I’ve been away for three months. Not that it matters much to any of you, but ‘away’ encompasses being away from phones, emails, social networking tools, everything. That is, unless I chose to go to an internet cafe and ‘plug in’ to the life I had left behind for three months. I have to say it was refreshing; it was nice to write in a book, with a pen. It was nice to read a book, that I held in my hand and turned the pages of (not that I actually have a kindle or an iPad) Anyway, the point is, I was ‘away from it all’, and whilst ‘away from it all’ one gets time to think about what ‘it’ really means. Am I talking about technology? I don’t know. Social media? Yes in a way. The point I’m trying to make is probably best illustrated in a story, I also wrote one of those whilst I was away, but more to come on that later.
So, on the tube was I, travelling back from a very cold Stansted airport at 7AM in the morning. Out of the sleep encrusted, half closed eye that was on the right side of my face, I spotted an elderly English chap. He had an air of real old school England about him – the type you normally see in a chauffeur driven car, not the tube. In his hand was a bundle of papers wrapped in a leather sheaf. Not a care in the world had this chap, and a lovely old man he looked too. But I couldn’t help feel ever so slightly sorry for him. The reality of it was that he probably didn’t give two hoots about being surrounded by a load of goggle eyed screenagers staring vacantly into their iPhones, Blackberry’s and crinkled copies of the morning’s Metro – all that was on his mind was what was going to be said in the meeting he was going to attend and maybe what was for supper that evening.
But he, to me, represented a generation that have been excommunicated in a lot of ways. See, whilst I was away, something changed for me. Social media and technology became something that didn’t represent an invasion of privacy or another distraction, it became a tool that is useful and in some cases, missed. It’s sad, I know, being on the other side of the world and thinking ‘I would tweet the sh!t out of that now if I could’ but on the other hand, it’s intriguing when you consider the social implications of what this technology and these tools can actually do. Not just for marketing products, or endlessly seeking out personal fame, but for being a catalyst for social change. The Man that I saw on the tube that day (apologies if you’re reading this and you are in fact a tech savvy social media guru and you had an iPad tucked in your tweeds) showed me a generation, similar to that of my parents , squeezed out of this ever narrowing gap between producer and consumer. He, I presume, can’t tweet at John Lewis if the pillowcase he just bought has a hole in it, nor can he write on the Facebook wall of Land Rover if his wheels are out of line – he might not want to, granted, he might be happy to do it the old fashioned way, which is still great, but takes more time, something everybody has less of nowadays.
The great thing is, that with consumerism now showing it’s true colours, retailers, producers and distributors alike are no longer in a position where poor service or quality of product is acceptable – we can now say, in front of the world but without showing our face, that we’re not happy. Now all of this chitter-chatter probably makes me sound like some sort of techno geek, something which I am very certainly not – I am firmly of the belief that ones time away from the screen is very, very important. I also firmly believe in the re-birth of cottage industry, something that, in future, I’d like to be instrumental in (a midwife of sorts) and also something which my brother, has been writing some very interesting stuff about of late.
Well, that’s all folks, almost. What would all of this mean other than a rant if I didn’t follow through and actually ‘DO’ something about it? Well that’s what I’m going to do. See, I’m sorta trapped up north at the moment, in the land where times goes slow. And rather than read Lady Chatterley’s lover in front of the fire, I figured I’d use this new opinion and time to ‘put my money where my mouth is’ and drag my Dad, kicking and screaming, into the digital age. I’m not suggesting he befriends me on Facebook, but he has a beautiful Antique shop, which he struggles to open, let alone tell people about! So, over the Christmas period, I’m going to be helping ‘Robert Redford Antiques and Interiors’ to become ‘relevant in the dynamic digital landscape’. Though I’m not entirely sure how relevant an antiques shop just outside of Manchester can be, it could be an interesting use of my Christmas break….