As we approach the end of another year, it is inevitably a time for reflection. 2017 has proved a challenge for many. Whatever your political views, we are undoubtedly going through a period of uncertainty.
But over the last few days, I have been reminded of the reasons why we should be positive. For many years, I have compiled a Christmas quiz for family and friends. I hadn’t managed to do it for several seasons as my young children were demanding of my time and my duties had expanded to include the pressie wrapping and the food!
But this year, an unexpected fall of snow postponed our visiting plans and I found myself compiling the quiz to keep a pair of disappointed children happy. What I noticed, when planning the game, were certain notable differences from how it used to be. It was much more tricky to find obscure questions and images than it would have been five or ten years ago.
It abruptly occurred to me that this was because of the growth of instant news and the ubiquitous nature of social media. Personalities have become immediately recognisable, as their images populate our timelines on a daily basis. This includes political figures like Emmanuel Macron or David Davis, as well as Meghan Markle and Ariana Grande.
My signature quiz, once considered rather challenging, didn’t seem so difficult any longer. The realisation of this fact, I found heartening. When I looked back through the year, I viewed events with a more positive slant. We are undoubtedly better informed as a nation than we used to be.
Whatever the political climate, this is a good thing. It isn’t as easy to make false statements and get away with it. Facts are instantly checked and corrections go viral. This development makes it far harder for those with vested interest to block progress with misinformation. We can also influence the course of foreign policy by petitioning parliament in individual cases, such as raising the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran and forcing Boris Johnson to meet with her husband and actively negotiate for her release. This would not have happened without social media pressurising the foreign secretary to act.
The new digital age has been of great benefit to me as a writer too. It is now possible to become a bestselling author without being represented by one of the great monoliths of the publishing world. This is good news for everyone. There is greater competition in pricing as a result and a wider range of voices heard.
So, there is plenty to feel positive about as we embark upon a new year. I know that developments in digital technology have their limitations, but the up sides are really exciting. We are all more knowledgable and more literate as a result of social media. It is a leveller, not a development that benefits only the elite. This can only be a good thing, as we enter the uncertain future.
Happy New Year!