Thursday, 6 January 2011

Be My Guardian?

In a move that will probably become a landmark event for the Blogger's Age, an anonymous Guardian columnist is leaving the direction of his so-far wayward love life in the hands of his readers.

As a struggling Journalism undergraduate my first thought was admiration of the scale of originality being displayed to snag a regular column position. Credit me for my cold-eyed professionalism anyway.
My second thought was a bizarre stab of sympathy; I've suffered myself from an unsteady path through the world of relationships. I'm only just reconciled with my long-term girlfriend, and during the challenging times I usually went on bitter, sullen retreat from the whole world.

So perhaps our unlucky friend has decided to turn his personal woes into public entertainment; not a world removed from Endemol's Big Brother format, thankfully moribund after years of increasing reminders of the poor state of, well, poor Britain.

It's not clear if the author is a journalist; as a student hack, I am beaten regularly about the head with tales of level-headed objectivity and this seems to be a step beyond the docile diarised tales of staple column-writing.

Of greater concern is the responsibility the author is shedding for himself, his happiness and – of keener observation – his partner, the inevitably renamed 'Hayley'. Either he has told her of his plan to conduct his personal relations like a social experiment, which would be the death-knell of any relationship; or he hasn't, and she's labouring under misconceptions that will either lead to their parting, or her participating in a bizarre performance co-ordinated by silly names on the Guardian website. Neither outcome hints at future stability.

More importantly, we – and he – should be aware of the impact of the internet, like some omnipotent toddler, wielding a massive influence online with an immensely inverse sense of responsibility. Should the masses vote for a break with the erstwhile Haley, what guarantee the Author will even meet another woman in time for next week's thrilling instalment? Come the anarchists of the internet, his every chance at intimacy could be thwarted for the online equivalent of the child who pulls wings off flies.

Speaking of silly names, Twitter has yet to pass judgement on this journalistic experiment. Twitter, I rather grandiosely think, represents the high-water mark of intelligence on the web, currently unfathomable to the trolls and weirdos of Facebook or Youtube. Their commentary, and crucially their disclosure of involvement in the voting, will be a telling analysis of this tiny feat of social engineering. Of even more value to the social commentators of our age, how the fickle consumers of the web decide to dictate the author's private life will be a fascinating insight into the flexible morality of the digital age. I hope to comment on both as the scenario develops...

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