the world.

From Blackberry Messaging during the London Riots, to Twitter and Facebook’s role in the rising problem of cyber bullying and trolling.

Blaming the method of communication is short-sighted though. The communication networks have some responsibility. Just as a postal service would be expected to co-operate if a terrorist network was posting letter bombs, or a telephone company expected to deliver up records following a campaign of telephone harassment, social media networks and Apps companies will also be subject to responsibilities to work with the authorities and abide by court disclosure orders.

It is not the method of communication that is the problem, however, it is the way human beings use them.

Social media has allowed humans to communicate more freely than ever before. This means that academics, scientists and researchers can share ideas from New York to York and from Dhaka to Dakar. Regrettably, it also means that yobbos, cranks and criminals can send threats, abuse and commit fraud from Sydney to Swansea and from Bombay to Brasilia.

Fear of progress is not a new phenomenon though. In the brilliant 1960 film Inherit the Wind, Spencer Tracey’s lead character, the lawyer Henry Drummond, sums up the fears of early 20th Century America beautifully.

I was asked recently by someone who works with teenagers and young adults whether we will ever go back to a culture where humans want to get their privacy back. I’m not so sure we will. Far from the charm of distance which we apparently had before telephones, we now have mobile phones glued to our bodies nearly 24/7. The same applies to social media. Something so influential will only grow, the question is only whether we will adapt to it better. The digital natives who have grown up using social media will expect to continue doing so. The difference may be that they become more savvy in its use.

It’s simple evolution. The teenager who places his or her entire personal life online today is unlikely to be the political or business leader of the next 25 years. Those who are best equipped to succeed in the digital age will also have the finest prospects in the “real” world because, of course, the digital world is the real world.

This is why education is key. Schools, employers, parents, sports clubs and anyone else with an interest in the success of young people, will be well advised to invest in education on good quality use of social media.

 

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