The big thing in the digital world over the last few years has been the rise of social networking. And over this period we have been bombarded by hundreds of articles on the subject highlighting both the positive and negative impact of social networking on society.
One such writer is Andrew Keen. In his controversial book, The Cult of Amateur, Keen raises a number concerns with social networking from fears around internet privacy through to social networking’s contribution to the dumbing down of society.
Keen spends a lot of time discussing the dangers to society of its young people leading wasteful and unproductive lives by spending all their time on social networking sites such as Face Book, MySpace and YouTube.
But Keen is missing the point around social networking. The truth is that most teenagers have always led wasted and unproductive lives. They used to hang around shopping centres or in each other bedrooms listening in earnest to their favourite bands. Now they hang around on FaceBook or MySpace chatting in earnest about their favourite bands!
In reality most social networking is just a bit of fun. Social networking has not brought about the dumbing down of society – unfortunately that was happening way before social networking got going!
And in terms of internet privacy, obviously people do have to be careful about what they put on FaceBook or YouTube. Many HR managers and recruitment officers are now looking up potential candidates online to see if they are suitable employees. Revealing your more debauched or hedonistic side to the whole world might not be the best tactic for your future career. But this just requires a bit of common-sense – not new legislation as Keen calls for.
So let’s keep social networking in perspective. There is nothing inherently good or bad about it. Our children’s brains are not going to be shrunken by spending too much on their computers and our privacy and freedoms will not be protected by more state control over the internet.