A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square, the location of this morning’s Stone Club meeting, hosted by the inimitable and brilliant Carole Stone. The question being discussed was whether or not technology is overwhelming us. Our speaker was, Ian McCaig, CEO of lastminute.com and the group proceeded to have a stimulating discussion over a delicious cooked breakfast.
Over scrambled eggs, I confessed that, having replaced my Blackberry several weeks ago, I have not reactivated the email on it. I can still access my webmail, I just don’t have the constant dripdripdrip of incoming messages. Without doubt, this has been a blessing because I have enjoyed more books, newspaper articles, brainstormed ideas not to mention refreshing downtime as a result than I have in several years.
One of the guests felt that the rise of the digital age was producing young people whose social skills suffer. I disagree. For years the UK has been churning out millions of repressed individuals who don’t know how to connect with each other. Through web technologies, relationships can be developed and people can discover their passions in life, including other people quicker and more easily. Better still ,this can lead to face to face meetings.
Of course, as sure as a nightingale sang, someone slagged off Twitter. This mildly annoys me as I compare it to someone slagging off mobile phones, which would be seen as a daft and grumpy comment. I encouraged them to see that Twitter, unlike email (portrayed as the villain of this morning’s piece), allows you to see only who you want to see. It also encourages people to be brief, which is a blessing. Many people use it to share links to things they find interesting, so it’s like a personalised news service, brought to you by some of the smartest people not only in your world, but also in the whole world.
Back when I were a lad, we used to be taught how to write letters. We made sure that the address and the date were in the correct place and we knew when to sign off sincerely and when faithfully. Yes sir, them were the days. Today, we have tools (like email) which we are untrained to use. I see trouble ahead. Because one day soon, we’ll have to admit that children need to be taught how to use email in the same way that their grandparents were taught to write letters and their parents weren’t taught to write anything . This will be greeted by howls of derision and the politician involved will, sadly, have their head blown off by someone claiming, wrongly, that they are trying to replace History with Twitter. In a world of information overload, if you don’t know how to get the most from search engines, email and, yes, Twitter, then you will drown a sea of information. Ultimately, they are like essential fats or sleep. A healthy balance is what we’re all after. Too little or too much and we sometimes end up all at sea.