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EditorialsUp Front 05/16

Up Front 05/16

Despite the fact that we are a long way from a consensus on the eventual effects of addiction to social media, I was fascinated when a teenager recently mentioned to me that she had given up Facebook and Instagram. ‘I was completely addicted’ she explained. She had closed down all of her social media accounts, admitting that using them was impeding her efforts to achieve things of real substance. Her confession prompted another person nearby to admit the same. For years they had lived with a desperate compulsion to check into the happenings of a virtual world delivered to them through a five inch screen. They are obviously not alone. For millions of people, real social interaction has been replaced by a world of ‘likes’, ‘favourites’ and ‘shares’ and their lives are now glibly consumed with a glance and a click. Every waking moment is filled with mediocrity and irrelevant trivia; it is a mundane and eventually hollow experience. A few years ago The Telegraph published a list of some of the signs that show when someone is addicted to social media. They included reaching for the phone before getting out of bed in the morning;  an inability to sit through a meal without checking for ‘important’ posts; greeting people using their hashtag title and saying ‘lol’ instead of laughing out loud. It’s no surprise that social media is addictive. Businesses with revenues that run into the billions of dollars have no shortage of cash to employ the most effective psychology and marketing expertise needed to ensure that their customers return to their sites time and time again. It is commerce and they are there to make money. Enormous investment has produced huge returns for those running these businesses all over the world. And the irony is that they are now accessed by so many people, with varying levels of addiction that even if a tobacco industry style class-action lawsuit were launched to try to break the hold on those consumed, it would have to be promoted through the sites themselves. There is no doubt that social media has a valuable role to play in communication in our modern world but an addiction to the mundane will probably only ever be helpful to the legal profession.

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