• Adam Whittaker

Social media gone mad

It feels like a day doesn’t go by when the trials and tribulations of social media aren’t being played out across the channels it presents and other mainstream media.

Whether it be how much time we spend scrolling through our feeds and how we could use that time in a far more appropriate and productive manner, or the mental and social ills it can illicit in the more vulnerable amongst us.

Facebook, Twitter et al have and can still be a force for good, linking friends and family across the world in an instant or connecting businesses with clients, companies with suppliers, yet the fundamentals of this technological development are often forgotten in this continual barrage of negative publicity. Taking the Cambridge Analytica issues off the table (or screen) and temporarily dismissing the wrong doings of celebrities and people who should know better, the whole ethos of this unstoppable news and entertainment stream has been overshadowed by occasional trivia and often disturbing repercussions.

When facilitating social media and marketing workshops to new businesses and people thinking of venturing into self employment, we discuss the pros and pitfalls of having an online presence. My key message is always the same. Yes – your Instagram feed can definitely help promote your product or service but one thing remains and the clue is in the name. It’s called SOCIAL media and is so for a reason. It’s the chat you have with your mates in the pub but now online. It’s the discussion you would have about a certain cut of meat that you need for a dish you are preparing for the family that night, that not so long ago would have taken place over the counter at your local butcher. On the business level, it’s that chat over a coffee, that networking pitch, all played out online rather than face to face. It should remain a conversation not a sales diatribe, a personal interaction rather than a pitching pontification.

And occasionally it all just becomes ridiculous.T he weekend broadsheet headline screamed – sharing children’s images on social media ‘breaches rights’. Really. According to Joseph Cannataci, candidly titled, the UN’s special rapporteur on the right to privacy, there should be ‘stronger guidelines’ to safeguard the rights of youngsters who have images of themselves uploaded to social media by their parents. Cases are already emerging of kids suing their parents for uploading videos etc without their permission.

Not only does this strike me as ridiculous but also very very sad. Having a child is, for the majority of people, one of the most rewarding and exhilarating experiences, one that makes them intensely proud and quite rightly instills in them the need to share their affection, devotion and pride with whom they choose. With the exception of publishing pictures that may encourage the more unsavoury sectors of our society, why not populate your Facebook feed with images of your son’s first day at school, your daughter’s first steps or their first bike ride. Privacy violations of a more serious nature aside, surely this is the thin end of a very concerning issue.

If you have come across my previous blogs or newspaper articles, you will be aware of my thoughts on childhood obesity so I would have no issue and would openly support an adult suing their parents if they developed diabetes as a result of their irresponsible parents stuffing their faces with chips and sweets when they were a kid. However, if a disgruntled teenager decided to take out their hormonal driven resentment on their Father because they now feel traumatised by the sight of clowns, having once been taking to a children’s party, it suddenly becomes unpoliceable. For those of us who can remember, how embarrassing was it when Mum pulled out the album or box of baby photos the very first time your new girlfriend sat on the sofa? Red faced and a little uncomfortable it may have been but your parents had that right. They brought you up, lavished money and gifts, educated you to the best of their ability and are proud of it – and their offspring.

Can we not restore some reality and common sense to these situations. A particular picture of me in a knitted swimsuit and bouffant hair always evokes hilarity in all who see it, yet in me it brings back memories of good times and family holidays.If my Mum chose to spread this across the internet, I would welcome reminders of days gone by and just hope that my parents aren’t taking legal action for the cost of all the pocket money, loans, clothing, food and housing that they paid out for with no return in the intervening period between then and now.