A spoken word video featuring a UK artist named Gary Turk has gone viral in the last fortnight encouraging social media users to ‘look up’ from their phones, tablets and laptops. The irony of a video advising against social media being watched by millions because of social media has not been lost on anyone and has only helped to increase the viewing count on Youtube. Aside from the chuckle that that brings, there is an interesting question here: is social media hindering or helping us to build bridges with other human beings?

Gary Turk launched his youtube channel with a solitary video titled ‘Look Up‘ on 25 April and to date has not posted any further videos. In the 5 minute piece, Turk speaks aloud directly to camera set against a black backdrop with the shot of him interrupted regularly by visual re-enactments of the ideas he is projecting. His narrative begins from his own experience – he informs us that he “has 422 friends” yet is lonely and that although “he speaks to them everyday, none of them really know” him. He continues by making critical observations of the way social media is used to document the events of our lives and what that says about us as people. Most of what he says is not without truth, but it is only one side of the coin.

Social media is a great way to find new people, both friend and foe alike. More often than not we interact online with those who share an interest, have a similar friends circle, or reflect our beliefs or background. But this is not always the case. Some of the most interesting people I have met are those who challenge my views or have a very different regard for the things that I am passionate about and our first introductions came online.

In either case, what I have found is that if you don’t meet one another in person, the verbal exchanges remain virtual and there is no real relationship that develops. The people we meet face-to-face, with whom we share a laugh, an embrace or perhaps a handshake, enrich our lives in a way that an online relationship can’t. It is for that reason that meet-ups, events and socialising is at the heart of all of the endeavours that I am involved in, whether it is the Punjabi folk-dancing discussion forum NachdaPunjab.co.uk, the Sikh Studies course Week 14 celebratory meal or our NU:Music LIVE events.

Whilst I fully acknowledge that social media has its drawbacks and can be an invasive device in our lives, it has also led to me meeting some very delightful people (emphasis on the meet!) From the bhangra lover who objected to my Sikh-centric rants (now someone who I respect) to the collaborators who have joined our movement at NAUJAWANI.com. We should all take time to ‘look up’ as Gary Turk advises, but looking down isn’t so bad from time to time either.