Tony Malcolm gets vocal about the lack of visceral connections
on Social Media community versus the more tangible benefits of Local Community.
Okay, I admit I am as old as several hills.
During my time in the advertising industry, I have seen seismic changes in the way we all work together and communicate with each other.
When I was deemed worthy of being recruited at Saatchi and Saatchi, which flummoxed my father who thought I was unemployable, I entered an industry full of idiosyncratic people from all walks of life and plenty who staggered through it.
A ramshackle band of reprobates who partied, drank, smoked and socialised like work was a secondary issue.
When we did work, it was done on paper and we strolled from office to office speaking to each other with actual words from our very own mouths.
There were no IT people as there were no computers. Typewriters were the only thing you could hear tip-tapping away above the cacophony of voices excitedly swapping stories and arranging the best venue for a boozy lunch.
Maybe it was dysfunctional but it generated some of the most iconic advertising this country has ever seen, from the Conservative Party ‘Labour isn’t Working’ poster to the British Airways ‘World’s Favourite Airline’ TV work.
The fun of being part of something special drove the ambition to achieve and disrupt in a spirit of ‘Nothing is Impossible’ and built a bond that created real gurus and leaders.
It was a collective bubble and as a group of young upstarts, the room we all gathered in was known as ‘The Playpen’.
Since those heady days, I’ve worked through several agencies both here and abroad and seen the gradual decline of that community spirit.
Perhaps more worrying is that this dependence of online connectivity has seeped into our communities and neighbourhoods. The huge expansion of social media platforms and migration to email and texting has spawned a generation of headphone wearing ‘millennials’ with their heads buried in a laptop or glued to mobile devices.
The once original adverts we preferred to watch over the programmes are now just rip offs of content viewed on YouTube or regurgitated offerings from online influencers. Data is king and we now aggregate this stuff and rely on SEO to get us where we need to be in life. Even dating is data-driven by swiping left or right as opposed to ‘chatting up’ in a local club or pub.
In a recent TedTalks video Johann Hani put forward a new theory on addiction. We are looking for connections to replace the old ones we once had in a real community. We are looking for approval via likes from people we rarely see.
That explains the proliferation of fluffy kittens on FaceBook, because they are virtually guaranteed to make the likes go off the chart and make the postee feel like the most popular person on the planet. Wow, how satisfying to feel validated via a pussycat pic.
Fact is, that in a real crisis, your FaceBook friends won’t be there to help. It will be genuine friends and family who step up.
So why not get stuck into that visceral community and give the virtual one a break. Get to know your Riverside local traders. Engage in a local charity or group. Go to the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond Museum, a Farmers Market or perhaps the Barnes Music Festival. Talk to each other, don’t be shy.
A community of flesh and blood contacts who you can see via your own irises and not a webcam, will instil a feeling of attachment that is far more stimulating and rewarding.
Previous generations lived through the Blitz where suicide rates dropped as local communities all rallied together. Now, loneliness is on the rise and mental health issues are leading to suffering of epidemic proportions. This is not an attack on the internet. It has given rise to good things outside of trolls, hackers and anonymous haters.
But get real folks. I have recently become a good friend of Maurizio, the purveyor of fine coffee at the Sunshine and Ravioli Cafe in Crown Road, St Margaret’s.
He doesn’t have to ask my name to misspell it as Toe-knee on my cup. He shouts my name in his delightful Italian accent the moment I walk through the door and the banter is jovial and dare I say, caring.
His latte is better than the coffee giants offering and a good 60p cheaper. He and his glamorous and loyal assistant Maria, bond people together. He lifts the corners of my mouth and my spirits before I go and get ignored by the hooded Trappist Monks silently worshipping at the altar of the Apple Mac at work.
Oh no, I’ve become an old geezer starting sentences with ‘in my day…’ Cue smiling emoji to indicate my Vocal Tone tone.
©RiverTribe Magazine 2017