The Rise Of Anti-Social Networking

On the train to London the other day I picked up a dog-eared copy of Metro, the city’s finest free newspaper. Buried on page 24, opposite an article about a new Harry Potter theme-park, was this little piece:

Facebook 'is causing crisis of loneliness'

‘Facebook is causing a “crisis of loneliness“ ‘, read the headline.

The average teenager spends three and a half hours a day on social network sites […] Two thirds of people […] of all ages say they ‘feel lonely’ and would like someone to have a coffee and a chat with.

I’m not about to bestow biblical status upon statistics published in Metro, but even if these figures aren’t completely representative, the sentiment is appalling. The sad thing is that it sounds like people are able to identify their own loneliness, but are unable to do anything about it.

My recent packrafting trip to the Highlands was characterised by friendly people who picked me up as I hitched around, stopped to chat while on bike rides and walks, invited me in to bothies, made conversation in pubs and fish ‘n’ chip shops, and in one case paid me to stay in their hostel! Yet two-thirds of people under the age of 18 do not consider Britain to be a friendly country, according to this article.

Even more relevant: the trip was one of the cheapest and easiest to get off the ground that I’ve ever done. I took a Megabus from London to Inverness for £16.50 (return). I bought a backpack from Wilko for £28 and plundered my old equipment cupboard for a tent, mattress and sleeping bag; things which anyone could get together by calling a few friends. I did splash out on an expensive packraft (no pun intended), but Ferg borrowed his off a mate. A walking trip alone would have been equally fun. Packraft aside, the entire week’s trip cost less than a hundred quid, was arranged less than a fortnight in advance, and took a single evening to plan.

How can the simple enjoyment, the company, the memorable experiences and the valuable lessons of a wilderness trip be brought to more of the young people who have three and a half hours a day to waste on Facebook? How can an issue like this be promoted beyond page 24 of a free newspaper on the London Underground?

I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve only recently settled in one place long enough to give things like this any thought.

What do you think?

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4 responses to “The Rise Of Anti-Social Networking”

  1. I couldn’t agree more. The so called social networking sites are making people actually less social. I have seen multiple people in the same room all on computers posting and commenting and not interacting with each other. I have seen people posting to each other while in the same room! That just strikes me as a bit dysfunctional.

    I think if more people would get out and do adventurous things we would may e have a better world. I don’t mean to sound all utopia and dreamy with that but it’s true. The people that get out see that most folks are kind and care about their fellow man.

  2. Hey Tom, there are loads of organisations aimed at introducing people to the outdoors from DofE to Scouts, Outward Bound to BSES — as I’m sure you know.

    They all have a pretty big reach between them and the rest of us can keep chipping away on a smaller scale too.

  3. My experience is short and geographically limited as I have just moved to the UK after living in Canada and then France. However, my immediate impression upon moving into this area (South Lakes) is that people are very friendly and open. Britain not a friendly country? I disagree. The last line annoys me as well: “What an indictment of Britain that such a simple need…” What a load of rubbish! It’s not the nation that makes one spend 3 hours a day on Facebook. I think that one should take stock of one’s life (a concept that has come up several times in Tom’s writings), accept responsibility for its state and direction and take appropriate action. Ride on!

  4. Guess I’m too old to qualify for loneliness through social media. Most of the people I follow on facebook/twitter inspire me to get of my lazy arse and have a life. And the rest of of facebook friends are long lost friends I once again found because of social media, instead of them being lost to a box of old photo’s to be look upon in 20 years as i go grey…

Something to add?