Boaty McBoatface and 3 reasons I love social media

Saturday, April 2, 2016 Permalink

I was feeling a tad down last week. The why is a long and boring story, so I won’t go there… but needless to say I was wallowing, sleepless and surfing social media at ridiculous times of the night instead of sleeping.

And then I saw this story. And I laughed until I cried. And then I laughed some more.

In fact, I could NOT read my news feed without laughing.

Here’s a link to an article in case you missed it at the time, but essentially… the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC – which is an indication they SHOULD have a sense of humour) decided to allow the public to suggest potential names for their new £200m research vessel.

The suggestions were wide and varied. Some sensible – the Endeavour and David Attenborough. And some not – Usain Boat and NottheTitanic for example.

boaty mcboatface1

And then there was the ingenious Boaty McBoatface. And the suggestion took off.

Peeps on social media hashtagged the hell out of it and before too long it was trending.

Wait… let me say that again while attempting to keep a straight face, Boaty McBoatface.

boaty mcboatface

I read the Twitter feed and cackled more. Once again I had faith in the world and our ability to NOT take ourselves too seriously. And I was heartened to see good-natured acceptance from those who would really be required to add the ‘job location’ to their LinkedIn profile, including a scientist or two AND NERC themselves (who used the hashtag in their own tweets).

Screenshot 2016-04-01 19.58.55

The whole thing reminded me of why social media is often a very good thing.

1. It keeps us in touch

At its most basic, social media is a communication tool. We keep in touch with old school friends via Facebook and know what family members are up to via their Instagram feeds. We don’t get stuck on the phone for hours with a boring relative… we can simply hide their feed on Facebook – checking in only when we need to.

My own niece has just headed off overseas and her experience will be very different to my own (20 yrs ago) when my parents had to buy a fax machine and the budget only allowed for fortnightly reverse charge calls home.

2. Information is power

It’s far harder for governments and corporations to withhold information and for people to be disadvantaged by their lack of access to mainstream media and free speech. Sure, not everyone in developing countries has an iPhone and spends their day on Twitter and Facebook, but… (although it’s given us the Kardashians and the like) it’s also been a social leveller in some ways.

We literally ‘know’ what’s happening around the other side of the world the moment it happens.

3. It connects us to our tribe

People tend to complain social media can be isolating. There are visions of middle aged ladies locked away instagramming their cats and sullen teen-aged boys trolling their mortal enemies on Snapchat.

However, it also reminds us we’re not alone. Virtual friends can be a healthy source of support. We can find like-minded people and – as I found recently – it can remind us that there are those happy to take the piss. Not everyone believes Donald Trump should be president. We find voices we respect. We find our tribe.

One of the reports I read said the name Boaty McBoatface, at 27,000 votes was 25,000 votes ahead of its closest rival. I also noted stern commentary reminding us this is an important ship, doing important work, and should be named thus. While some scientists and others have commented that they don’t really care either way… it doesn’t impact on their work and it’s just a name.

While I’d love it if NERC DID go with the hordes on this one… I suspect no matter what this boat’s named, it will be forever known to many as Boaty McBoatface.

Where do you stand on social media? Friend or foe? Or somewhere in between?
Would YOU vote for the name, Boaty McBoatface?

I’m making an attempt to get my blogging mojo back by posting EVERY day in April. #holdme

I’m going to be using prompts from a few different challenges underway and today’s is B – from the A to Z blogging challenge; AND I’m using a prompt from The Writers’ Circle – ‘Five problems with social media’… but kinda done the opposite. 

  • charliegirlteachergirl
    April 2, 2016

    I have mixed feelings about social media, for two reasons. One is my personal thoughts, and the other comes from wearing the hat that I do as a professional. As a public servant in the public education system, I am very aware and wary of putting particular things out in social media. I do like it, and I enjoy being able to kind of catalog my life and keep up with others from my hometown, college, and former church. Recently it has come to light that a parent from my school trolls the teachers’ social media. Really? Get a job. But I’m still careful nonetheless. As a teacher, I see social media abused all the time. Many of our girls have a “family” account and a “spam” account that is hidden from parents. I have seen families destroyed by sharing something with a political touch, marriages break up, overbearing wives set up a “couples” account, and a lot of unnecessary drama and BS that also comes with it. People feel too protected behind a screen ad many times forget themselves. I would definitely vote for Boaty McBoatface!

