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The Power and the Glory.

In my blog on loneliness, I made mention of social media. Today, we are hearing of

its role in aggravating the tragic suicide of a fourteen-year-old girl and the

devastating effect that her parents believe it has had. An apology for its influence

has been issued and there is some noise being made about ‘moderation’ and

‘reform’. Two weeks from now, it is highly likely that the story will be old news to all

but the girl’s parents and other close family members who will carry their

unimaginable pain and loss forever. Social media will continue and, in a few weeks

or months, another similar story will emerge.

Nothing about social media will change in any meaningful way, however, because

we don’t want it to.

To be clear, in the context of this piece, I use ‘we’ in the fullest sense of community and the individual responsibility each of us has towards its healthy, moral


The explosion of social media over the past twenty years has been hailed as the

latest miracle of our age: there are those who consider it the greatest miracle of

any age. It is considered by many to have enhanced democracy, to have given a

voice to the voiceless, to have empowered the powerless, to be the greatest global

equaliser of all time. All of this is probably true. Certainly, it has transformed

communication and lifestyles beyond anything that might have been imagined once

upon a time in the ‘old days.’ But at what cost?

We all have the wherewithal at our fingertips to become celebrities now. With the

power of social media we can be armchair politicians, judges, journalists,

revolutionaries, influencers. We have the power to say exactly what we want to say

to whomever we want to say it, regardless of the consequences, oblivious to the

effects our thoughts or actions can – and too often do – have on our fellow human

beings. We have the power to utter accuracies and inaccuracies alike; criticism or

compliment; truth or lies.

I cannot help but doubt if any one of us truly understands the awesome responsibilities that must, by definition, accompany such unbridled and unregulated powers. I am even more dubious that, once we consider this, we would stop wielding that power until we do truly understand it.

Most of us would not wield an axe in private or public without taking account of

the safety of others around us. It would be irresponsible and dangerous. Some would

but there are laws to stop them. Misusing the power bestowed upon us by social

media can be just as irresponsible and dangerous, often in ways of which we are

unaware. Giving it enough thought, we might conclude that it can be even more

dangerous. Because we can’t see our victims, we don’t need to care about them. We

can even tell ourselves they don’t exist.

Let’s not imagine for a single second it is the corporate money-making machines

and the way they shrug their shoulders with scripted platitudes that are causing the

problem. They are the symptomatic opportunists but without our blind, lazy, careless

and self-obsessed collusion, they would be looking for alternative money-makers in

the click of a mouse. That is the real power we have.

While we might all-too-readily agree upon the importance of this issue, it is an

uncomfortable truth that we don’t care enough to do something about it because that

would mean fundamentally changing our behaviour. Sadly, it seems that we are too

much in love with ourselves - or do not love ourselves enough - to do that. So,

instead we choose to believe that it doesn’t apply to us. This, of course, means that

we are the biggest part of the problem, if not the very cause.

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