We’ve had two very lovely family holidays in the last six months.
One in Kefalonia in the summer, one in deepest Dorset at Christmas.
During both, wifi was pretty much non-existent.
And it was lovely. We got our children – aged nearly 21 and 16 – back, and were able to share great conversation and (in the case of Dorset) great Christmas films.
Things are very much back to electronic normal now.
Don’t get me wrong. My children are well-adjusted people with normal social lives. I am stupidly proud of them, not least for their effortless comfort with technology.
But as columnist Tim Lott says here, the evidence of technology’s impact on our ability to really communicate is clear to see.
The piece prompted this tweet from radio journalism trainer Richard Horsman.
He’s absolutely right to be fearful.
In the last week I’ve had the same conversation in two different newsrooms.
We’re getting better every day at sourcing news and views through social media.
(We’re also getting better at selling our stories through Facebook, which is fantastic and in my view one of the beacons of hope as my colleagues battle to drive up web audiences.)
But we can’t pretend that the comments, tributes, and viewpoints that we harvest from Twitter and Facebook present a full, lively, nourishing, representative and comprehensive picture of life in our communities.
It’s a half-life at best.
One that we cannot live without, and one which gives us amazingly useful information and insights.
But there can – even in this transformed technological age – be no substitute for being out there talking face to face to real people.
Sometimes these conversations may have been sparked by the social media zeitgeist. Many more, I hope, will involve picking up new stories yet to be told.
There is a clear law of diminishing returns from an over-reliance on recycling and reheating information and comments from social media.
We cannot create engaging newspapers and websites purely from the mix of official press releases, residents’ whinges and social media spats which falls into our laps.
It’s like producing news with the windows shut, the central heating on full blast, and the curtains drawn.
There’s a real world out there, with real fresh air and real people.
And we need to get our journalists out in it more often.