Saturday, 12 January 2013

Armchair anger is not enough

One evening last week, I was on Twitter making small talk with some friends, having a laugh, trying to wind down after a hard day at work.

Then someone I follow decided to spend the evening inviting people to share experiences of poverty, and retweeting them. This appeared to find approval among a lot of people, who made comments such as 'This is what Twitter is for'.

I unfollowed him.

It was pretty depressing, and I know all that stuff anyway. Been there, done that, couldn't afford the T shirt.

Is that what Twitter is really for, anyway? Someone gatecrashing a good party and haranguing us from a soap box all evening?

Yes, Twitter is good for awareness raising, and I'm glad to get information that's outside the mainstream news agenda (I probably wouldn't know so much about the Atos scandal without it). But because we mostly follow like-minded people, it's mostly preaching to the converted.  And it doesn't change anything.

We sit there retweeting until we are all tired of seeing the same information over and over again. We tut a few times. And it makes us feel better.

It's the same on Facebook. Someone shares a satirical picture about the government and we all feel better. It makes us feel like we're 'angry' and when it comes to politics that's good, right?

Well, not as good as getting off the sofa and doing something about it.

And it all gets a bit boring and a bit predictable. And again it doesn't change anything.

The only one of those items that ever seemed worth it was one that said something like (I can't find it now): 'Oh, I've just seen an amusing picture on Facebook, I think I'll change the way I vote.'

Nothing's going to change if all we're doing is reinforcing each other's opinions, in our little oppositional ghetto.

On Facebook last week I saw one of my friends boast that they had just unfriended a Tory.

A confession: I have at least one Conservative (that I know about) among my Facebook 'friends'. He's not a close friend (a former colleague) but he seems like an OK bloke.

Another confession. I once accidentally dated a Tory (I was on the rebound). He turned out to be charming, self-centred and entirely lacking in scruples. I wasn't really surprised.

At least that was real life, though, not the internet.

I've read various articles over the years about the importance of ‘weak ties’ in your network and this includes talking to people who have different viewpoints. Because only talking to people who think the same as you doesn't change anything. Talk to people who are different and you might learn something. Even better, they might.

And if you can't bring yourself to talk to the enemy, then get away from the laptop and do something, anything, about what makes you angry.

This weekend, there are a lot of people talking about Jimmy Savile again. Admit it, are you enjoying - just a little bit - having the moral high ground? If you are, then at least you can do something about that.
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