Never Trust a Hippie

This got me into a bit of trouble. Here’s the unexpurgated version for thos amongst you who don’t hold with no new-fangled expurgation and likes to call a spade a spade. Or in this case a ‘pikey’.

What? Are you still here? I have to say, what with the yawning abyss of time between this issue and the last, I’d have thought you might’ve got bored and ambled off in a slightly distracted (but wholly benevolent) manner. Found something else to watch. And on the subject of watching, which I am (serendipitously enough), let’s talk about hippies and social media – ideal bedfellows, perhaps, at first glance.

Well, yes, in one way. Like a hippie, social is all about freedom of expression and speech, it’s all about participation and equality, it’s about everyone having a voice and being able to use it, it’s all about a lack of rules and regulation, about immediacy and instantaneous sharing.

Oooooh, it makes cold shivers run down my spine. As John Lydon once said ‘never trust a hippie’ and social media are a breeding ground for them and their woolly, ill-informed (if well-intentioned) thinking. It’s a mire of mung beans, a lake of llamas, a whole load of hessian and the usual of yurts. If I think about it – if social had a colour it would be pastel and tie-dyed, if it had a sound it would be pan pipes and if it had an odour it would (of course) be patchouli. Its metaphorical smell would (equally of course) be fishy. Because I don’t trust it.

(I find writing quite therapeutic. Like Timothy Leary and his LSD (he was a hippie), and the South American Indians and their ayahuasca (they’re all hippies), and the publisher of this very magazine and his habit of going to festivals (I suspect he’s a hippie) – I find writing is a path to higher consciousness. For example, I have just now had the revelation that my loathing of social media stems directly from my mistrust of hippies. In the same way that my inability to countenance camping is related to my horror of pikeys.)

(That’s probably an indie band, and if it isn’t it should be, ‘The Horror of Pikeys’.)

Is there any point to this? Sorry, that’s not a metaphorical question, it’s more a summation of what I imagine you’re thinking. And the answer is yes – yes, there is. You see I recently had a run in with some hippies which only served to reinforce many of my beliefs about social media and why they are – in a business communications context – so badly contaminated as to be dangerous.

Exploring that for a moment. I know that social media, like traditional media, have many aspects – a gamut of seriousness and usefulness, from the gravitas of the FT to the fluffery of OK Magazine. Where there is a difference is that there are only two social media and this entire gamut is contained within each one. You can’t choose to opt out, in the same way that I can choose not to buy Grazia.

Did you know, for example, that Shakira (whose hips, clearly, do not lie) is the most liked thing on Facebook, after Facebook itself and its ‘phone app? That’s a Grazia piece of news that I didn’t need, but I couldn’t choose to avoid. I even know what a ‘Jennifer Aniston’ is. Yes. I do.

Getting back to my friends, the hippies, or, more accurately, the ‘brave young protestors’ of The Future (see what I mean?) – they recently caused me no little irritation, not by what they did, which was more performance art than protest, but by making unsubstantiated claims on social media. This translated into blogs and citizen journalism and suddenly something completely without foundation or substance might as well be hard fact.

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