Dear Santa, I don't want to be by myself on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Having lost family closest to me, this year I have no-one to be with on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. If only there was a ready-made 'group of friends' I could go out to Christmas Day Lunch and Boxing Day Lunch with, who would welcome me at their table, and who I could join in with, then it would make the festive season much more festive. xx
The Social Group's "NO NEED TO BE LONELY THIS CHRISTMAS" events programme includes party nights and meals out during November, December, and January, and special festive meals on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Everyone is made welcome. Join us. Join in. Enjoy yourself!
The Social Group is a social enterprise making a real difference to people's lives. In a civilised society, there should be no need for anyone to be lonely at Christmas or any time of the year. We've dedicated our lives to bringing people together to connect and socialise. Good times! Good company!
Don't be by yourself! Join The Social Group and enjoy a better quality of life!
Here at The Social Group we mostly focus on encouraging each of you to have a good time and enjoy your lives. Life is often tough and we all deserve to find some time to enjoy ourselves. Most of us work long hours and very hard. There's often more demands on us than we have time for. With so little time to spare, we are often told that members are delighted to have Social Group organisers to do all the hard work in putting together a programme of things to enjoy. Saving time. Having it all on a plate. Making it easy. A reliable short-cut. Joining The Social Group is all about enjoying good times, good food, good drink, good company, good fun. In our experience, we see it does everyone good to take some time out, indulge, and have a treat.
Life is short. Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think. Make the most of the time given to you. And so on...
Of course, as well as hedonistic pleasures, it makes the world a better place if we are also kind and considerate to those around us. There's validity in the old saying about treating others as you would like them to treat you. Many people believe in karma, where the more you put into life, the more you get out of life. Remember, karma's only a bitch if you are. Good things come to you if you do good things for others.
An old Chinese proverb states, "What is a life that is not wasted? Perhaps one in which we learn something."
Giving can often give you more back than you expected. Not just giving with money. Also with time and effort. Dedication and a determination to help others. With sincerity. It can mean so much.
Ask yourself, "Did I make a difference?" Today. This week. This month. This year.
Helping someone other than yourself will make you feel good about yourself and boost yourself-esteem. It's all about making the world a better place for one another. Being kind. Being generous. Being aware. Being attentive. Lift your head and open your eyes to what those around you are going through.
Ask yourself... Are you aware if there are people living on your street who are suffering? Have you taken any notice if the people next door are unwell and could do with some help? Do you know if there is someone nearby who has a disability? Is there someone who you see using a walking stick, crutches, or a wheelchair? Do you know someone with a blue badge? Do you realise how tough life may be for them? Are they in pain? Are they suffering? Do you ever ask them if there is anything you can do to help?
A recent report on ITN spoke of "increasing numbers of elderly people being confined to their homes". Feeling lonely and isolated. Unable to get out and about. Not seeing anyone. With no-one to share things with, no-one for company. With families not being as close as they used to be, this situation is getting worse and becoming more serious.
Commonly, elderly people once had three or four children and a host of grandchildren to visit them. Today, families are often less well knit, with relatives who don't bother to keep in touch. Many elderly people don't have anyone at all. Sometimes, any family they know of may be on the other side of the world. Or they may have no idea where those who should be close to us have gone. Individual selfishness in modern society and the scattering of people far and wide via globalisation has done anything but encourage families to stay together.
Here at The Social Group, we've dedicated our lives to bringing people together, encouraging people to connect and socialise, and be better to one another. So the situation of an ageing population, when more and more people are isolated, is of great concern to us. We'd like to encourage people to be nicer to those around them.
Being caring and kind should not just be sending off £5 to something you watch on a TV commercial. We should all make a lot more effort than that.
