Reader Andrew Branton of Spalding, Lincolnshire, shares his thoughts on social media. While it has its merits and can aid communication between people in isolated jobs, he worries that it can sometimes distract from the more important things and become very dangerous.
It’s fair to say that my cynicism, scepticism and general intolerance of modern life exceeds that of a typical 40-year-old.
Maybe Victor Meldrew was just like me at 40 and by retirement age I will be unbearable.
However it’s the explosion of so-called social media in recent years that really has tested my belief that most of my friends and colleagues live purposeful, meaningful lives.
The endless posts, tweets, status updates, comments, favourites and retweets make me question what some people do in the few remaining minutes each day when the phone is not glued to their palm.
The frequent sight of groups of friends of all ages out in pubs, bars and restaurants not talking, but tapping and typing, confirms to me that social media will prove to be the greatest oxymoron of a generation.
Grain merchants, agchem companies, machinery manufacturers and the plethora of professionals and advisers all attempt to befriend the online farmer and fly their corporate flag.
The NGOs and the NFU, for example, must regard this technology as a revelation.
In a few clicks their information reaches millions and in return the membership who could never stomach three hours in a stuffy meeting room can get involved.
In many respects it is a positive experience and has to be a more successful and efficient method of marketing when supplier and potential customer have already been deemed compatible – like a business version of a dating site.
The irritation comes when the user is needlessly alerted many times in the same day about a 25p movement in the commodity markets or urged to sign yet another online petition about milk prices or badger culling.
As I write this, our newest recruit Billy is parked in the field and he is tapping away on his phone. Billy is only on the farm because hypocritical Victor here tweeted to all of his followers that we needed harvest help.
I made two phone calls earlier to another employee and our lorry driver.
When I found their names on my phone the handset automatically showed me the pictures that these two people use as their social media profiles, with their respective tractor and lorry all polished and looking smart.
Victor momentarily smiled and secretly blushed with pride before he pressed “dial”.
Farming here in the Fens can be a pretty antisocial experience for all concerned these days.
Our neighbouring farms are very big, their machines are very big and their personnel incredibly few.
Other than a respectful wave when passing on the road a few times each harvest, there is very little human interaction.
The pubs are all closed and the Fenland tractor driver has typically been subdued and muted by years of solitary confinement in air-conditioned, GPS-controlled, luxury prison cells.
So maybe a few witty text exchanges, a proud picture or two of a gleaming machine or impressive crop could prove vital in preserving sanity.
The most worrying aspect of social media, however, is that it nearly all takes place via a mobile device rather than a desktop computer. Fifty kilometer-per-hour tractors are lethal if the driver’s eyes are looking at a phone screen.
This is, of course, common to all motorists now and threatens to make drink-driving, speeding and talking on the mobile appear quite peripheral.
The problem is that social media appears for many to be so addictive and all-consuming. Once the device pings to advise of a new post or message, the urge to view and reply seems irresistible.
Study the faces of the drivers of oncoming vehicles on your next journey and it’s quite obvious what is going on with alarming regularity.
How tragically ironic if social media interaction leads to accidents with devastating consequences and proves to be the most “antisocial” activity of all.