    • Debbish
      April 2, 2016

      I was just talking to my childhood bestie the other day and she’s a deputy principal at a primary school here in Australia and said she doesn’t do Facebook for that reason. She commented a little on some stuff that had happened to teachers in the school.

      I’ve worked a lot for government – and an integrity agency at one point – so am careful not to talk about anything work related on social media. When I stopped working for government (for a while) I made comment about politics a little, but remained conscious I ‘could’ go back into government.

      I do worry about younger people who don’t always think through the repercussions of what they post so would be a bit nervous if I had kids!

  • Kathryn
    April 2, 2016

    Great post Deb. I like social media – just in a small way. Love Facebook for family stuff mainly and meeting other readers and authors. Twitter is good for readers and authors too. And as you said entertaining often. Plus anything that can have you helplessly laughing has to be good! Good wishes for the blog every day in April!

    • Debbish
      April 2, 2016

      Thanks so much Kathryn! It’s only two days in so far so hopefully I can keep it up. It’ll be worse during the week when I’m working (and I have to do a bit of travel as well!)

    • Debbish
      April 2, 2016

      Oh Pam, how can you hate Boaty McBoatface?! Although… I do think it’d be hard to say with a straight face – like when the captain’s checking in on the radio…. “This is captain john smith from RRS Boaty McBoatface. We’re currently x miles from xxxx…”

      I’d love it if they selected something but gave Boaty a nod – like The RRRS ichard Attenborough BMBF or something… Or even if its crew think of it as ‘Boaty’!

  • pamela007
    April 2, 2016

    I would probably put most social media as foe. Although I do love your book revues Deb.
    Despite having a good sense of humour, I really hate the name Boaty McBoatface and hope the powers that be ignore this suggestion.
    If it was a character in a child’s novel or a cartoon then I could see it having a home

  • danielaark
    April 2, 2016

    How humankind has evolved into this new form of connecting and interacting fascinates me but I’m not sure where we are heading with it or whether it is for better or for worse.
    Thanks to social media I stay connected to people that otherwise I wouldn’t. But when spending time in social media I tend to ignore the people that are physically RIGHT there with me! in all and all I’d say FRIEND 🙂

    • Debbish
      April 2, 2016

      That’s true Daniela – and I’m guilty of that as well… instagramming something and ignoring who I’m with. But I agree with the flipside.

      I am (was) at my mum’s when writing this and she’s a ‘learner’ Facebook user. I asked her what she likes about it and she commented on the ‘keeping in contact’ thing. She initially joined so she could see what my niece and I were doing (being the biggest SM users in our family), but she’s since connected with some old friends.

      I’m a bit the same. My private account is pretty much limited to ‘people I see and close friends’ and ‘like-minded buddies I know virtually’.

  • Bindy Barclay
    April 3, 2016

    Friends around the world -indeed. I once moved countries with two small children. The fax machine was my friend… How different it would be now.

    • Debbish
      April 3, 2016

      I know… I was in Africa (Mozambique) in 1995-1996 and still remember how I used to sit there in our office on a Monday morning waiting for the fax/phone to ring and my 2-page fax from home to arrive! And the calls I made (via operator who’d never heard of Australia!).

      I also lived in Cambodia and there were phone boxes and I had a card of some sort which allowed me to call home reverse charges which I did (as agreed with my parents!) every 2 weeks!

      And yet now we could skype!!!

  • Michelle Weaver (@pinkypoinker)
    April 3, 2016

    We call our dogs Barky McBark and Eyeballs McGee. If the scientists don’t care they should call the boat that. I love social media. It’s a fun distraction as long as you don’t take it too seriously.

    • Debbish
      April 3, 2016

      True. I saw some funny memes after April Fools’ Day reminding people that they should take everything they see on the internet with a grain of salt (and question it)!

  • Greg
    April 3, 2016

    This is a nice post- and I agree. I complain sometimes about social media but you’re right- the ability to know things going on across the world, to AFFECT things going on through the power of tweeting or whatever, and especially the part about finding out tribe- I definitely feel that way after discovering book blogging and making friends online. I used to be on Facebook but I hardly bother with it now after discovering blogs and Twitter. 🙂 That’s where the people I really “get” are, not people from school I didn’t like anyway lol.

