The culture war over social media is raging out of control. In the latest conflagration, Vincent Nichols, the new Archbishop of Westminster, launched a vitriolic attack on the unnaturalness of social media.
In America, critics of the social media revolution are also growing in strength. One of the most popular books of the summer is Matthew B. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft, a gently defiant defense of physical labour in the age of the digital social network. Much less gentle, but equally defiant is Digital Barbarism, a spirited polemic by the American novelist Mark Helprin, which accuses social media of everything from wrecking the physical economy of culture to destroying human literacy and personal conversation.
Unfortunately, many social media evangelists don’t seem to listening to these critics. For all the manifold warnings about the impact of social media, there is still a common belief amongst social media utopians that network communities are uniting rather than dividing human beings. Take, for example, the forthcoming new book (to be published in the US on September 3 by Portfolio) by Shel Israel, appropriately entitled Twitterville, which claims the “conversational era” puts an end to the constraint of geography and enables the flowering of “global neighborhoods.”