I Had to Laugh – Social Media


I had to laugh at the item in March What's On ‘Living Without Facebook'. I love reading and it reminded me of some paragraphs that had jumped out at me.

I have recently re-read JRR Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, first published in three parts in 1954-55. Every time I read it something new always surprises me and this time it was a short paragraph which brought to mind our modern focus on ‘seeing' news through social media, being kept informed by sound and video bites on mobile phones and i-pads. Some of the Fellowship of the Ring were returning to the Shire after the One Ring had been destroyed and the Dark Lord had been defeated. Pippin, the Hobbit, had earlier had a bad, frightening, dangerous experience looking into a Seeing Stone (a Pallantir) and seeing the evil eye of Sauron. In spite of that experience, he still yearned for

“ a Stone that we could see all our friends in, and .. We could speak to them from far away".

This seems to be 50 years ahead of it’s time, yearning for the powers of Skype, Facebook, Snapchat etc. But Pippin's earlier bad experience of naively using the seeing stone without parental or any other access controls also foretold the pitfalls and risks.

I have also been reading a 2014 book by Orlando Fires- a History of Revolutionary Russia 1891 – 1991. In these days news is spread by social media wild fires so it was interesting to read this in relation to the year 1916. Russia was transitioning from the Tsar’s autocracy, through the first world war and deprivation, into the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Communist Party. A resident of the then capital Petrograd was quoted.

“ Rumours filled the lives of all inhabitants. They were believed more readily than the newspapers….The public was desperate for information, for almost anything, on political subjects, and any rumour was bound to spread like wildfire. What gave these stories their power and significance was how far they accorded with the general mood and with previous rumours that had shaped that mood. Once a rumour, however fake, became the subject of common belief, it assumed the status of fact, informing the attitudes and actions of the public. All revolutions are based in part on myth.”

This seems to be 100 years ahead of it’s time when seen against the backdrop of social media frenzies, of anti-austerity momentum, of the disease of trumptweets and fake news, of the revolutions against established norms that seem to be commonplace.

Lastly, and more up to date is Dan Brown's Origin, 2017. One of his characters is sad because

‘What had been life's quiet moments of solitary reflection – a few minutes alone or on a train, or walking to work, or waiting for an appointment, could no longer be borne. People impulsively reached for their phones, their ear buds, their games, unable to fight the addictive pull of technology. The miracles of the past are fading away. Whitewashed by a ceaseless hunger for all-that-is-new sound and video bytes.”

Spanning over a hundred years, these quotes show that technology may change, but human behaviour adapts more slowly. On a lighter note, for many years I thought that the textspeak acronym LOL stood for Lots of Love. Finally I was educated that it stands for LAUGH OUT LOUD. Thank goodness I still can do just that…..