Every so often, you read something which makes you stop and think. Google Plus is prompting a number of people to think about on line identity as Google starts to implement id verification, as a precondition for signing up to this new form of social media. This departure, from everyone is anonymous, has proved an interesting departure point for a number of musings. I have attached one such discussion here and it's a fairly long read but well worth it. As ever, it poses more questions than answers and , at this stage of social media; that's no bad thing.
In all the conversations about social media, it has been clear a lot of the new developments seem to veer towards social engagement as entertainment or a passive participation. Part of the attraction of Google + is the ability to divide your online 'friends' into 'circles'; so you can separate work from leisure; close friends from acquaintances. Equally, my twitter is starting to clutter with requests to retweet. It's a sort of trend towards social media as a kind of leisure activity. So, it was great to come across some of the emerging trends which show communities of interest forming around serious personal topics; notably cancer.
There have been a number of groups focused on supporting cancer patients, survivors and families. What makes the difference is the reassurance of diversity. One of the common topics, I have found talking to people affected by cancer is their surprise to find fellow travellers who aren't exact replicas; the older woman looking at a young woman with breast cancer; the old guys surprised by the young men who share bowel cancer. The disease is the common theme but some of the reassurance comes from knowing you are not alone; your thoughts are not the first on the planet and support comes in many forms. It may be the process of dispelling the fear of the unknown.
So, I guess my point is this. In a world where social media can be used and organised for the trivia of our whirlwind lives; it is comforting to know someone is harnessing this for good and serious intent.
We shot a video for the local community trust where we live in Fife. They have ambitious plans to build their own wind farm. You can view the result here. All fine, so far. Then the comments started to flood in on YouTube. Two or three at a time from an increasing number of people. The usual stuff of "mass corruption on the community council/planning department/local council", "everyone involved is lying and a bad person" and worse. Between the relentless earnestness, ALL CAPS and typos; they were a tough read.
What a difference to the other forms of social interaction online! Facebook seems almost like a Morningside tea house in comparison. Twitter feels like a wee sweary sweaty bar as opposed to the gloomy, doomy comments posted online at YouTube. Then, I chanced on my observation.
Anonymous is now last decade. On Facebook or Twtter, we are wanting to make connections with real people in some form of interactive conversation. It might be a conversation where we put something in or take something out. We can start, join in or just listen. Generally speaking, we are comfortable to play our role according to the situation. So, I will post a random thought on Facebook and my erudite pal Pat will engage in some banter. I will comment on Hazel's photos and if there is an exchange of comments then great. If not, then we are still friends and the photos are still remarkable. On Twitter, Alex Thompson churns out interesting tweets; he's a pal but I have no inclination to jump in; other than to re-tweet the good stuff. But it's identifiably me and them.
So, when the 'nemesis3609' or @thorwindfarmslayer comes at me; my reaction is 'Judy Garland'. Is this a Wizard of Oz situation, Dorothy? Do the comments all come from a single individual from behind the curtain of anonymity, zinging out multiple ninja stars from the comfort of the deepest internet?
Now, I can perfectly imagine some of you will be pushing back your chair at this point, sucking on your pipe and reaching for the Davidoff Blue Mixture ready rubbed.
"Smithy" you'll say, "Democracy is a strange beast. There is no intellgence nor intregity test for the individual right to exercise their opinion. Likewise, the egilitarian nature of the internet, fashioned by its designers, conforms to this weltanschauung. But happily, I have some good advice to impart."
I lean forward in anticipation as you whisper.
"Harden the f*** up."
After a hectic couple of weeks away from base, the podcasting schedule has slipped. ( Not however, for those plucky souls who subscribed free of charge via iTunes ) . This week's conversation ponders how final is the trams' decision. What were the News of the World, north and south of the border, playing at? And finally, is England falling in love with Scottish devolution? Listen and find out.