It’s fair to say we’re a generation fixated with communication. The phone in particular has become our all encompassing gadget – we call, we text, we take photos, we download tunes, we upload onto YouTube, we tweet… everything we could possibly need is at our finger tips: how to get from A to B; what the weather’s like; the latest Olympic news – it’s all a mere finger scroll away.
In case you’re temporarily living on the moon, you’ll have noticed that we’re smack bang in the middle of the Olympics. You can watch the Games in all formats on multiple channels. It’s almost as if you’re actually there, and the athletes themselves are even on Twitter! Sites such as Tweeting Athletes show us exactly which sporty types are on the social site and how many followers they have accrued along the way. You can follow the likes of Jessica Ennis, poster girl for London 2012, and they might even write back! They’ve been sharing photos of their bedrooms inside the Olympic Village, laughing at jokes and thanking fans for their support. Never before have we had such intimate interaction with national heroes in the making – we’ve been invited into their personal head space at a time when all the hopes of GB rest upon their sculpted shoulders.
But a different story came to light earlier this week: Tom Daley, the loveable young diver was the target of some particularly distasteful tweets after missing out on a medal on Monday. Daley shared: “After giving it my all… you get idiots sending me this, RT @Rilley_69 @TomDaley1994 you let your dad down I hope you know that”. Tom lost his father to cancer last year, and this vile trend for internet “trolling” is sadly becoming a common online trend. More extreme cases include that of Olivia Penpraze, a troubled teenager who started blogging about her struggle with depression. After several faceless internet cyberbullies encouraged her morbid thoughts, the 19-year-old eventually took her own life. Her parents only discovered the vitriolic comments after her death. The horrible fact is that these people are faceless online entities who, in a few short anonymous characters, have crawled into someone’s mind and stuck. These are brutal, blasé mind games at their coldest.
Of course this is a small spineless minority, looking to rile and provoke; seeking to cause a reaction. As our walls of privacy get thinner and thinner, we are left increasingly exposed to the general public’s commentary. Celebrities flock to Twitter, away from the contrived PR firm spiel, in order to “talk to the fans” and show “the real me”. Naturally this means receiving heaps of daily praise and keeping the egos nicely inflated, but then the odd poisoned dart brings them crashing back down to earth, sometimes leading them to close down accounts.
But the sad thing is that this “communication” we so avidly subscribe to is making us antisocial. Heads down, engrossed in small screens, our senses are impaired. We’re connected elsewhere. Ever been to a restaurant, in the middle of a conversation, when a friend reaches for their blackberry and starts monitoring emails? Discourteous. Talking loudly into your phone on a crowded commuter train? Rude. Will-i-am tweeting whilst running with the Olympic torch? Outrageous. Are we gradually becoming desensitised to the world around us? Are we guilty of getting drawn into a world elsewhere for the sake of always being accessible? Hopefully not, but these tweets don’t write themselves so got to go fill those 140 characters now.