Social media has driven the world mad.

Updated: Sep 20, 2020

Society's addiction to social media had made us lose our capacity for rational evidence-based debate.


By Derek W Gardiner

I often look on my parents with envy in that they grew up in the 1970s and 80s, a time that many still hark back to as a happier simpler time when music was good, jobs were aplenty and people didn't spend all their time talking about politics as they do now. Back then you could pretty much do or say what you wanted within the law, there were no phones to film you saying something slightly controversial or getting drunk at a party and certainly not to "track and trace" you in order to make sure you were staying at home when the government wanted you to. There were no twitter mobs to attack people for saying things they don't agree with and demand they be censored.


I can't pinpoint a date when the madness really began but perhaps it was the end of the 2000s or the early 2010s when social media became less about arranging to meet up with friends or posting pictures of your holiday and more about reading the news and talking politics. Politicians and news organisations began to set up accounts on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin on which anyone could comment at first this was civilised, people respected each other's rights to disagree but soon it just descended into mudslinging. Fast forward to the nightmare that is 2020 and a singer can't even post a new hairstyle on Instagram without it becoming political and some useless journalist accusing her of the bizarre crime of "cultural appropriation".


However, I would argue that 2016 was a real turning point when the left, who were so used to winning and if not controlling the political tune, actually lost the referendum on Brexit and the US Presidential election. Instead of honest and reasoned debate on issues such as the benefits of Brexit and the competence of President Trump it just turned into people who voted Brexit being labelled as racists, xenophobes and little Englanders (notice how Scottish nationalists are never called "little Scotlanders") and Trump voters being labelled with even worse accusations such as nazi and fascist. The right to have been no saints when it comes to name-calling either labelling remain voters as remoaners and such like rather than presenting fact-based arguments. It has left little room for the free exchange of ideas and forced people into political tribes whose doctrines they cannot disagree with.


For many, the politics of social media has become such an addiction that it has consumed their everyday lives and left little room for anything fun, such as playing a sport or a non-political hobby that might take their minds off it, allow them to clear their heads and return with more rational thoughts. Instead, they spend their times analysing the books on a cabinet ministers bookshelf. I include myself in this as well, I can't go through a single day without sharing a news article on social media and commenting on it.


Much as the printing press was responsible for an increase in religious intolerance and superstition in its early days so too is social media and the culture of clickbait headlines. Thirty years ago if a pandemic such as the coronavirus hit, the government would not have voluntarily crashed the economy and imposed months of misery on the population for fear of a social media mob and doom-laden headlines. It would have just told us we needed to get on with our lives. Similarly, the idea that statues should be torn down or patriotic anthems removed from the last night of the proms would have been unthinkable. Now, an entire generation could face long term unemployment and a culture of fear consume the country for years to come because the government is incapable of making evidence-based and rational decisions without being forced into a U-turn by a twitter mob.


Social media, just like the printing press may turn out to be one of humanity's greatest achievements if used responsibly but right now it is turning us all into deranged lunatics and could soon escalate into things far worse than a keyboard row if we are not careful. I would suggest an entirely voluntary week away from social media as an experiment as to whether this would make people happier and more clear thinking or suffer severe withdrawals. I'd be willing to bet that the former would be the case.


Touchscreens are one of the worst things ever invented


All phones these days have to be touchscreens. I remember after I got my first touchscreen phone in 2011 and hated it to the point that, when my contract was up for renewal, I asked for a Blackberry only to find out that they'd stopped making them.


I often like putting my phone on standby while listening to music and podcasts but the phone sometimes will automatically switch itself on when I have it in my pocket meaning songs can be changed or podcasts skipped and fast-forwarded because it touched my leg. In an age where liking the wrong tweet can destroy your life, you might think social media companies would show more diligence against touch-screens, but no.


Before you would have to move your mouse up to a post in order to like it. Now if you just tap the wrong part of the screen (or even merely tap twice on Instagram) and like something controversial, then you could find yourself in hot water.


Time to bring back a more updated version of the Blackberry I say.


The SNP are taking us back to the 1650s


I know the SNP want Scotland to return to its pre-1707 self with a similar economy to what we had back then but it seems they've finally pinpointed a decade to drag us back to; the 1650s.


When Oliver Cromwell's puritans were in power, in both England and Scotland I might add. They were known for banning anything fun lest it be sinful. Theatres and Shakespeare were banned, nonreligious music and dancing were banned and even Christmas was outlawed.


Last week, a new set of stupid and pointless rules came into effect by decree of the tartan tyrant Sturgeon. Face masks would now be mandatory in more venues such as cinemas and banks. Background music and dancing have been banned from pubs and clubs across Scotland to prevent people from "getting too excited" or singing so they will not cause droplets to go into the air. I never much liked background music being played in pubs as it was more often than not terrible.


However, the one thing that most annoyed me was an apparent ban on buffet meals. When I was planning to take advantage of the last day of Eat out to help out at my local buffet, I discovered that they were now only doing table service due to these new oppressive edicts despite having measures in place allowing people to collect their food with masks and gloves only a week prior.


Cromwell's tyranny was eventually ended with the return of the fun-loving King Charles II who gave everyone permission to party again. I hope the Scottish people will throw off their chains, not by voting for independence, but by voting out these despots in May of next year.