One of the great joys of doing our jobs is all the interesting people we have met over the years. From socialising with you we know that many of you are fit, healthy, and strong, and many of you spend hours each week at dance classes or exercising down your local gym or health club. There's nothing wrong with keeping fit and healthy of course. But we would like to encourage each and every one of you to consider if you might put some of that "me time" you spend on yourself to better use helping others? Could you, for instance, mow a neighbour's lawn or paint a wall for them? It doesn't have to be a regular commitment. Often disabled and elderly people manage routine things, but are struggling to find a way to get a repair done. One off occasional jobs that you take for granted can be a real headache for others.
With less government assistance now forthcoming for people who find themselves disabled or long term sick, life can be really hard, and they may now have too little money to pay tradesmen to do bigger jobs such as decorating or hedge trimming. What's just a few hours work for an able-bodied person can be an impossible task if you are sick or unable to stand up.
Being a good person and a good neighbour goes further than being sociable. We would argue that if we truly are a civilised society, our community spirit needs to be more than just occasionally saying "Good Morning!" to the person on the other side of the wall. That's nice, but once a month you could make a more determined effort to check everything is okay and see if there is anything you can do. If each of us did just one good deed for someone else this week, just think what a difference that could make to everyone's lives!
Especially in the depths of winter, over Christmas, and during bad weather, especially in cold spells and if it snows, there has to be a responsibility for all of us to come together, and do more to be better people, better neighbours, and better human beings.
Please check if the people you know need some help. Especially if you are fit enough to spend hours exercising at the gym, see if you can spare some of those exercise hours to help to keep your neighbour's property in good repair. If their garden is overgrown, maybe it's because they are not able to keep it up? If their walls need painting, maybe it's because they are not strong enough to paint them? If you don't see them much, perhaps it's because they are laying in bed, in pain, seriously ill?
In good conscience, can you live happily knowing that people on the other side of a wall from you or living directly across the road may be suffering and desperate?
A gym is all about you. Knocking on a neighbour's door to offer to help is all about others. Please make an effort to be a better person and offer to help people around you who are elderly, sick, or disabled. You may get much more out of it than you ever expected. A friend. Self respect. The knowledge you made a difference. Your kindness will be appreciated and never forgotten.
Please do what you can to make a difference today to the lives of other people living around you and truly be social.
The Social Group is a socialising organisation based in the UK.
Social Group Early History
The Social Group began in Devon in South West England in 1997, first known as Devon Social Group. It's founder Andrew Haglington is often referred to as "the man who invented social networking".
Following his own experience of divorce and ill health, resulting in years of isolation and loneliness, Andrew Haglington became sure he couldn't be the only one who felt alone and in need of making some friends. As such, Andrew Haglington was the first to recognise a need in society for a "socialising mechanism" to enable people to connect, interact and socialise, him shortening the word "socialising" to "social", hence naming what became known as social media and social networking.
Andrew Haglington's solution to the perceived need was to utilise both the internet and to organise real world get-togethers via a printed magazine.
1997 - 2000: The Social Group in it's early days was based around a group of local people in Devon meeting up to socialise. Ahead of it's time, the online social networking element of the early Devon Social Group website proved too controversial. When people misused the facility and began to insult each other online, it's creator Andrew Haglington was blamed for making it possible. Following a chorus of disapproval and threats of legal action against what he had created, Andrew Haglington reluctantly dismantled the social networking element of the early www.devonsocialgroup.com website. Without an American style freedom of speech right in the UK, it appeared Haglington's concept of online social networking would never be possible.
2000 - 2003: After meeting Cathy Dent through the organisation in 1999, Andrew Haglington developed social networking in a more hands-on way. As a members' socialising organisation, Devon Social Group organised all kinds of social events, quiz evenings, dining out, and party occasions, and operated on the basis of an informal not-for-profit 'group of friends' anyone could join in with. The aim was to enable people to find friends, have fun, and enjoy a good social life.
Social Group Organisers Andrew Haglington and Cathy Dent married in Las Vegas in September 2002 in the middle of a Social Group Holiday organised group tour of Las Vegas and American Wild West National Parks.
The couple then set about running The Social Group on a more formal basis and are credited with a key role in the development of social networking.
