Shropshire Star

The Big Debate: Has social media changed us?

Social media is currently evolving, but has it changed us? That’s the question we put to Dan Morris and Andy Richardson.

Has social media changed us?

Dan Morris: Yes, and we must be wary

It’s hard now to imagine a world before social media, yet when I squint and click my heels together three times, I can just about remember a childhood and adolescence free of ‘likes’ and right swipes.

There is no doubt in my mind that social media has changed us; the question is, has this been for better or worse?

Social media in most forms is a wonderful tool that allows connectivity in ways even my sci-fi obsessed early nineties self couldn’t have imagined. It allows the sharing of information at a lightning pace, the growth of conversation and debate over thousands of miles, and the building of ideas between people who would otherwise never have met.

Yet, with light comes dark.

Social media is also used as a weapon with which to bully, and as a means to damage rather than enrich. In the worst cases, it is utilised by unspeakable predators seeking to take advantage of innocent users in the most despicable of ways.

It is sad that such a technological achievement should be exploited to serve the most vile purposes imaginable.

The growth of social media has meant that a great many people now live a large proportion of their lives online – professionally and personally.

I have always tried hard to monitor and limit the time I spend on social media in my personal life, and often find myself horrified by tales relating to the amount of time youngsters spend glued to their screens.

My childhood was largely spent outside, enjoying a real connection with my peers. A digital one is no substitute, and if children are genuinely sacrificing physical time with their friends in favour of chatting to them online, we’ve got a big problem.

This cannot be healthy – physically or mentally.

Social media has changed us, and in many ways has made our lives more pleasurable. But we need to make sure it doesn’t change our children too much.

Andy Richardson: Not in the important ways

The answer, of course, is yes. Has social media changed our lives? Of course it has. We scroll Insta, read news on X, share information on Facebook. We’re glued to our screens in a way we once read letters, talked on the phone, or read newspapers.

But – and here’s the rub – more fundamentally, the answer is no. Because can we live our lives exclusively on social media? No. Can we do without the friendship, warmth, and companionship of loved ones, as we immerse in a virtual reality? No. Can we find out stuff that we couldn’t previously access? We can do it quicker, sure, but the answer, ultimately, is no.

Social media has sped up the way we communicate, it hasn’t changed our intrinsic needs, however. And so while we’re in the midst of a warp-speed digital revolution, we’re still fundamentally the same.

Cave dwellers decorated walls with drawings. We do the same with emojis. Victorians played parlour games. We have multi-player computer versions. We’re wired the same, even if we have to move faster just to stand still.

The recipes that we can download would once have come in books. And before that, handed down on written scraps of paper. And before that, there’d have been an oral tradition. Our means of communication has irrevocably changed. But the things we need to say and hear hasn’t really changed at all.

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