The other day I stumbled upon an interesting video interview of Stephen Fry – the famous British actor, writer, comedian, author, television presenter and film director – talking about social media. In the interview, Stephen addressed several issues related to social media and its impact on us and on our social evolution as human beings. His view on things is quite interesting, which led to this article.
Social Qualities of the Web Generation
There is always this pre-judgment imposed on the current generation of youth and the impact of social media on our children in regards to their social development and the long times spent daily on the web. While some may focus on the negative aspects that comes with every new technology, Stephen Fry believes – and I agree with him – that our youth have much better qualities than they used to be in the 1920’s. He claims that “If you take an ordinary semi-educated 15 years old from the 1920’s and compare him to a semi-educated 15 years old now, you would find that the one now knows more, understands more, is more socially confident, more able, and more aware of the rest of the world.“.
To prove his points, Stephen points out his many online relationships with which some are very young. He talks about a 12 years old young girl who astonished him of her knowledge of literature, especially knowing Evlyn Waugh (a famous English writer), reading all his books and having intelligent views about his novels.
People Resist New Inventions!
People tend to be more comfortable with things they are familiar to. Unfamiliar new innovations, regardless of how beneficial they are, do usually provoke resistance. Stephen mentions a very interesting story about Antony Trollope, the English novelist who invented the post box:
“Obviously Trollope was distraught about his invention because he thought that it might undermine the traditional family! Until the time the post box arrived, a woman had never been able to write a letter and get it delivered until she give it to a post man or to her father to be sent. The middle class woman had no ability to connect with a man except with the graces of her parents, particularly her father. Trollop, who was a traditionalist, didn’t like the idea of women communicating with men without their fathers knowing by simply slipping a letter into the post box.“
Along the same line, Stephen points out how people at the time of Jane Ausin used to find the idea of “the novel” to be simply horrific! They couldn’t bare the idea of children sitting around reading novels instead of history books! It sounds to me like people had perceived “novels” as a threat to the fabric of their society at that time! It is somehow similar to what we hear today of some sounds objecting about social networking and the effect of social media on the way we communicate with each other.
Is Social Media a force for democracy?
With most people having equal opportunity to voice out their opinion and broadcast it to the world in an easy and simple manner, it is safe to say that the world is in a better democratic state today than it has ever been, thanks to social media. While Stephen points out some pessimistic opinions that see the web as being dominated by large corporations who control the pipeline of information while focusing on monetization and thus killing any potential of true freedom, he also highlights the shift of authority from the traditional press which dominated broadcasting for a long time to the hands of the people. The press has been deeply worried and upset of how Google and aggregators have been distributing news freely. New found platforms like Twitter and Facebook empowered individuals, celebrities and politicians to connect with people in ways other than newspapers. Before social media they had to count on newspapers to set the record straight or sell a book but now they don’t! Today, anyone can have over a million followers on Twitter and provide himself the coverage he needs.
Stephen Fry Inteview (part 1)
Stephen Fry Inteview (part 2)
I have really enjoyed watching the reflections of Stephen Fry on the state of the world today. Social Media has really impacted us in many different ways, we may haven’t realized or figured out all the implications yet, but we will eventually as time goes on.
Do you think that our teens are better today than they used to be before the web evolution? Do you think that Social Media has really been a force for democracy? and do you celebrate the burst of opportunities today that we have because of Social Media, or fear the changes it is inflicting on the fabric of our society? The following two lines are what I liked the most in what Stephen said:
“Connection is what humans crave; it is what we are all about, something that separates us from animals. We are constantly in need of connecting with people for friendship, love, sex, knowledge, growth, enmity, territoriality, all of the imperatives that define us as human beings.”