I am due to present at a conference in the  next couple of weeks (a webinar – as if the pre-presentation stress wasn’t enough) on the subject of teens and social networking. We’ve had some experience of this at our teaching centre as I have been running one for our teen students (some 2,500) of them for the last couple of years.  Some research I did for my MA convinced me of the need for this, not to mention the potential for learning,  and so we embarked on this adventure,  with mixed success.

Interesting, then, to see this research this week, involving Spanish, British and Japanese teens. It suggests, very strongly, that teens, including Spaniards, feel more confortable with their online chums than real life peers. This seemed to have a hollow ring to me, having spoken to teens here on many occasions about this. They consistently say that they prefer having online friends that they already know in real life, and shun strangers as online friends.

Today I handed out questionnaires about social networking habits, and at first glance my previous impressions seem correct. They consistently report that their online friends are also people that they know in real life. I will post more on this when I have collated the data. It would also seem that, though Tuenti still reigns supreme as the Spanish teen social networking site of choice, Facebook is catching up.

It seems that one internet radio in the house isn’t enough these days, as this morning I ordered a DAB / internet radio alarm (to get me up earlier in the mornings and thus lead a more active and constructive life). Watch this space :-O (emoticon for a yawn).

I must confess to be growing a little tired of all the negative energy currently generated by Facebook and its endless campaigns to generate hatred towards some group or individual. Unpleasantness seems to be all the rage, with campaigns of hatred against ‘chavs’ or other groups. Only this week I decided to start a reduction of FB ‘friends’, inspired by a couple of individuals that thought it acceptable to ‘flame’ others in deeply unpleasant ways. No ‘three strikes’ policy, once is enough and it’s goodbye. One such individual decided that using my wall and responding to a comment made by a friend that he isn’t following to make nasty comments was somehow acceptable. Not any more.

It’s interesting to see how people will use the distance that online interaction puts between them and their victims to behave in ways that in any face to face context would be deemed unacceptable. Interesting but not welcome.

It’s not that I haven’t got anything to say, in fact almost every day there’s some tech-related story that catches my eye. But there is a discipline to writing a regular entry in a blog, diary or whatever, which I seem to have lost. That can’t be a good thing and so I bring myself to make the first entry in some time.

This entry in Mashable caught my attention. A story for our times and obviously very sad, but apart from the human tragedy what stands out is the speed at which we move information around our networks and the fact that normal official channels for transmitting such information don’t have a hope in competing. But there isn’t really much else to be said; official procedures remain the same. They can’t be fast-tracked to compete with Facebook and so from now on the risk of having bad news spread via your social network so that everyone else finds out before you do about something so personal is real.

Two days ago Reddit gave me the opportunity of reading a story aout a man that blinded his four year old son. I decided that this was potentially too distressing to read and so passed it by. The following day I saw a link on Twitter and followed it. The story despite the scant information it presented, was the most harrowing I have read in years and left me feeling quite depressed. The internet is a platform for all of life and its most distressing excesses. It can’t give that boy his sight back, nor undo the appalling psychological damage he suffered. But it did have the power to depress me beyond precedent.

Posted by ShoZu

Posted by ShoZu

I was at first amused and later disturbed to read the following story, which I picked up via the social networking / bookmarking site Reddit : http://tinyurl.com/bh57oc.

Amused because anyone foolish enough to drive hundreds of miles to cheat on their wife on the basis of a spurious internet encounter is naïve and maybe deserves everything they get.

On the other hand when you consider that this rather unpleasant set up was a deliberate ‘prank’ brought about as the result of football rivalry, then I believe you have to stop and think about just what is going on here.

Firstly, they had already broken the guy’s ankle, apparently by accident, when on holiday. Most normal people would leave it at that and get on with their lives when they get back to normal life. Not these two characters; instead they set up an elaborate hoax to lure their victim into making a fool of himself, persuade him to part with a picture of himself in the nude, and then record the conversation in which he found out that he’d been had. This information was then posted on the internet and subsequent publicity, deliberately orchestrated or otherwise, ensured that the story went viral and was picked up in the national press along with a photo of the hapless victim. I can’t help feeling that there is a case to be made for an unreasonable level of interference in someone’s personal life having taken place and wonder abouyt the legality of this kind of harrassment. The victim appears to be taking it well, but I can’t help but wonder whether the abuse that he has suffered thus far making him wary of saying anything to further antagonise his tormenters.

I am, incidentally, a Liverpool supporter.

I have to admit to having had a moment of quiet satisfaction while walking along the street earlier today. I spotted the police preparing to tow away a car whose owner had decided that it would be okay to illegally park in a disabled parking bay. Let’s face it, it would be difficult to argue that they shouldn’t be doing this (though there would clearly be some position on the extremes of the political spectrum where opposing it would seem reasonable to some).

The point was that it felt good to see it happening as it seemed that justice was being done. Here was an example of the state (or at least the local municiple law makers) intervening in people’s lives for the greater good – there must surely be countless others. What about the smashed bus stop windows I had seen earlier this week in the quiet rural area that I live in? Wouldn’t it be nice if the vandals were made to pay for their actions?

Someone told me about a Spanish friend of theirs that went to live for a while in Basel and decided one day to dump some rubbish in the street – something that the average Madrileño wouldn’t think twice about. She was rounded on by a local member of the public and when she asked ‘what difference does it make to you?’ was given a lesson in civic responsibility, and a reminder that it was everyone else would have to pay for her selfishness.

All of this is fine, and we could produce a long wish list of situations in which the rule of law should prevail no doubt. Nevertheless, at a time of disruptive and threatening actions by ‘terrorists’ and others who are inclined to tire of waiting for the democratic process to produce the results they would like, there is perhaps an overzealous tendency on the part of the state to intervene in the lives of its citizens.

The desire of the British government to create digital databases of all its citizens’ online communications is a case in point. The Australians’ plans to create a stranglehold on the internet for its population by prescribing the sites they can visit is another. Both of these actions should be regarded as intolerable by those that believe in liberal democracy, despite the fact that some feel inclined to argue that supposed threats to liberty somehow justify totalitarian methods that undermine liberty themselves.