I know I go on
And on, about how I think computers are killing our brains, how social media is making us completely unsocial and how before long we are going to turn into people that can only communicate by means of using our thumbs.
But I do think it’s the case and I think the year we’ve had highlights this like none other.
If I had a pound for every time I have heard someone say ‘our kids will talk about 2016’ since about May, I’d be a very rich woman.
Same if I had a pound for everyone who had highlighted to me what a terrible year it has been.
It’s the year in which we lost so many well-loved, well-admired and, in parts, adored celebrities. We said goodbye to musical icons and legends of stage and screen in what seemed to be the cruellest culling of national treasures we’d ever known.
What happened to 2016? Had it been cursed with cancer and illness that was affecting even the seemingly untouchable amongst us?
It’s the year that saw a national joke make it into the White House. A year that saw two of the world’s greatest powers in the UK and the States make monumental, historical political changes because those that live there were so disgruntled, disengaged and angry with the state of their nations.
Terrorist attacks carried on with vigour and the fear that we all seem to live in seems to have grown stronger than ever.
I do think that our kids will talk about 2016.
But not for the reasons that we think.
I think they will talk about it, as it is will be the year that will stand out in the history books (if they still exist then) that showed the power the internet had in shaping world events.
It was the year that all of a sudden one family’s heartbreak, be that the Bowie’s, the Rickman’s or the Wood’s, became a nation’s grief.
It was the year that we first realised how obsessed we’d become with the idea of celebrity. The same amount of ‘well known’ people died in 2006 no doubt. But we only found out about it when we picked up the Sunday papers, and read their well-crafted eulogy written by a well-respected journalist. Or we found out at the end of the BAFTA’s when they paid tribute to the greats.
They were honoured, but not exploited.
Now, that person dies, and within the hour meme’s of their ‘greatest quotes’ are flying around Facebook and we are taking that family’s heart breaking moment, as another excuse to tell the world how sad WE are that the person we never met has died.
2016 isn’t any worse than 2006 in the celebrity death stakes. The internet has just made them more iconic. Facebook has just made them more personal and the speed in which the news reaches us via our BBC iPhone bulletins make us think that every musician and actor we’ve ever loved will be dead by Christmas. And it’s on our phones, it’s in our faces and all of a sudden it becomes ours.
Our sorrow. Our pain.
This age and obsession with celebrity has seen 2016 be the year that a ‘celebrity’ was voted in to the highest political office in the land. Like a really horrific reality show.
2016 will go down in history as the year that we saw someone with no military or political experience, but a large following on Twitter, end up in the bloody White House.
The year that when the UK voted, by majority, for Brexit.
The year that Trump won the most electoral college votes.
But yet we still decided that we needed a re-vote because all of a sudden we weren’t happy. Because our Facebook friends stated their anger, we liked it. We agreed. And rather than sit back, like we would have done 20 years ago and say, the nation has spoken, we were enraged (*holding my hands up*)
Those conversations weren’t had in person with members of parliament. Those petitions weren’t signed with a pen and a trip down to City Hall. We took to Facebook and Twitter to announce our incense that the electoral system, that’s been in place for hundreds of years, was no longer good enough.
And outrageously, we were (albeit it momentarily) taken seriously. Because the internet got angry, we nearly changed political systems that have been in place longer than our family tree.
2016 will be the year that such drastic political advances were made. Because nations were so disgruntled and so disengaged.
Are we disgruntled enough to go on strike? Disengaged enough to revolt and go on marches?
No we’re fucking lazy.
But happy enough to type down on our Facebook status how we feel about the state of the universe. So everyone can see it. But we won’t do anything about it.
Look back 70 years, and unlike our grandparents, we’re not living in a world war.
We’re living in a digital age.
Where every shit piece of news, every bad story, every friend’s redundancy, every poor performance by the NHS is blasted out on to our phone for us to read, devour and take on.
The friend’s Mum who had a bad experience with the NHS becomes ours because it’s on Facebook.
Our ex-colleagues redundancy becomes ours because it’s on our LinkedIn.
That terrorist attack that killed a friend of a friend of a friend of two friends removed is something you would have been saddened by but wouldn’t have felt a personal connection to twenty years ago.
But all of a sudden something pops up on our feed because something’s been shared and then all of a sudden we are connected to the Nice atrocities or what happened in Brussels, and that pain becomes ours.
Everyone’s everything is everywhere for us to see, so everywhere we turn, it all seems like it’s all shit.
We take all of this aired laundry on as our own.
As our own belief that the world is in rack and ruin and we’re basically all fucked.
In parts it is. But in parts it’s been a hell of a lot worse.
All I say is just take a moment to look at your own life. Your actual life.
You may well have had a bad year. But it will be isolated. A few bad months. An illness. A death in the family.
Things that happen year in, and year out. As sad as it is, it’s life.
Now, look at the life you believe to be your own.
Because you’ve taken on, literally a world, of information over the last 12 months. A world of posts, and updates, and news flashes and all of a sudden everyone’s dead, everything’s shit and we’re all doomed for good.
We’re all being bombed, we’re all getting Zika and to top it all off Prince is dead and I never met him but I downloaded his album once so I AM SAD.
Look at that life, and yes 2016 is the worst year you’ve ever had.
And guess what, 2017 will be even worse.
So just look at your 2016 and imagine it if you hadn’t had access to the internet, to social media, or to a smart phone.
Then ask yourself if it was really that bad after all.
My bet is that it was an average year. Maybe in parts it was good.
But we can’t talk about that.
So please, put down your phone.
And just concentrate on you.
Before our history books become history sites and our kids read about the years that their parents stopped using their brains, and yes, the world got a little bit fucked.