Saturday, November 10, 2012

Social media isn't going away, so deal with it

Social media isn't going away, so deal with it | Nov 3rd 2012

When a child trips up, you remove the offending obstacle. If the cartoon is scary, you turn it off. As a parent, it's your job to make the bad things go away.

This, I would imagine, is also the way that a priest should feel about his flock and it was with the heaviest heart that Fr John Joe Duffy wrote his powerful homily for Erin Gallagher's funeral.

There's no doubt that Fr Duffy's desperate pleas for policy and regulation of social media were delivered with wholehearted sincerity and good intent.

He may as well, however, have preached to the wind. Because trying to regulate social media is like trying to catch that self-same wind in a colander. It ain't going to happen. It's a fact of life.

Modern life has meant that social interaction between kids has had to adapt and evolve -- we keep them closer to home now for fear of the unimaginable. Besides, there's actually too much to do to spend hours lingering with mates down the town or in a park -- sports practice, swimming, dancing, computer club, homework.

Social media is an essential communication tool for teenagers at a time when the need to forge a life outside of the family unit is overwhelming -- to bond with friends, to distance oneself from 'uncool' parents and take hurried steps out into the real world. Thus it has always been.

Technology is not just the way of the future -- it's now. Those of us who scoffed at the idea of 'press button B' payphones are now dinosaurs in an age where the idea of a printed photograph is inconceivable. Young people walk and breathe technology. It is their world. Their link to their own society. And grown-ups are incredibly naive if they imagine that slamming shut the laptop lid will make all of the associated nastiness disappear. That's about as reasonable and likely as banning the internal combustion engine as a means to stop road deaths.

It's a sad fact that shutting down will do nothing -- three replacements will spring up in a week. Social media is not a fad or a phase. It's not 'Pac Man'. It's here to stay.

As adults, we need to get over that and start doing a little evolving of our own in how we bring up our kids. Teaching them self-confidence is a start. Not the swaggering 'I'm so special' type; but the idea that everyone is good at something -- the 'I'm quite special' type. That we are all made up of strengths and weaknesses and what of it? That we are precious, that life is short and valuable beyond measure and that there simply isn't time to be wasted tolerating, feeling cowed by or trying to outwit the type of human who thinks that they have the entitlement or superiority to make little of another, especially under the cowardly cover of the internet.

In the way that we teach our kids to cross the road, we have to teach them that they must keep themselves safe online. That when life ends, it ends. And that driving someone to end theirs isn't an acceptable goal or a worthy achievement.

And that by valuing yourself enough so that the sticks and stones of puerile tormentors can't hurt -- or indeed that you don't need to throw those sticks and stones in the first place -- then maybe that -- and not cancelling the broadband -- is how we begin to make it go away.

Irish Independent

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