Safely negotiating this web of information & entertainment

Last week on the BBC 5live breakfast show I listened as presenter Nicky Campbell interviewed a mother whose two daughters had been victims of unwanted inappropriate attention on the internet. Both had received messages from older men masquerading as friends of the girls on the Internet. This is just one of all too many experiences and episodes that I have either heard, read or been told of first hand as part of the research I conducted for a devotional I gave at the beginning of January.

The devotional was entitled Let there be light, in part a reference to the job I do, involved in optical networking. It is the harnessing of light or the properties of light that carries the Internet. I wanted to build on this theme using another conetation of light namely it being the opposite of darkness or put another way light meaning good & darkness, evil or bad.
My intention of the devotional or fireside discussion was to highlight some of the dangers or evils that exist on the Internet, include some ways to avoid these evils and to provide examples of how the Internet & social media can be used to benefit individuals & families.

With this also came a warning against idling away ones time in the virtual world at the expense of the real world.
I see this as one of the great threats to our ability to interact with each other & to society being equipped with well-rounded, well adjusted people.

I noted with interest that a new app is making it’s way around my friends & contacts on facebook this week as status updates appear recording ” so & so spent x000 hours logged into facebook in 2010″ it then prompts the invite check how long you were logged in last year.
Facebook, Twitter, blogging, myspace, YouTube, second life, Quora, linked-in, digg, world of warcraft ….The list goes on of all the many different social media tools & interactions that exist on the web & mobile devices.
The real danger of spending hundreds of hours a month on “social” sites is that they become an oxymoron & the social interaction in reality is lost.
I am deeply saddened when I hear of fledging marriages hitting rocky times because part of the problem is that both partners are not investing time in the relationship but are looking elsewhere for seemingly innocent, no harm fun & distractions on the web.

It has been an eye-opening experience as I prepared material for this fireside discussion. I have re-evaluated my own use of technology and it’s position within our family.

Now how ironic that one way to help spread awareness of this is to post it on the Internet and with this blog post and a microsite created specifically to share some of the material I used for the fireside I have done just that (see firesides.markgilmour.com )
This highlights that the technology is not in and of itself neither good nor bad but it is how we use it. All this connectivity can be for the benefit or otherwise of ourselves, family, friends and those we interact with.
It is all about balance and seeking to use this for decent purposes Technology for Good as one well known telecoms vendor who pay my wages have coined as a phrase.

So happy browsing, blogging, facebooking, twittering, etc but don’t forget to switch the device you are viewing this with, off every once in a while and go and speak to someone. You may find something out about them or yourself that you couldn’t have picked up in a status update.

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