In the past as a black person, you could inhabit the metropolis of London and the only people who would know your name, date of birth, and location, was your mother, your father, your grandparents and a few close friends. Not so in 2013.
I argue from a perspective that where previously it used to be somewhat endearing and a nice little surprise to discover you had mutual friends (cue squeals and smiles of pleasure), it is increasingly becoming a hindrance to progress and something of a ball and chain (cue wariness masked with a polite ‘Oh. That’s great’). Why? Because of the minority nature of the community in the first place, combined with the fact that people love to talk about one another. And what do gossips love best? Bad news, scandal and defamation of character.
Nothing travels faster and with more relish than these three elements, and the recent surge in the use of social networking, has the ability to amplify any such themed information tenfold, and to spread it to every corner of the earth, even to a gecko languishing in the bark of a tree in the very middle of the Amazon rainforest.
Someone might argue that the way to counteract this is to behave and make sure no-one ever has anything bad to say about you. But life is not like Disney where the good people are irrevocable perfect. In the real world, people can be negatively spoken about for doing good and decent enough people make mistakes they regret. Thus one problematic element of the exponential decrease in the degrees of separation, is that you can be judged before you are even known.
It can also be stifling in the respect of privacy. If you are not the kind to inform the world of what you are up to, that stance is basically of no benefit to you if you have at least one friend for whom that is their personal ministry. Due to the likes of social media, someone on the other side of London who has never met you, will know that you tripped, fell and slid on curb, before you’ve even hit the ground…via a mutual friend.
However, the area in which this decrease in separation is perhaps felt most keenly and to undesirable effect, is that of relationships. Word of mouth has always been a force to be reckoned with, but combine it with online exposure, and a person’s reputation can be dismantled in as little as an hour, or intimate business aired. Add to that the increasing use of incriminating pictures or screen-shot conversations to supplement words and fuel the ensuing frenzy, and we’re looking at a soap-opera series worth of information, being released in a merciless one day jamboree. Owing to the small nature of this community and many people’s near professional ability in joining dots to other dots, this can create tension, animosity, hurt, or the feeling of being under CCTV surveillance.
London is a great city to meet new people, make new connections and explore new things, but it is always useful to be mindful of what the cost of this may be. Most especially in light of our increasingly digitally & socially orientated generation.