FROM witch hunts in the 15th century to video games and even television, moral panics are nothing new. And perhaps the latest fear over social media is another example of public anxiety caused by the rapid changes to the fabric of society. From very early on, the vast majority of us were aware that we were signing away our privacy to Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and co. However, it was only when confronted with the stark consequences of how our data, and our fears, were fed back to us and used to manipulate our thinking, that we really took notice.

Far too late of course, but there is an argument to be made that this is simply another leap (perhaps not forward) in a society that is intricately connected to the internet. There is no going back. Our lives are increasingly lived online and so it is up to us as a society to put safeguards in place.

However, as Susan Flockhart discusses in The Big Read today, there is a less talked-about problem with our social media world: the lost art of listening. And not just listening, hearing. That message could serve the world well, especially as Donald Trump sits with his finger hovering above the button labelled "military action” in response to the horrific chemical attacks in Syria last week.

Flockhart's piece draws out a quote that illustrates the point perfectly.

“It’s very hard to change your opinion. The only way to change your mind is to listen. I really think that is the most important skill we all should learn. And not only to listen and wait until it’s your turn to talk, but approach a conversation thinking: the other person knows something I don’t know. In my experience, if you have a real-life conversation, we are much more prone to say, OK, maybe you are right. But online - I have never read any commentator under a post writing, after a long discussion – ‘Hey, you know what? You are right.’ No-one does that.”

To mangle an old Elvis song, it’s time for a little more conversation a little less action.