An Excuse to be Nosey

I’ve recently discovered the joy which developed quickly into sheer panic at living without any internet connection.

Having become a grown up and bought a house all the arrangements were made with a supplier of phones and broadband. Everything got plugged in (correctly for once) and everything was fine.

Until there was nothing.

No social media. No reading the local news online. No watching silly videos. No looking up the pictures that local photography enthusiasts share of the mirrie dancers. No seeing what events I’m missing.

As a big fan of displacement activities the internet provides so much of that. What started out years ago as the irritating sound of a dial-up-connection with access to websites and email has grown and morphed into a thing – a thing which our lives revolve around.

Locally the internet has become a part of our cultural lives. There’s all the local groups that now have pages on social media and we interact with people that you would normally just say hi to on the street. Young people who live in the most remote areas of Shetland now can socially interact with peers in ways which never really happened before and we no longer have to remember to switch the wireless on to hear the weather because you can listen again – at lambing time that’s an essential local service.

It’s heartening to know you can put up a post saying, “does onybody keen whaar I can get better internet provision” and you’re guaranteed to have the Shetland version of “going viral” feedback. (This will be attempted once back online).

Culture, at its heart, is about the media. We now have access to it 24 hours a day. The media helps to shape who we are socially – it influences what we think about and what we believe.
The classic example of this is Disney. There are not many people who have not seen at least one Disney film. There are not many little girls who don’t know all the words to the songs from Frozen in the same way there are not many little boys who don’t want every toy available for Star Wars and make a weird sound when they swish their pretend light sabre.

Disney have access to our children from an early age and not just through film. They have their own TV channels, websites, social media platforms, products, stores and theme parks. How do they influence what our children believe?

Underneath the subtleties of what appears like innocence films are messages that are reinforced at all levels of their operations. If you are a little girl you can only be pretty and accepted if you are a princess like Elsa or Anna and if you are a little boy you can only be a real man if you are tough and strong like Han Solo … or even Chewbacca.

Good old fashioned American values are thrust down our children’s throats and we don’t really care – because we don’t necessarily realise that’s what’s happening.

Locally? Well the cultural media machine has been gearing into action over recent weeks as we build towards to the forthcoming Scottish government elections. There will be various attempts by the different parties to utilise the internet in order to influence local voters using social media.
The local selects who enjoy commenting on every post, with variations on the theme of things they have said many times before, will be sitting with massive grins waiting for the opportunity to appear clever.

There will be things shared that make you wonder. There will be things shared that could make you change your mind. There will be things shared that are untrue but you will take for truth – just because it’s written in black and white and it’s on the internet and somebody you know has shared it … therefore it must be true.

Whilst I sit in internet darkness there’s part of me that now feels relieved that I can’t see all of that happening. But then I think that it would be nice to touch base with what is happening in the world again, or to see whose birthday it is and to do what many Shetlanders enjoy – be nosey online.

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