Social Group Events
The Social Group organises a wide range of social events, dining out, parties, outdoor activities, UK weekend breaks, and international holidays. The socialising organisation attracts singles and couple of all ages and from a wide range of professions. People pay to join as a member, then choose from a large menu of social events, social activities, and social holidays which are listed in Social Group Magazine. The aim being to enjoy good times and good company.
As well as organising large numbers of standard dining out at restaurants with a group of friends, The Social Group has also featured many more unusual events. Amongst these, in 1999, Social Group organisers Andrew Haglington and Cathy Dent were the first to bring singles speed dating to the UK after Andrew watched a television report on similar in New York, where elders in the Jewish community were using it as a way from young Jewish boys to meet young Jewish Girls. Devon Social Group held the UK's first ever singles speed dating event in Exeter, Devon in 1999, and, while not a dating agency, have continued to offer occasional singles speed dating events for over a decade.
Social Group Holidays
The Social Group has organised group travel all over the world. From what started as a trip across the English Channel to Brittany, France, Social Group Holidays has organised holidays to resort destinations all around the world, including France, Italy, Greece, Egypt, Thailand, Australia, USA, and the Caribbean. Andrew Haglington and Cathy Haglington, hosting the social side of the holidays and acting as international tour guides, have escorted groups which have included many people who have never travelled before, enabling them to enjoy some memorable experiences.
In the middle of a Social Group Holiday to Las Vegas, Andrew proposed to Cathy in front of a tour group (which included close family) at Red Rock Canyon state park, and the couple arranged their wedding within a few days, marrying in a helicopter over the fabulous lights of the glamorous Las Vegas strip at night, with a reception with members of The Social Group on the 50th floor of the Rio Hotel Las Vegas afterwards, and the newlyweds being given one of the largest suites in the Hard Rock Hotel Las Vegas to start off married life together.
In 2005, a special 'friends around the world' trip from Exmouth Devon to Exmouth Western Australia included a civic reception at the Exmouth Shire Council offices and a personal guided tour of the Western Australian Parliament by the then Speaker of the House of Commons Fred Reibling MP.
Joining in with a group of people to go on holiday with has advantages with costs and safety. Group discounts and savings are often available. As well as being able to look after the social side of things, occasionally Andrew & Cathy have been on hand to get medical care for someone accidentally injured and to make sure they can manage.
Social Group Organisers Andrew & Cathy have campaigned to keep the costs of travel as low as possible, supporting lower tax on petrol, airports, flights, etc. and the basic human right of freedom of movement. Having seen how much people who have never travelled before have taken from the experience, they feel being able to afford to travel and see different countries and cultures is of benefit to everyone.
Around the Millennium, Andrew Haglington spent a lot of time writing to investment banks, government departments, investors, and entrepreneurs in the UK, hoping to attract significant backing to develop his vision of what could be done with all things social via the internet. Doors slammed in his face at every turn. Andrew Haglington's concept of social networking was too innovative and forward-thinking for anyone to really understand the potential.
Instead, with him failing to attract financial support, Andrew Haglington's ideas were left to be developed in America. Instead of UK investors backing Andrew Haglington (like American investors later backed Mark Zuckerberg), many chose to copy or steal his ideas. Andrew Haglington had offered the UK a brand new multi-billion pound sector of the economy, but the UK was too blinkered to seize the opportunity and social networking, as portrayed in the Hollywood movie The Social Network is now regarded as American.
At the same time, the UK Government made it clear a 'social' organisation such as Andrew Haglington had created would not be allowed to be a charity and made it clear they preferred The Social Group to be run as a business. Based on his love of the science fiction TV series Star Trek, when it came to needing to find a suitable name to reflect the entrepreneurial nature of what needed to be set up, Andrew Haglington came up with the term 'social enterprise' before it was adopted more widely by the UK Government with the Department for Trade and Industry's 'Social Enterprise: a strategy for success' report. Again, Andrew Haglington felt his ideas had been taken from him, without him receiving the credit he deserved.
