I’ve had several conversations this week about how difficult it must be as a young person in today’s digital world of apps; of real-time updates and viral videos and social media sensations. In fact, I even wrote in a previous post about how glad I was not to have grown up in a world in which every photo posted is hashtagged and filtered beyond recognition – eagerly awaiting likes and deemed a failure without them. But I also started thinking about all the benefits of the digital world, and – not forgetting the fact that the vast majority of my job is completely digital – how my week would have looked very different without them.
I have my everyday ‘essentials’: checking the news, using Google Maps to find a bar or restaurant (thank god for that blue arrow, guiding me to safety on a daily basis), completing an important Buzzfeed quiz about what my pizza choices say about my future husband; viewing train times (avoiding a daily game of Russian roulette facilitated by Southern Rail), and checking the location of my father and brother via Find Friends (not a stalker, just a worrier – since Dad’s stroke, this app provides me with so much peace of mind). But I think the real golden-nugget benefit of the digital age has to be how it facilitates human connections. Who cares if they’re made via Whatsapp of FaceTime or Facebook or Skype – if it means I can send a message of love to a friend who’s suffering, a message of support to someone who needs it – it’s worth its weight in gold.
Of course, there were non-digital alternatives to all of these tools, that served their purpose perfectly well for many years – but I don’t think it would be unfair to argue that the presence of these apps makes modern life just that bit simpler. Sorry, I’m such a millennial – I didn’t realise this until now.
Today I spent time with one of my best friends and her beautiful new baby. This little bundle of happiness simply would not have been born were it not for the online date my friend half-heartedly dragged herself along to two years ago, disillusioned by some of London’s finest scoundrels (to put it politely), but nevertheless hopeful that she would find the one. And she did!
Eating dinner with my two friends and their two lovely fiancées (plus little old single me, not remotely jealous/self pitying/alone in the corner etc etc), I thought about how without the digital age, these two perfect pairings would probably never have found one another. How amazing that we live in a world so much larger than that of the past; how we’re not just confined to the people we pass in the street or might come across drunk in a bar.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m in no way saying that online dating is the magical solution to perpetual singledom; my friends and I have collected enough horror stories between us to dispel that myth very quickly (off the top of my head – the guy who cried at the dinner table opposite a particularly unlucky friend (now happily married, thank goodness); the guy who offered me a drink then bought me a bottle of water from a newsagents; the one who lied about moving to Australia rather than endure a second date; and the millions who just never texted back…).
But back to friends. Thinking about it, I probably wouldn’t even have been friends with these girls without social media in the first place. When my long term relationship ended, Becky reached out to me, invited me on a night out. Georgie added me on Facebook the day afterwards – and before I knew it, I had a brand new group of friends; girls to travel to New York with, go to the races with, dance my shoes off in Chelsea with. Whilst I have no doubt that we’d have found a way to be friends without social media, it certainly made things easier at a stressful time in my life, and in a city that can be the loneliest of places.
So whilst I’ll continue to worry for the young people growing up with the added pressure of Kylie Jenner’s bum implants or Zoella’s makeup collection (not to mention the much more sinister side of the web, where a 14 year old girl might actually be a 60 year old man), I’ll also be grateful for the digital age. For the way it makes life easier and much more importantly for the way it connects humans with other humans. Yes, we look at our phones too much – but I bet the vast majority of people with their eyes glued to a screen aren’t aren’t texting messages of hate. The digital world doesn’t replace human contact, it enhances it. And if it means I can stay in touch with friends near and far, show them that I support and love them, share in both their happiness and sadness (and who knows, maybe even find a partner one day), I’ll take it.