I’m reading a book – a real book – on a train. Serious stuff – Britain, 1974-1979. History.
Hell, that makes me feel old.
Three young people sit down, two opposite, one next to me.
My concentration is broken. Hidden sensors, honed by years in open plan offices, tell me something is going on.
I look up at the two people opposite, one girl (could be over 18, admittedly), one boy (ditto).
Both are holding up smartphones at the same sort of height and angle. And both look at me with that ‘ did you see me’ kind of look as they notice I’m looking.
I return to my book but am again aware that there is something going on. They’re disconcertingly quiet. While their friends down the carriage are boisterous, to say the least.
I turn to my right and look straight into my own image on a smartphone.
‘Sorry,’ says the boy, instantly.
‘So you should be,’ I snap back.
I don’t return to my reading, just sit and glare. One by one they slink off to join their friends.
They’re not aggressive, not rough. Plainly from decent homes, probably well-off – you can tell by the haircuts and clothes and accents.
The whole group is now looking furtively at me. One girl sniggers, then stops when she realises I’m looking directly at her. They turn their backs. The same girl peeps out and ducks back as she sees I’m still looking.
New people get on and obscure the view a bit. I move, shoehorning my way into the next seat, opposite the young man who now sits, legs inconveniently splayed, by the window.
I hope they can’t see me now, because I can’t see them.
I look out of the window, too spooked to return to my book.
At the next stop, two more young people get on – strong local accents, office-work clothes. Bubbly, fun and friendly. We chat and I end up laughing – but still trot off to the wine bar feeling grumpy – and a bit disturbed.
The evening is not a success. There’s still no table booked for my college reunion of 16 people after another ‘this one should be perfect’ meal out. Much more of this and we’ll be bankrupt.
And so to today. Which starts rainy. Again. And cold.
Colder than yesterday.
I sit at my desk, reluctant to do anything. Despondent.
Glued to Twitter for longer than’s good for me.
And then it begins to happen.
A petition is circulating – not from a campaigning organisation, a UK Government one. If you get over 100,000 signatures they have to do something about it. Read it, at least.
I sign. Watch as the numbers rise.
Turn my attention elsewhere then look back.
When I signed it was at least 20,000 off the 100,000 target. Now it’s over 192,000.
Then, still on Twitter (don’t worry I’d been wasting time on other social media too) I notice a writer has offered to match up to £10,000 if people donate to Save the Children.
I donate a small sum and watch, again, as the total rises and rises and rises. That sum is reached. £20,000 raised in a few hours.
Now others are following his lead. Two more men and a woman offer to match £10,000 worth of donations. Then more, then more.
In less than half a day one man has, with the help of countless small donations and some big ones, got over £100,000 raised. By people just feeling the need to do something – and Tweeting.
Then I notice someone local Tweeting about a Facebook group.
Good excuse for a Twitter break.
So, onto Facebook and I join the group. Check what’s most needed, find a local person willing to pick stuff up from me.
Abracadabra – and it’s gone. A tent, three coats, a water carrier and kettle.
Everything is connected.
It’s all about the refugee crisis taking place in Europe right now.
In case you don’t know, there’s a huge crisis here in Europe with refugees from Syria (yes, and other ‘migrants’ too).
Our Prime Minister, David Cameron, has said we are doing enough.
But the tent and coats, etc, are going to Calais in a couple of weeks’ time. Taken by a few people in the north west of England who believe that, despite what our government says, we don’t think we’re doing enough.
Social media at first reacted as usual. Charts. Statistics. Articles. Blogs (yes, mea culpa).
But today it’s doing something amazing.
For the first time since I was involved with Facebook and Twitter I am witnessing their power in action for myself.
I am seeing people having ideas and running with them.
I am becoming involved, in a small way.
I’m meeting people I’ve never met before.
We are doing something, despite our government.