David Cameron now has a LinkedIn profile, and frankly I find myself wondering why. I’m pretty sure that a CV is trivial once you’ve governed a country (if you need any proof of that then just look at Tony Blair). Apparently the page ‘lists his jobs to date in Parliament, and before entering politics, then mentions his wife and kids’, and so just seems to be part of the latest offensive in the Tories’ new plan to rebrand themselves and woo the electorate before 2015.
This isn’t a bad thing – the humanisation of politicians and ongoing pedestal-felling which is taking place, influenced by the unstoppable growth of online media such as Twitter, is in my opinion vital to the development of national and international conversation. On the other hand, politicians must ensure that they do not begin spending more time considering the medium of conveyance than the content of the message itself.
Technology certainly has its benefits in terms of the efficiency with which we can now communicate internationally. When we replaced the sluggish system of physical post with email, we unlocked a world of communicative opportunity at both the personal to a global level.
As time has gone on, however, we seem to have lost sight of the original purpose of digital communications, and have begun to consider them as activities in their own right. This shift in attitude which is not only unhealthy for productivity, but is also leading to a very warped view of what it means to interact with our fellow hominids. Just ask yourself how much time you’ve actually spent using Facebook as a utility over the past week. It’s all well and good for us to send a quick message to a mate, but when we then browse the latest low quality and somewhat embarrassing bop photos for hours on end, and combine this with organising a party and wishing your second-cousin-twice-removed a superficial happy birthday, we’re obviously getting sidetracked.
Intel and CSIRO have themselves recognised the dangers of email and begun to experiment with ‘no-email’ days. This is a great idea (as long as the next day doesn’t become a ‘double-email day’), as internal email is a largely pointless feature in modern open plan offices, and only serves to reinforce the peculiar view these days that digital communication is actually more effective than having a real conversation. The fact is that two intelligent and articulate humans will accomplish far more in a face to face meeting than they ever could in a drawn-out and broken email correspondence. Add to this the observation that white collar workers often have the habit of not replying to emails after their first reading, and the picture becomes an even more ridiculous caricature of human interaction. Imagine a meeting where everyone takes 15 minutes to respond when they’re spoken to. It’s absurd, but it happens far too often these days via email. Furthermore, I don’t think any of us can pretend to believe that these traits we see in business correspondence are not to some degree apparent in all of our lives.
This is a serious issue which we must all be aware of, particularly politicians, in a time when every week seems to bring a new international crisis or scandal. There simply isn’t the time to be faffing around with narcissistic image mongering and hiding incompetence under a thrice gilded techno-lily. We must not allow the next generation to enter the world of work with such a warped idea of human interaction, or the world, and specifically the West, will grind to an embarrassing conversational halt.