Rod Grant: Nothing social about web

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Is it just me or are there others who believe that social networking sites are the most divisive, most abhorrent, least useful innovation of all time? I find myself worrying that I’m just becoming an old out-of-touch fogey, then I pinch myself and realise I’m worrying needlessly.

When you find two youngsters texting each other whilst sitting on the same school bus, you begin to see that the world is changing and not for the better. When I was wee, I used to communicate with my friends by meeting up with them. Now, youngsters engage in “cyber bullying” where they can ensure maximum exposure of their taunting.

Youngsters have become so engulfed in the age of celebrity that they truly believe that they are celebrities themselves, inhabiting a virtual world where one’s personal remarks, “likes” and photographs actually matter. They seem to compete with each other gleefully with regard to the number of “friends” they each have. I know youngsters who are proud to relate that they have “347 friends”. I always reply, instantaneously, “No, you don’t, you have three.”

I just can’t see such sites as a force for good when, nearly every day as a headmaster, I deal with the consequences of their misuse by students not yet mature enough to see the damage their words and pictures can wreak. Of course, such sites are a massive blessing to the police, university admissions officers, prospective employers and predators of questionable morality. As I tell my students, don’t publish anything on a website that you wouldn’t let your granny see, because once published it is potentially there forever.

Rod Grant is headmaster of Clifton Hall School