Thursday, 19 November 2009

Teenage angst

On a regular basis we hear how social networking sites like Facebook are destroying the universe. Apparently, because of them we will soon cease to be able to interact with anyone in person, shortly followed by the withering of the ability to speak. Or some such thing.

I tend to take these tirades with a pinch of salt. It's true that it's easy to waste a lot of time on such websites, but I'm not sure it's any worse for you than vegetating in front of the TV watching I'm a Celebrity, get me out of Strictly Come X-Factor, and certainly if you're in a job where you spend a lot of time alone, like being a writer, Facebook, Twitter and the like offer a lifeline of social involvement that simply wouldn't be there otherwise.

The latest moan is that teenagers are spending too much time in their rooms because of social networking sites. Now, come on. This is hazy memory syndrome. Do the people who proclaim the end of civilization caused by these absent teenagers have no memories of their own teenage years? Do they really believe that they spent all their spare time in the living room, playing Monopoly with Mum, Dad and the young siblings? I certainly spent most of my teenage time at home in my bedroom (or the evil chemical laboratory in the basement, but that's a different story). The difference is that at least today's teenagers are communicating while they're locked away - I didn't have any way to do this from my bedroom. It was monastic by comparison.

Social networking sites do cause problems, some serious. But so does practically every human activity. Don't forget our love affair with the car kills around a million people a year worldwide. We can blame teenagers for a lot - but not for being teenagers.
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