Turn On, Tune In, Log Out
When I was a kidlet social networking pretty much involved passing notes in class, writing boys names in my Maths book or lying in the hallway with my legs up the wall, talking on the phone to my bestie. Blogging did not exist, so, none-the-bloggy-wiser, I wrote in my diary, turning that teensy key to keep my secrets safe and sound and far from prying eyes. Between these pre-online writerly, chatty moments, I did other stuff. I read, went swimming, roller-skated, hung out with my family or friends. It seemed pretty active, pretty relaxed, pretty on task if I look back now. Pursuits were more singular, or something. Occasionally I painted my nails AND watched a video on the crappy VHS. I might have read a copy of Dolly WHILE I sunned myself at the local pool. Perhaps I fed my fish AND listened to David Bowie. Nothing too challenging, ya know?
Things are different now, though, aren’t they? We’re multi-tasking champions. Our kids especially so. They can totally text while they Facebook while they download something from The Pirate Day as they shovel noodles into their hungry bodies and flip through the latest Beat Magazine. The idea of cutting things down by half probably makes them feel quite at sea. They were born to multi task, made to communicate, in ways that I was NOT! They are the New Media Kids On The Block and there is not a bandanna in sight.
It’s probable that a lot of them were super eager to enter this New world of connected-ness from an early age. I have no doubt they are MUCH more efficiently connected to each other than we ever were. And yet… Here’s the thing. Efficiency is grand, but I wonder how ready they are. I mean, I wonder how much they are concentrating on the way they are communicating with each other. I wonder how much the New Kids just want to be published, to be heard, to be included, to be seen. I wonder how much of what they say is meaningful to them or accurately portrays what they REALLY think or feel. Or are they just ‘saying stuff’?
In Ye Olden Days, the words you dealt were direct, considered, concise and sometimes cutting. We didn’t have Messenger or Facebook chat to sort out our plans or problems. We had to be more edited, more succinct, more face to face (or ear to ear). We mumbled or snipped whatever we had to say and that was it. It was said and done. Then we walked away. Or got yelled at. Or got slapped. Or hugged. Or whatever.
I think things are different now. It’s easier to connect from afar. You don’t have to actually face the person you’re talking to. The words are flowing via all kinds of devices, instead. They are overflowing, in fact with a sort of faux anonymity. A false sense of distance and detachment. There are more words and less responsibility for them. I reckon this can contribute to a sense of bravado, a bit of a disconnect, despite all this proclaimed ‘connected-ness’.
Saying stuff has become a hobby. Teenagers are texting, on average, 3000 times a month. Ye gads. The Facebook interaction figure must be off the hook. It figures that when there’s so much opportunity to SAY STUFF, the stuff can sometimes lose its value. The words can be less considered. There are gaps and awkward pauses to be filled with a few taps on the keyboard. A lot of it is real life, important stuff. But some of it is just trash talk, too. Talking shite. And some of that lesser talk has far reaching consequences. Some of it is too much to bear.
Last week Melbourne schoolgirl Sheniz Erkin took her own life, allegedly due to Facebook bullying.
It’s just been reported that Australia is the number one offender in the cyber bullying stakes.
Alannah and Madeline Foundation chief executive Judith Slocombe said cyber bullying affected one in 10 Australian school children.
Are kids are becoming desensitized to the power of their own words (and maybe this is not just kids, maybe it’s adults too!) Are some kids so in love with their phones, keyboards, kwerty and computers that they are writing stuff, saying stuff, just because they can? Just for something to say? Are they typing stuff they would never say face-to-face? Does the viral potential of online publishing hit home with these kids?
How can we maintain the awesome benefits of being digitally connected without the terrible pitfalls, like online bullying or exclusion?
Have you ever been the victim of an online bully?
Has Facebook or blogging been used as a weapon against you?
Do you think that kids are just extending an age old bullying tradition into the online world?
Is this a kid problem, or does it affect adults too?
I’d love to know what YOU think…
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