The new opium

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Ain’t today’s technology marvellous? It makes things so easy. I mean, did you ever try recording a cassette to another cassette? Double-ended DIN plugs and Sellotape over the punched-out bits – pur-lease. Cassettes may be having a bit of a moment (Vinyl Revival? Don’t Forgette the Cassette!) but, let’s face it, it’s a dead cat bounce. No-one in their right mind is using them as anything other than a styling tool.

Naturally, there’s a price for this ease of use. Social media, for example, may give a grumpy introvert like me an effortless way to pay my social dues but it also, relentlessly, forces me to see things about people which I would really rather not. There are the unwitting racists, for a start. There are the many who would clearly rather talk to their dog than their children. Most of all, in my own particular community, there are those who feel compelled to share the Stories Of All The Good There Is In The World.

It’s not the stories themselves. Good people do good things – that’s good. What I loathe is the mass hypocrisy with its attendant stasis that the stories prop up. So often, something is pushed at me with the exhortation to “Read this. It’s totally inspirational.”

Inspirational? Really? Tell me, Facebook Friend, what has it inspired you to do? Are you now spending a few hours every week visiting the long-term lonely in hospital? Have you resolved to face your next setback with stoicism and persistence rather than your usual passive-aggressive meltdown?

No, no and thrice no. Almost without exception, no. All you’ve done is spend a few moments bathed in a glow of fake empathy and then clicked “share”.

What’s wrong with that? You know what’s wrong with it. It lets you off. It lets you feel that because you’ve passed around a YouTube clip, you’ve done your bit, nothing else is needed.

We all know that there are enormous problems in the world which, generally, we’ve been lucky enough to dodge. It would be more honest to say “I acknowledge all this appalling suffering and injustice but it’s extremely difficult to do anything effective about it and, right now, I don’t have the energy to try.”

But my community contains many who are hard-wired with the viciously addictive need to believe that they live to help others. Such honesty doesn’t feed that need. Instead, they toke a quick emotional buzz from watching someone else’s effort and then pass around the digital joint. Like all drug highs, it feels good and – ephemerally – fosters the delusion that everything is OK. Like all drug highs, it’s a dead end.

Well, my Facebook Friend, carry on toking if you must but don’t kid yourself that you’ve actually done anything useful.

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