Making Love to Facebook

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) have published, well, statistics showing that the rate of teenage pregnancies in the UK has virtually halved between 1971 and 2014.  I love a good statistic.  The BBC quote Alison Hadley, who led the then Labour government’s strategy to halve teen pregnancies by 2010 as saying that:

…it was “an extraordinary achievement”, given that many thought the goal was unattainable and high rates were “an intractable part of English life”.

While recognising that there is still work to be done, Hadley praises the effect of “universal, high quality sex and relationships education, well-publicised, easy-to-use contraceptive and sexual health services, a youth-friendly workforce and good support for young parents.”

John Bingham, Social Affairs Editor at The Telegraph, has a different idea suggesting that there is a direct link between the number of teenage girls giving birth and the birth of something altogether different – social media.  I’m going to try to sum up the article, but urge you to read it yourself because it’s an interesting read.

Despite the headline figure of the 50% drop from the all time high in the early 70s, the most stark reduction has actually come since 2006.  The importance of that year is that it coincides with the time when Facebook broke away from its university campus roots and became global.

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Graph taken from the aforementioned article.

What the social media angle fails to cover, of course, is that it makes the assumption that a drop in teenage pregnancies is a result of teenagers having less sex, rather than an increase in the use of contraception.  But let’s run with it for a while anyway!

This drop runs alongside the same timescales that has seen the number of teetotal under-25s also increase by 40%. I wonder if this shows the impact of social media in how “older” people and teenagers now choose to conduct their social lives.

The first reason is related to my own experience of not drinking.  The thing I hear fairly often when people find out is that I can remember what happens on a night out when no-one else can! The vast majority of the population of the developed world now walk around with smart phones and therefore the ability to capture everything that happens at a moment’s notice.  Within another moment, that image or video can be uploaded to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or even more generally (and possibly destructively) online – a near permanent legacy of a night of debauchery.

Earlier in the week, Kim Kardashian marked International Women’s Day with yet another naked selfie which has caused some controversy.  Whether this was the sign of a strong feminist or otherwise is up for debate but, as with the vast majority of selfies that show precisely nothing of what the person is doing (just their lovely mush), it was probably simply a shout of “Hey! Look at me!”  In other words, a call to our own self-importance and inflated self-regard.  In the face of this, as superbly headlined by Deborah Ross in The Times, “sometimes a bush should be behind a bushell“.

(Yes, I realise I’ve also been guilty of a self-promotion selfie recently, but I had new glasses!)

Is it possible to suggest that social media is now holding us accountable for actions seen as socially inappropriate when the only accountability previously was our own guilt and the hope that no-one else would find out, not the disagreeing frowns and disappointed shakes of the head of others?

The other suggestion is that, despite the dangers posed by cyber bullying and sexting, the way teenagers are now conducting their social lives could actually be making them safer.  Instead of buying a bottle of White Lightning, putting on a hoodie and heading to the nearest bus shelter with a group of mates, they can now socialise online from the comfort of their sofas, wearing their PJs with a cup of tea while watching Netflix (N.B. without chilling).

Many years ago, I remember seeing or hearing a phrase that I also saw recently on Instagram.

menwomen

Men use love to get sex. Women use sex to get love.

Pizza is the best.

Our ability to easily share and become connected virtually is now possibly making us feel more loved than ever before.  Is this the legacy that social media will leave?  Love is now demonstrated by the number of followers we have, the number of hits we see and the number of Likes we get rather than by socialising in person, the number of hugs we receive and the physical act of sex whether that is just sex for the purpose of having fun with someone else, making a baby or actually “making love”.

Is this always a good thing?

Last night I had a dream about you
In this dream I’m dancing right beside you
And it looked like everyone was having fun
The kind of feeling I’ve waited so long

Don’t stop, come a little closer
As we jam the rhythm gets stronger
There’s nothing wrong with just a little, little fun
We were dancing all night long

The time is right
To put my arms around you
You’re feeling right
You wrap your arms around too
But suddenly I feel the shining sun
Before I knew it this dream was all gone

Oh, I don’t know what to do
About this dream and you
I wish this dream comes true

Oh, I don’t know what to do
About this dream and you
We’ll make this dream come true

Why don’t you play the game?
Why don’t you play the game?

Digital Love by Daft Punk

 

 

 

Comments 2

  1. I hope you don’t mind I had a quick look round, and I adore your posts!
    The way you write is amazing, and the home page draws you in from the get go.
    Keep up the good work 🙂

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