UK Govt report: Not using social media “could appear unusual or even suspicious” in 10 years

January 22, 2013


My eye was just drawn to a couple of pieces about the UK government report that was published today. The document, entitled Future Identities, Changing Identities in the UK: The next 10 Years is covered in an article in The Telegraph here whose headline, Rise of social networks in Britain ‘risks fuelling social unrest’ will certainly help fuel its readers suspicion of social. Is this just media paranoia? Certainly there has been plenty of that over recent years, remember the furore over the riots here in the UK?

Reading the article more closely though, and looking at the report itself there are some interesting, and yes, some quite unnerving things to consider. The report speaks of a changing situation where people have several overlapping identities rather than a single one. We knew that. Our students learn about the importance of digital identity and how to separate their personal from their public identities. My kids and their friends are not so switched on about it unfortunately but hopefully they will learn. They’ll have to be very good at it.

The report talks of social media remapping the social relationships of the UK, of older people who are not ‘social media savvy’ being disenfranchised and disconnected by this change. Actually it’s not just older people, 20% of the UK population have no internet access at home so, according to the report, these are the people who will become disenfranchised. But if social is remapping social relationships what impact does that have on class and our culture. It’s potentially quite wide reaching, I can’t think of an analogy that doesn’t sound ridiculous and melodramatic.

A US blog picks up the story here suggesting that lawyers who disengage with social networks could become conspicuous by their absence and irrelevant for failing to remain connected with their audience. I know people who simply can’t be bothered to keep in touch with friends who don’t have email, Facebook or Twitter so it’s not just lawyers. The report suggests that people without an online presence may be viewed as ‘unusual’ and with suspicion over the next 10 years. So lack of social media presence becomes like not having a home address and a bank account? What can they be up to? Something to hide?

For me the most worrying thing is when you put all of this together with the recent privacy concerns from Facebook, Instagram, Google etc. I use these platforms from choice. I’m writing this blog because it’s a useful tool for me to order and reference my thoughts, it’s voluntary and there’s only so much of me that I put out there. It’s a professional identity. But if coerced by societal pressure in order not to be disenfranchised, unusual and suspicious are we really going to have to put our lives online and our data in the hands of private corporations whose main aim is to sell our data to advertisers?


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