Tony Allen: And Finally...

Nov 26 | 2020

I’ve seen some sites …

Tony Allen: And finally...I’d just come in from the garden after having a conversation with next door’s five year old who was giving me some advice regarding a problem I was having with my iPad; which was duly sorted.

I then decided to catch up with the Sunday papers and landed on an article covering the subject of social networking – making friends we used to call it. I must confess that from the beginning until the full page end, I really had very little idea as to what in tarnation (lovely word – does it mean a country which specialises in the production of bitumen?) I was reading about and rather dejectedly cast it to one side.

It occurred to me that I was obdurately being left behind here in this rapidly evolving new domain. Online communication is becoming increasingly more relevant, and especially during these COVID-19 times (there, I said it), and as a consequence there are an increasing number of websites to fulfil a mushrooming demand. One of the newest and rapidly growing, I understand, being a Chinese sponsored site called ‘Tik Tok’; which in Chinese means ‘vibrating sound’ but to me is the name that my mother onomatopoeically used for a clock when she was talking to us children! There is also another rapidly evolving site called ‘Caffeine’ - why? Maybe it’s designed to keep you awake at night - I said that as a poor attempt at a joke but actually it could actually be the reason why.

The closest I get to entering this esoteric world is with Facebook, which successfully outgunned the now defunct Friends Reunited (remember them?). Facebook still remains the most popular but sites like Instagram and Snapchat are coming up on the rails and are certainly more popular with the young.

I know it sounds cynical but I find that Facebook has become a medium for competition about such things as how good your holiday was and here’s a map of where I am at this particular moment. Oh and by the way, here’s a picture of a squirrel in my garden. Super! Are we going nuts?

In spite of everything I hold dear I am also sucked into this world:

How come I only had 23 people wishing me a ‘Happy Birthday’ – that’s three less than last year and my friend Barry whose birthday was yesterday had two more than me!

Dating websites seem to be very popular these days and they obviously serve a purpose in these busy times. I’ve never used one but, for example, if I wanted to know something like when the Battle of Waterloo took place then it could be quite useful. In addition I should add that I have never, ever blogged in my life and I’ve never tweeted. Oh and here’s a picture of a bird tweeting in my garden; and I’ve included a map to show you precisely where I am sending this from (not).

Don’t get me wrong, I can see the benefits in our new world of communication. This keeps people in touch and is a way of expanding one’s contact with others; and especially for the younger generation. It’s rather similar to when I was young – yes I was once - but in our case we simply joined the Boy’s Brigade.

So we have to admit that the Internet and its resulting social media platforms have been a great boon to our way of life, but there is always a price to pay. Our lives are now much more of an open book, our privacy is much more subject to invasion. From what I read, this can often be a source of great unhappiness, especially for the young. Alas, people of all ages can become vulnerable to damaging ‘witch hunts’. One false move ….

Surely, I hear you say it’s quite easy to cancel one’s membership and avoid all of this vituperation. But being a teenager was once poignantly defined as ‘there’s a party going on and I’m not invited’ and of course who wants to be left out?

I sometimes look back and think how complicated it was at one time to pay bills or to keep in touch with friends and relations. Our main access to knowledge was twenty volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica – literally heavy reading. Did we think that this was a problem at the time? I guess not. But, although at the moment it might seem that civilisation is taking a backward step, we really are still advancing and we really are still innovating. It’s worth remembering that one of the secrets of a good life is to welcome change with open arms - of course that is as long as you stay two metres apart!