In March 2003, Social Group Enterprises Ltd. was set up to run The Social Group on a professional full-time basis.
The Social Group expanded with Cornwall Social Group, Somerset Social Group, Bristol Social Group, and other local area social group branches across the UK and around the world, with numerous copies appearing, and other organisations choosing to re-brand themselves as 'social groups' as testament to what a good idea Andrew Haglington had come up with.
The Social Group, as an independent social enterprise operated by Social Group Enterprises Ltd. aims to generate a profit to pay running costs and salaries, while achieving it's social objectives in tackling loneliness and bringing people together to enjoy their lives. Everything is run without any government funding and the organisation is totally independent, being funded entirely by subscriptions, events booking fees, and donations.
Benefits To Society
The Social Group has made a clear benefit to society in many different ways.
The efforts of Andrew Haglington, Cathy Haglington, and their team of helpers, volunteers, members, and people who have made donations to help with running costs, have strengthened bonds in the community, made a difference and touched numerous lives. As a social enterprise, The Social Group has done a lot of good work to bring together people in the local community and enabled thousands of people to be less lonely. The dedication and hard work of the organisers has resulted in numerous friendships, relationships, marriages, and families.
Many who have taken part in organised social events on a regular basis, and had the benefit of Andrew & Cathy's advice and experience of life and relationships, and who have become accustomed to meeting people and making friends at Social Group events, have gained in confidence. The experience of regular social contact has improved social skills and given many a boost not only to their own self-esteem and interpersonal skills, but also in their careers, with a more balanced attitude to life.
Numerous people who have just moved into a local area have used The Social Group as a quick and easy way to meet local people and find their feet. Also, organisers Andrew & Cathy are experts on the best pubs, restaurants, hotels, activity centres, and tourist attractions.
The bi-annual Social Group Awards are given to pubs, restaurants, hotels, activity centres, and tourist attractions, based on hospitality, service, good value for money, and quality. Many small businesses have received an increase in business as a result of this vote of confidence in all their hard work and dedication. The Social Group Awards are seen as very prestigious and a reward to those who work so hard to "get it right".
It has been a long -running theme of The Social Group to encourage everyone to support local small businesses, in the face of a general apathy (and sometimes hostility) to anything deemed as "commercial" by a section of the population in the UK. Social Group organisers have campaigned for more dedicated support for local private sector small businesses from the public sector, including central government, local councils, and organisations such as the NHS, Public Libraries, and the BBC.
Annually, sometimes in conjunction with local churches, The Social Group has operated the "NO NEED TO BE LONELY THIS CHRISTMAS" campaign, encouraging people to look after the less fortunate in society and not leave anyone on their own over the festive period.
Hours are often spent talking to people on the telephone, with organisers being there as "someone to talk to", especially after divorce or bereavement. Many have said how grateful they have been to know Andrew & Cathy were there and cared about them at a difficult time in their lives. The Social Group has often helped people after serious illness who need to re-connect with the world.
During extreme weather, such as heavy snow or floods, The Social Group network of organisers, members, websites, social media content, and contacts, has acted like an additional emergency service. Social Group Twitter accounts have done all they could to offer assistance.
Along the way, the organisation has also raised funds for numerous good causes and charities, including good causes such as Cancer, M.E., respite care for families where someone is ill, holidays for disabled people, tiger conservation, monkey sanctuary, children's hospice, and many more.
The Social Group is seen as playing a key role in the development of social networking and social media. In recognition of this, the British Library in London has archived the early websites of Devon Social Group and Cornwall Social Group as being of historical importance.
Organisers say, "All donations to help with running costs are appreciated. If anyone would like to make a donation or leave us some money to give us ongoing financial security, we can assure them the money will be put to very good use."
Social Group Magazine
Social Group Magazine is the in-house publication of The Social Group, published in the UK twice a year, in Spring and Autumn. Written and edited by Andrew Haglington, Social Group Magazine is sent out free to all new members when they first join The Social Group.
