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Real Friends? August 3, 2009

Posted by Andrew in Media, Young people.
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There’s been 3 items about social networking that have caught my attention in the past few days

The first was the report written by 15 year old Matthew Robson claiming that few of his friends ued Twitter and wanted stuff for free off the internet. It seems to challenge some of the previously held views about the way teenagers use the internet

Second was Archbishop Vincent Nichols reflections that over use of soical networking leads to young people not being able to form authentic friendships

Finally was Thought for the Day by Giles Fraser that argued that too often church was only interested in ‘thick communities’ ie the traditional close knit community. Whereas for young people who were different, either through ethnicity, sexual orientation, faith, fashion or whatever then the ‘thin community’ on-line provided a place for them to find genuine community.

Different views, different ages. No real conclusions but a discussion that youthworkers need to keep up with in the coming years / months / weeks depending on how fast all this changes!

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1. Neil J - August 11, 2009

I have just spent a few minutes reading that article and the first and last page of comments from Guardian readers in response to it. It strikes me that there are a whole load of issues that this article throws up – some of which the Guardian readers have raised and a few others too.

Firstly, isn’t it shocking that Morgan Stanley are putting so much weight behind the opinions of an isolated (and distinctly unrepresentative) teenager and his mates?

Secondly, isn’t it shocking that they did not expect opinions like this from a teenager?!

But I also have to question some of the ideas put forward by this particular teenager and some of the opinions expressed by the Guardian readership in response.

As I read, I was struck by how fickle they all are (whichever side of the argument they are on!) For example, the lad suggested that advertising is a waste of time because no-one ‘clicks through’ on ads and this was happily lauded by everyone. But is that true? If no-one clicks through on ads why do firms persist in using click through ads? But also, is clicking through the only way that an ad has an impact?

The (in my opinion ludicrous) suggestion seems to be that we now live in a society that is unaffected by advertising. If that is true, where are the hordes of teenagers wearing completely unbranded clothing, with cheap basic mobile phones (also free from big name branding!) Where are the teenagers who are free from the angst caused by living up to a media-led image? For some reason, I don’t see that many – aside from a few middle class kids with a middle class education and middle class interests – and even then only a few of these are anything like unaffected by the media.

The fact of the matter is that however much we might kid ourselves that we are not affected by advertising and especially not internet advertising, in reality we are all affected – even if only in the very slightest way. Little by little we get familiar with the brand names that confront us and little by little we unknowingly buy into the lie that these products are in some way better than the unbranded products.

Finally, as many commented, I think he has a point about Twitter – there are not many who can be bothered with it, though I suspect its target audience and key users are not teenagers!

All in all I think we just need to take a good look at ourselves and begin to realise the subtle influences of our society as well as the obvious ones. And we need to begin to be more honest.

But no matter how hard we try none of us will ever by such efforts set ourselves truly free. There is only one who can do that – and his take on reality is not set by the Guardian or any other newspaper for that matter!

2. Ruth Thomas - August 18, 2009

What I don’t seem to have heard in most of the commentaries on social networking is something that was implicit in Giles Fraser’s Thought for the Day but not really drawn out: that often these sites are not about creating communities but are about deepening existing acquaintances and friendships.

I haven’t got to know anyone on Facebook I didn’t already know in “first life”. But there are lots of people whom, through distance and time constraints, I hardly ever see in the flesh but find it easy to keep in touch with using FB. We can share on FB at whatever level we choose — superficially or deeply, depending on how well we know and trust each other. No different to any other method of communication really.

And I quite agree Neil: adverts do affect us, no matter what we say!


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