independent

Thursday 2 October 2014

Internet can help defeat crippling loneliness

SHEA TOMKINS

Published 14/09/2011 | 11:35

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IWAS out of the office for the past week and had a rare chance to listen in to some morning radio. Although the same old talking heads were present in the form of Tubridy, D'Arcy, Dunne and Hayes, and while each does an OK job, there was a serious lack of cutting edge.

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The shows also seemed to be suffocated by an over-reliance on that particular day's newspapers to fuel discussion. Fair enough, bad news sells, but if you have doom and gloom in the newspapers, bad news being recycled verbally on the radio stations and then given a visual outlet on TV, it's not surprising if the listeners soon decide that they have had enough. And listenership figures will begin to plummet.

Colm Hayes has the most difficult task of all. Replacing Gerry Ryan was always going to be impossible, and rather than trying to carry on with a similar Ryanline format, starting the show from scratch was the way forward. Hayes is a good straight man, but when it comes to a primetime chat show, he needs a sidekick for an injection of danger. Jim Jim could have been that man.

2FM is a station in a state of transition and we can expect major changes over the next few years. If not, then the station will continue to haemorrhage listeners. Bringing back Robbie Irwin's Sunday morning sports show would be a good start. I know many men that tuned in weekly – especially those with kids that rise early at weekends. Some RTE insiders were also left concerned by the decision to take it off the air.

However, listening to Colm Hayes the other morning, my ears pricked when I heard him discussing how elderly people in this country fear loneliness, more than any anything else. And my heart sank. He pointed out that it must be a horrible feeling when you have entered the twilight of your life, having contributed so significantly to society for so many years, and then you are left wondering how you will fill your days. And if anyone will come knocking on your door, just to say hello. The good news is that help may be at hand. If more of an emphasis was put on teaching the elderly members of our society how to access and make best use of the Internet, it is a medium through which loneliness can be somewhat relieved.

Unlike those bleak wet Wednesdays of old, Irish people, especially those living in rural areas, have a way of interacting with likeminded souls, by merely tapping on a few buttons. All it takes is learning how to do it. You can do just about anything on the Internet - chat with friends, meet new ones, do your shopping, join in discussions and even have a game of Scrabble, if that was what you are in to.

I'm not saying it's a way for the rest of us to shift responsibility – of course we should call in and make sure our elderly friends are doing alright. It's not always possible. If we took the time to teach them how to use technology efficiently, then their days could be that little bit brighter and it opens the door to new opportunities, regardless of how old you are. Somebody, somewhere, is always online. The reassuring part – the Internet is simple to use. It just looks a little bit scary. And it beats sitting around waiting for a door knock that might never happen.

TRAP - SHOULD HE STAY OR GO?

After the recent European Champsionships 2012 qualifiers, the Republic of Ireland soccer team is in with a serious chance of appearing in Poland and the Ukraine come next summer. However, we could also fall at the last hurdle, as has happened so often before, and all the negative football we have had to endure will have been for nothing.

And we can't say manager Giovanni Trappatoni doesn't have the players at his disposal to play creatively. One of the finest performances by an Irish side in recent years came in the World Cup play-off second leg in Paris just two years ago, when the Boys in Green played a French side off the park. Keane, Duff and co were let off the leash and rose to the occasion.

Trap is a manager of distinction and his track record is one of mostly success. Fans of the beautiful game are finding it hard to stomach, however. It's all very well not conceding goals, but not scoring them is a problem too.

The FAI needs to think about the future – tickets are still expensive, and if the negative approach is all that's been offered, more and more fans will decide to stay away.

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