Monday, October 17, 2016

Born Free?

Freedom is something human beings have to fight for every day. Sometimes, the threatened enslavement is blatant. Other times, it's subtle. I've been thinking about some particular types of ownership I, and my 'empowered' generation and culture, need to resist.

Social media aims to possess. I was very struck by a comment made to me by a digital communications professional: "For Twitter, any moment you're not using Twitter is a failure."

It's true, of course. Even if yours are healthy, controlled, sociable tweets, you are engaged in a constant battle to ensure you use the platform on your own terms, not Twitter's, not Tesco's and not that aiming-for-1000-followers 'friend'. Depending on your personality type, this might be a fun and energising negotiation. For others, it's exhausting.

Advertising and consumerism batter us. Perhaps our generation is the first to have to filter the PR from the reality quite so assiduously. We opt out of the marketing clause in EVERYTHING and still cannot escape its tentacles.

(Of course, even more important than resisting victimhood is resisting becoming perpetrators. I hope I am learning to pay better attention to acquaintances new and old, lest I see them primarily as resources, using texts and facebook to win them over, filling my empty diary spaces and projects with them, quite carelessly and egotistically.)

Even the things we want to be a part of must be watched for attempts to colonise. I am a committed Labour party member and donor to various charities - and I unsubscribe from all their email communications.

I see how difficult it is for the charities I support and the churches I attend to avoid treating me as a resource to be fully tapped. Competitor mode seems the only option, these days. And, in the fight to survive, more dedication from more people is the route to power and wealth.

For me, the Twitter observation above is helpful. Twitter has no right to decide whether I have failed in some way. I cannot think of any person or organisation that has such a right (unless we speak of the Divine).

So, in our age of mass-communication, who can be trusted to respect your freedom? Nobody whose invitation to attend more, give more, do more or change yourself carries with it a hint you will be less, you will fail, if you do not comply. 

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