I am troubled, Listener. Imbued with angst and feeling a little perturbed, and I shall tell you for why.
So here in England a 17 year-old girl has been appointed a ‘youth police and crime commissioner’ (no, I’m not sure either) to represent young people across the country. In the last few days she’s been flung about like a mauled rabbit in the jaws of our Media for tweeting some rather silly thoughts that could be loosely construed as erring on racist and homophobic. Needless to say, chaos has ensued, and there’s been lots of footage of this boundlessly-coiffured young lady sniffing and apologising for everything she’s ever done wrong in her life. In an interview –
Oh for heaven’s sake, Stickman, you once portrayed a woman who’s just lost her virginity, so I didn’t think a bit of a 17 year-old hairstyle would hurt. But fine, forget it. You do make a fuss over nothing sometimes.
Anyway. In an interview with the BBC about why this young lady felt the need to send these thoughts toddling into the public domain, she had this to say:
“Older generations haven’t grown up with Twitter and social media – they know how to talk to other people about [their feelings], but for young people it’s different: you don’t want to bother people with your problems, you just think ‘I’m annoyed: tweet.'”
Now. Here in England we have a newspaper called The Daily Mail. The Daily Mail would take the following stance about this story:
I am not going to venture quite this far. If anything, humanity will be buggered by moral degradation and gratuitous salt-intake long before social media gets its claws into it, but that’s another story for another time.
I am still troubled.
We all know that the social media revolution has ripped our brains open and encouraged us to splatter our profound cogitations (‘You’re sure you know someone and then they go and steal your last Custard Cream. TRUST NO ONE.’), our niggling concerns (‘I think my forearms might be slightly hairier than they used to be’.), and our banal musings (‘I need a poo.’) onto the face of the world for everyone to peruse at their leisure and take as seriously or as lightly as they wish.
But I’d like to think that for those of us who still remember how to think and deal with thoughts and emotions using our consciousness inside our heads, communicate using our lungs, vocal cords and lips, and use a pencil to write words on some paper in order to express an emotion or a deep desire to kiss Graham from Accounts or to assassinate Mrs Fitzwilliam from next door for leaving out smoked mackerel for Cuddles the Cat and thus single-handedly causing the worst fox plague your street has ever seen, the splurging of thoughts on our Facebook walls is a choice rather than an unequivocal imperative.
Shut up, Stickman. I was very proud of ‘unequivocal imperative’. You’re always raining on my parade. Just because you don’t know what ‘unequivocal’ means.
Hah. That shut him up. Don’t challenge me to a word duel , Stickman, I’ll trounce you all the way from here to Thesaurus.com.
But focus, Listener. You don’t half digress.
We of the private consciousness and vocal cords and pen and paper generations surely remember how to deal with strains of thought that enter our little heads in a quiet, peaceful and private manner? We know how to deal with these musings, don’t we? No matter how agonising and potentially defamatory they may be.
See? Stickman beautifully handled a very difficult anxiety. He acknowledged it, accepted it, and decided upon a strategy with which to contend with it. All inside his own sticky little head.
But what if he had done this?
He would have been branded a nature hater, forced to apologise to the Royal Horticultural Society, the National Trust and English Heritage, probably lost several friends, been disowned by his parents (National Trust members) and his life would never have been the same again.
But for those ‘young people’ whose lives in their living memory offer the ability to project every thought that enters their head onto a public wall, might they eventually lose – or, as time goes on, not even properly develop – the inclination or capacity to think thoughts and deal with emotions by themselves in private? What if the faculty for maintaining an interior monologue diminishes because there is no need for one?
I have conducted an in-depth, multi-billion pound scientific study of how the advance of time and technology has impacted on a human being’s handling of his interior monologue and how society has adapted to it. Please see following exhibits:
Stickman decides to let loose his interior monologue on the world in 1993, with the following results:
Stickman decides to let loose his interior monologue on the world in 2013, with the following results:
Finding A: Our concept of what constitutes information worthy of public expression has become considerably screwed. A statement such as ‘I’m going to buy a sandwich’ may now hold the same gravity as ‘My right kidney fell out of my bottom this morning and I’ve had a marriage proposal from a man who claims he is the Messiah and dresses up as a giant turnip on Thursday evenings.’
Finding B: Society’s willingness to accept the public expression of these banalities is potentially limitless. Will there soon be Tweets that simply say ‘I am currently breathing’ or ‘Living on ground under the sky’ or just ‘Alive’?
There are no conclusions, as yet, to these questions that trouble my consciousness interior mind inside my brain in my head. We’ll just have to wait and see. When the social media generation is old enough to become our teachers, doctors, politicians, artists and grown-ups, we might see what damage, if any, has been done. Or maybe things will just be so different there’ll be no need for a private consciousness. Maybe Facebook will change ‘My Facebook Wall’ to ‘My Facebook Brain’. Maybe in 50 years’ time we’ll be looking down at generations of vacant-eyed grunters. Or maybe not.
Whatever makes you happy, Stickman.