In response to the global coronavirus outbreak, we have implemented a strict visitor policy to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the whole school community. Please read our visitor policy before you visit the school.

Read Visitor Policy

St Peter's 13-18

8 October 2021

As some of you may have noticed, the world as we know it came to an end on Monday afternoon as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger all went down for 6 hours. All around the globe waves of panic and bereavement were experienced as people could no longer drop an Insta, post a story or boomerang. How ironic that, at a time when they may have particular wanted to let everyone know how they were feeling, the primary method doing so was withdrawn. The Twitterati meanwhile were absolutely delighted and before long that platform was covered with memes, gloating and chortling over the misfortune of others.

A lot has been said over the years about the way in which social media creates FOMO or fear of missing out and how refreshing it can be to step away from such constant interaction and get a bit of perspective on reality. The phrase you will likely have heard of to describe this is JOMO or the joy of missing out.

Now I cannot claim to be at all perfect in this respect, and if I lost the ability to use my smart phone for communication I would feel out of the loop fairly quickly. I do try though try to have tech free times by leaving my phone downstairs at night time and switching off email for chunks of time during holiday periods.

Seeing the impact of Monday evening did give me cause for concern about over reliance on such media. When I was your age, a long time ago when the world was very young, we used to write notes to people that we wanted to communicate with.  In a sleepy market town in Dorset with a girls school and a boys school that meant passing a note to somebody who might be able to pass it to somebody else and hoping that eventually it would reach the hands of the intended recipient.

I appreciate that this makes me sound like the middle-age stereotype moaning about the difference between the modern world and their experience of growing up. Some of you may know the very funny Monty Python sketch on such matters featuring a group of Yorkshiremen competing for how tough their childhoods were, so I should probably draw a line and move on before someone says ‘OK Boomer’.

Passing written notes by hand did though mean that you considered what you wrote in case someone else decided to read it on the way through – there was no sense of end to end encryption in those days.  But this week we have seen revelations of wealthy people and others in the public eye avoiding tax payments through purchasing property via offshore funds through documents they thought were secret being read by journalists.  This has been through an investigation into what has become known as the Pandora Papers, named after the Greek myth of Pandora opening a box which released all physical and emotional curses upon humanity. The Pandora Files come from a huge tranche of documents - just under 3 terabytes of data in all with 12 million records and documents going back to the 1970s. The game changer for investigative journalists has been the use of AI to search the documents and find facts which would otherwise have been practically impossible. Another very good reminder to be extremely cautious about what you put into the digital sphere as you never know it might come back to haunt you at a later date.

One of the challenges and opportunities of the modern world is how to combine the best of technology with the best of the natural world. Many of you will know the famous quote from EM Forster “Only connect”, which is also the title of one of my favourite quiz programs. I think it is particularly relevant in this context as the full quote is “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height”.

Linking back to National Poetry Day, social media posts can be a useful tool for making you choose words and phrases carefully.  The character limitations mean that you have to convey your message in a concise and effective way which can be hard.  As Mark Twain once wrote, “I didn’t have time to write you a short letter so I wrote you a long one.”  Poetry is a highly effective form of writing as thoughts, emotions and imagery all have to be conjured up in carefully chosen and executed language. One of the most tightly controlled form of poetry is the haiku – a Japanese form that consists of three lines with five syllables in the first line, seven in the second and five in the third.  Perhaps you might like to try that with an entry to the poetry competition.  As an example, see if you can guess the Shakespeare plays from the following haikus.

Ghost on battlements,
Poison, treachery, murder.
Mad son seeks revenge.

Young sworn enemies
Fall in love, marry, and die.
Their death buries strife.

Freak storm brings shipwreck,
Caliban obeys wizard.
Lovers plan to wed.

And to conclude, here a couple more haikus on the theme of social media.

Annoying people
Online wanting attention
Doing stupid things

Checked my followers
I see that you unfollowed
I will do the same