It seems that a week cannot pass without the Daily Mail attacking Facebook. We have now had Facebook accused of: causing cancer, nearly killing people, causing syphilis and many more inane stories that I cannot be bothered to track down at the moment. It isn’t just Facebook, but the Internet or social media in general that the Daily Mail despises. They argued that Twitter causes ‘brain overload’ and referred to it as part of ‘electronic junk’ that is ruining our lives. They have also referred to the ‘first’ Friends Reunited murder, as if it was an inevitability and just the first of many more to come.
You could argue that there are many reasons why newspapers have to attack the Internet and social media; I’ll just focus on one: they’re scared. In the good old days when people only had four TV channels it was easy for newspapers to make huge amounts of money through sales and advertising. It was also easy for newspapers to print any old rubbish because how could people check? OK, they still print absolute rubbish for the majority of the time, but at least now people can check out the stories and read a wealth of blogs who will do the fact-checking for them.
But more than that: we can interact on our own terms with people who interest us. Whether it is via Internet forums, blogs, Twitter or whatever we can find like-minded people and people who challenge us. This pisses of newspapers because we’re only supposed to be interested in their writers, their celebrities or columnists; only their lives are worth following or reading about, our lives are ‘electronic junk’.
A while back the hypocrisy of this was made clear by Lorna Martin who wrote:
There seems to be an increasing feeling in the world of: ‘If I don’t have an audience, if I don’t have followers, if I don’t have fame or even micro-fame, if my every movement and thought – no matter how mundane, uninspired or unwitty – is not shared, recorded and validated, then I am worthless, nothing, a nobody.’
Fair point, you could argue, but then what exactly do columnists do? They drivel on about inane goings on in their lives and assume we’re interested. Lorna Martin spends hundreds of words after the above doing the mundane, uninspired, unwitty shit she was just complaining about.
You know who the really good writers are? You know who the really interesting people on Twitter are? Well, they are the ones who are not famous but have a big readership or Twitter following. They don’t write articles that go into a newspaper and may or may not be read, they post on their own blogs which will only be read if it is particularly good (or sometimes, horrifically bad). How many readers would an unknown Richard Littlejohn have if he started a blog now? Apart from people visiting to laugh at another barely literate fact-free idiot picking up a keyboard, I doubt he’d have much of an audience. Likewise, how many celebrities would have a large Twitter following if it wasn’t for their names, how many of them actually are worth following?
Newspaper writers are worried because they rely on a static audience, one that cannot pick and choose which article to read, but have to buy the whole lot. Clearly, this is changing, now newspaper columnists might have to try and get a readership interested in just their output – no crutch of being part of a team of writers, nowhere to hide. How many of them are slightly worried that they’re about to be found out as just not very popular at all, because they’re not only frighteningly mundane and talentless, they’re also lazy cowards as well.
Which, inane rambling as it has been, leads me to today’s Daily Mail attack on Facebook: ‘Facebook is wrecking my daughter’s future‘. The writer – Simon Mills – argues that:
Discovering Laurie’s habit was so very disappointing and saddening to me because I’d always presumed that Facebook was for the thick, sad, lonely and pointlessly solipsistic – not for someone gifted with fully-formed social skills and an engaging line in face-to-face contact…
Where she sees a useful communication tool, I see a scarily Orwellian, mind-numbing, childish and, eventually, utterly stupid way of passing precious time.
But is it? Laurie makes it clear that she uses Facebook as a social tool, arranging / attending parties and chatting to existing friends, what precisely is ‘utterly stupid’ about that? A caption underneath a picture of Lily Allen states: ‘Singer Lilly Allen used to use Facebook but has since kicked the habit’, Facebook is being made to sound as evil and addictive as heroin.
Whether the attack is launched against Facebook, Twitter or any other type of Internet information sharing system, the message is clear: the newspapers are scared that we’ll find each other more interesting than the hateful lies they publish on a daily basis. The Internet gives power to the many, and takes it away from the media, the few – to an extent. The quicker this power shift becomes more pronounced, the better.