Spotted and Overheard: The death of culture and romance
Any fans of the concept of culture will understand why social media is without a doubt the worst innovation of living memory. The main reason for my diatribe is that I genuinely believe ‘Twitter’ to be the most disingenuous term that could be applied to any brand of social media short of ‘light hearted intellectual entertainment updater and cancer curing stress relieving friendship device’ – ‘LHIEUACCSRFD’ for short.
Social Media’s most recent transgression has gained public attention due to the recent issues concerning Brighton universities ‘spotted’ page. Brighton had come under fire due to a news story, which had suggested that its ‘spotted’ page, which allows members to anonymously post flirtatious statements to others they have seen around campus, made students feel uncomfortable. Knowing that UKC has such a page I delved into both our ‘spotted’ and ‘overheard at Kent’ Facebook pages in an attempt to see just how worried users should be. The best way I could find to express my opinion of this subject took inspiration from Virgil, however, rather awkwardly for me Enoch Powell had beaten me to this particular push forty five years and, leaving out his overt racism, I have recycled his most controversial quote: As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, ‘I seem to see the internet foaming with much trash and sub-standard dialogue.’
As an exposition, allow me to say that the reason for Overheard at Kent’s existence is beyond my comprehension. Let us look past the fact that the page is simply an indirect medium for people to insult each other, it also manages to reveal that a significant proportion of Kent’s student demographic would have difficulty pointing to Medway on a map- of Medway. I can only assume that at one point Overheard may have resembled an outlet for students to discuss university matters, advertise for free or promote societies; unfortunately it’s now an embodiment of everything wrong with the online social space.
Without wanting to polarise the student community, Overheard would seem to do the greatest disservice to women; with posts regarding recent sexual exploits, links to nightclub pictures that resemble the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan and a general misogynistic undertone, I’m forced to doubt the reasonableness of around ten thousand members of the university who are also subscribers of Overheard’s Facebook page. To those who attempt to use the page to advertise university events, post news from the local area, or genuinely attempt to have a sensible discussion, you are the most tenacious people imaginable, but I fear you’re fighting an unwinnable battle against a horde of adolescent ‘banter.’
As for spotted, or as I like to call it ‘the creepy Romeo and Juliet, pseudo romance and banter enabler’ I genuinely understand what the page appears to be attempting to emulate: a dating site, and honestly I feel as though this is a noble idea- in theory. Sadly it fails to achieve this, firstly due to the fact that the page is not moderated properly; reposting facetious messages regarding the appearance of strangers in the library is pathetic. The main problem however, lies in its structure; having a public Facebook page that posts anonymous and often cryptic messages (potentially directed at any one of the thousand or so students that have entered the library on that day) allows for a malicious back lash from people who feel as though these public gestures are misplaced- which, perhaps sadly, they are. Anybody potentially faces the possibility of being physically depicted online by a complete stranger; this is not romantic, it’s just absurd- and really creepy. I’m not surprised that a proportion of Brighton University’s population felt as though they were on display when they entered their library, why wouldn’t they? With the knowledge that anyone you make eye contact with might later publicly post a haiku which depicts the way you wore your hair that day.
Maybe I’m just bitter as I, rather tragically, have never logged onto Facebook and seen a post on Spotted from a secret admirer – I can picture it now: ‘To the ginger-bearded man stood on the second floor, scratching his back with a copy of Sense and Sensibility, you remind me of a young Walt Whitman’… Alas, that will never be, but I would like to think that despite this burst of romantic idealism my previous point still stands. Anything, online or not, that can be used as a means to bully or berate anonymously should be treated with the utmost caution and care which, sadly, I don’t believe Spotted or Overheard are.