Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 6 October 2016


"What do you want for your birthday, dad?" I mumbled something about a new Jack Reacher book. My daughter fiddled with her smart phone for a few seconds. "Done. It will arrive on November 7th when released. Happy birthday," and left the room.

The last time I had a meal with my PR son in London at the end of the meal he whipped out his phone and pressed a few buttons. "Just ordering my Uber cab," he explained. Our conversation continued for just a few seconds and then: "Sorry Dad cab's just pulling up outside, thanks, bye."

Smart phones. All part of modern life, especially for those under 40 or older folk who have taken the time to learn these new skills.

There is no doubt about the wondrous new world of opportunity, instant service and adventure that this technology has ushered in. For the large part this is a positive thing and is fast becoming a way of life for the rising generation. Over 30 million Brits are on Facebook.
Social media is invading every aspect of private and public life. Most journalists now discover what decision makers think about a subject because they follow them on twitter.

But like all technology, there are drawbacks. The car – what a brilliant invention, but 2,000 people are killed on our roads every year, not to mention the small matter of pollution.

It is rare now to see a youngish person walk down the street in London who is not looking at their phone, pouring over their twitter feed.

In the lifts and corridors at the House of Commons, every researcher-type is instantly on their phones, scrutinising Facebook pages, catching up with breaking news.  Even in committee rooms and in the chamber, colleagues are viewing their phone and iPad screens constantly.

The problem with all this is that there is no escape. The excellent tool that has been invented is in danger of becoming our master not our servant. The sheer volume and pace of information cascading into our lives is unrelenting. With it comes pressure - to respond, to update, to challenge, to rebut. Stress.  

It was no surprise recently to learn that a rapidly rising percentage of young people are suffering mental health issues. This is doubtless in part due to the slavish adherence to the controlling voice of this plastic monster. 

It cannot be un-invented. But we must learn far better ways to master it.

posted by Gary @ 09:28