    Oh and Boaty McBoatface works for me. Life needs more silliness.

    • Debbish
      April 3, 2016

      I’m with you Greg. Discovering the Sunday Post and ‘It’s Monday’ linkups have been wonderful for connecting with other book bloggers. I don’t join a lot of other book blogging linkups (as I struggle to keep up!) but have loved meeting others from around the world. It’s interesting to see what else everyone is reading (and watching – in your case… as I love a lot of the same TV shows as you etc!)

  • Jo
    April 3, 2016

    I loved this story. It was everything that’s great about social media- when usually we get everything that’s bad about it. Personally, I’m not thrilled with FB anymore, but love twitter & instagram- especially instagram. It feels social without being too in your face personal.

    • Debbish
      April 3, 2016

      I’m really hit and miss with social media Jo. I guess I always have been as when I worked full-time I talked about binge-tweeting as I’d sit on Twitter for my 45min commutes to and from work and then be absent all day. I’m probably on social media less now than I once was and worry I don’t engage enough – just share stuff and move on (which is bad). I’ve made an effort with my blog Facebook page lately but it’s not growing at all so wonder if it’s worth continuing…

  • Sanch @ Living my Imperfect Life
    April 3, 2016

    I have a love-hate relationship with social media. I do love what you’ve mentioned and that it can certainly help us find out tribe. I hate though, that it also gives power to trolls and several people who wouldn’t dare say things to someone’s face can do so on social media. I also hate how addicted I can get to it — I had to remove the FB app from my phone and also stop my messenger notifications!

    • Debbish
      April 3, 2016

      I did that once too Sanch and still have some things deleted (Twitter and Pinterest for eg) on my phone! Instagram was the worst as I suffered a lot of life envy, but then I needed it for photos, so…

      And you’re right about the trolling and bullying. I’ve been reading a bit lately about people who write for magazines and have a lot of negative comments. Mostly they say they don’t read them, but I’m sure I couldn’t help myself!

  • Jess
    April 3, 2016

    I actually love social media, having lived in different cities and overseas, it is wonderful to be able to keep in touch. When I studied abroad Facebook wasn’t yet a thing and I lost contact with lots of people even though we had email. However 2 years later we all reconnected. I have been able to see wedding pics, baby pic, and some highs and lows and hopefully be a support. I also really enjoy connecting with people through my blog. It was a god send with small children at home when at times I have felt very isolated.

    And, (I’ll shut up soon), I think we fear too much and worry too much. Bad things can and do happen and obviously I think it is important to be aware of potential risks that come with sharing certain things or connecting in certain ways. However, I think if used appropriately the fears are overstated!

    • Debbish
      April 4, 2016

      I like your comment about fearing too much Jess. I was trying to think of a topic for the blog post I’ve done today… “The day I forgot to…” And I almost went with ‘care’ because I’d seen lots of scaremongering stuff on social media about all sorts of things – terrorism, food etc.

      I was like… ‘Argh I can’t believe people get sucked into this!’ But those same people probably get sucked into other things – stuff they see on current affairs shows etc…

  • Heather Duff (@hross42)
    April 4, 2016

    Yes I would happily vote from Boaty McBoatface, as a UK resident I insist that the vessel is called that. A London train was changed to Trainy McTrainface, I love it!

    Social Media is great for some things, it allows my relatives in Brisbane to easily see what we are up to and vice versa, it allows me to keep up to date with lots of other things but it is also full of people who crave attention, try to outdo one another and it is a big popularity contest and bitch fest for some too.

    Used correctly it is great.

    • Debbish
      April 4, 2016

      Very true Heather!

      And I hadn’t heard about Trainy McTrainface!!!

  • Char
    April 4, 2016

    I definitely think it should be called Boaty McBoatface. You would have to smile every day that you were at work on that boat. Smiling is contagious so I reckon it would have to be the happiest workplace on earth.

    • Debbish
      April 4, 2016

      I know, right?! Or at least be known as ‘Boaty’ so the rest was assumed…

I'd love to hear your thoughts