What was life like before the web? How did people communicate with the outside world? How did the web, in general, and social media, in specific, change the quality of information and data we refer to and share?
Those questions, and many more, must have crossed your minds at least once. Therefore, in efforts to lay down the facts for you about the difference between pre-social media times and the times we live in now, we decided to interview someone who witnessed life through less geeky eyes. Someone who was there before the internet grew to become one of life’s necessities. Someone who is not a blind believer in the hype surrounding social media.
A 45 year old European lawyer with two masters degrees, who works in the field of international development and has worked for the United Nations. He was also interviewed by CNN, BBC and other prominent media channels. For the fun of it, we’ll call him: Leosaurus Rex!
The Past Vs. the Present:
It is ironic, according to Leosaurus Rex, that “in olden days” it would have taken him a bicycle trip to the library, given that he grew up in a family that could not afford an encyclopedia, to find out who coined the term “the pen is mightier than the sword“. Yet now that he is able to find out, through a quick internet search from the comfort of his home, that it was English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton who did, “the pen” has never been worth less because we live in an age where every Tom, Dick and Harry with a computer and a keyboard and, if we are lucky, a spell-check program, who believe they have something worthwhile for others to say can do so by “sharing” on the internet.
About Information Overload:
Gone are the days of the critical (self) examination of the journalistic and literary written word, Leosaurus says. They have been replaced by a seemingly endless stream of, often trivial, information about the thoughts and lives of random individuals’ who somehow have forgotten everything they have ever been taught about privacy, restraint, decency and honesty. The result is an information overload, where it is increasingly difficult to distinguish the right from the wrong, the truth from the lie, the intimate from the exhibitionist and the important from the ridiculous!
About Social Media:
When asked about social media, Leosaurus felt the need to point out the overall benefits of the internet, as perceived by him, in terms of having access to data, sharing information, communicating with others, developing and increasing commerce and business opportunities, exchanging ideas and so on. As someone who lives and works away from his home country, the internet has allowed him to stay in touch with friends and relatives but it also him do his work much more easily than before the age of the internet.
When sharing his thoughts about social media proper, Leosaurus made a distinction between social media sites that provide a venue for people to interact with their friends and meet new ones, such as Facebook, and those that facilitate the exchange of ideas, thoughts, and …. such as Twitter. The problem with the former, he considered, is that some people using those sites seem to have lost all sense of privacy and splatter the most intimate details of their lives on their page where previously such details would only be shared with your best friends.
Just as gut-wrenching are the users who consider themselves celebrities in a made-up world, where they think other people are actually interested in the most boring aspects of their lives, such as when they got up in the morning to go the bakery to get their morning croissant. Having said that, he continued, sites such as Facebook can provide a meaningful means for people to stay in touch but should not become a substitute for actual human, face to face, or voice to voice, contact. In the end, he says, there is no alternative to get to know someone, interact with another human being but to be in the presence of that someone, or to talk to someone for only that allows for real human communication.
When it comes to the latter, Leosaurus, is generally positive. He considers that one of the biggest benefits the internet, partly through the semi-structured interaction of social media, has brought about is the free flow and exchange of ideas. As long as the people developing, contributing and using social media maintain a critical mind set towards their role in it, he sees nothing but benefits. Again though, he adds, people should not forget that there are other, more direct, ways through which to exchange ideas, such as human to human discussions, newspapers, and books.
“Maybe I am just an old man“, he closes, “but the look on someones face, the feel of a book, or the rustle of a newspaper simply makes me feel more alive and in touch with the world around me than seeing the same face or words on the screen of a computer, PDA or iPod“.
Finally, what do you think of the pre-social media times vs. the present days? Do you agree with Leosaurus about the advantages vs. the disadvantages of social media and the internet as a whole?
Looking forward to your feedback below.