Social Group Magazine publishes features, news, photographs of social events, photographs of Social Group Holidays, travel reports, puzzles and jokes, and contributions from members, as well as a large menu of forthcoming social events, dining out, parties, balls, outdoor activities, and adventure sports, plus weekends away, short breaks, and international Social Group Holidays.
Advertising is accepted, but the magazine remains independent.
Embracing Social Media
2010 - 2012 saw new Social Group websites and new social media content coming online, with Andrew Haglington embracing American-based social media services as tools to expand The Social Group nationally across the UK and internationally around the world.
Haglington Media now manages numerous websites and social media pages, including an online newspaper of the same name.
Andrew Haglington and Cathy Haglington are best known from the large volume of internet content about them, as well as for numerous interviews in the press and the couple are now referred to as social media celebrities and social entrepreneurs.
THE SOCIAL GROUP UK (Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Bristol)
Each day, via our websites, our company is inundated with unwanted emails. Many are irritating marketing emails, often from companies who we have told we want nothing to do with but who seem to think there is still a point in sending us emails, for some unfathomable reason. Some are more sinister, containing computer viruses.
This week, after being bombarded with hundreds of emails titled Booking.com and UK DHL International, we contacted our internet server people to see if they could block them. They told us th email address that it all appears to originate from (which is faked) is a genuine email address used by Booking.com (which other users on the email server do receive genuine mail from), so said they cannot block it outright. They told us they did block over 100 IP addresses that have sent that email into the server, but they are changing IP addresses faster than it would be possible to block them! They say these spam emails for Booking.com and UK DHL International are originating from the same sources. Apparently, for the 2 variants around 500 per day are making it into the server, but another 14,500 are being rejected.
According to the government's Information Commissioner's Office, complaints about spam and other unsolicited electronic marketing in the UK jumped 43% last year, with 7,095 complaints in the year to March. We understand the ICO has new powers which the government hopes will mean more effective enforcement in future. In January, the ICO was granted power to fine companies up to £500,000 for significant offences.
It's an obvious waste of time to have to delete hundreds of spam emails every day, so we hope the government's initiative will deal more effectively with whoever is behind making a nuisance of themselves.
I am the founder and managing director of The Social Group, which was first conceived in the 1990's following a difficult time in my personal life.
The story of all things social begins with my former life falling apart. My first marriage had never been solid, not after I uncovered my wife had lied to me over a period of three years, with the man she passed off as her brother turning out to actually be her first husband and me suspecting adultery. After that, our relationship was never easy, but when you have a child there are other considerations, so I tried to forgive my wife and devoted 17 years of my life to raising my daughter to the best of my ability.
I had loved my first wife, but betrayal is harder to handle that you might think and over many years dark secrets eat away at you. Many felt it was surprising our marriage lasted as long as it did. It was often stormy. In our attempt to hold everything together and make a new start, we ended up moving away from constant reminders in Sheffield to make a new life in Devon. It went well to begin with, but after a skiing injury I sustained to my lower back, I no longer had the strength to hold the household together.
Separation and divorce followed. Worse still, I was poisoned. Pain in my stomach, then my heart, then my limbs. It left me extremely ill, and disabled, I was pretty much confined to bed for years afterwards, unable to walk or even stand up most of the time. What I went through could not have been any worse. Those were dark days indeed. I repeatedly ended up as an emergency admission to hospital in a serious condition, convinced I could not possibly have much longer to live.
Somehow I found the strength to survive. But keeping going was never going to be easy. Severely weakened physically, shamelessly abandoned by many of my closest family and friends, shunned, outcast, ignored, overlooked, forgotten, lonely, I was in a very bad place.
It was a living nightmare. So extremely sick with what doctors dismissed as M.E. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Imprisoned within my own skin, with me unable to do almost anything. Constantly in a great deal of pain and suffering. For a time, so weak that I was forced to rely upon home helps supplied by Social Services to look after me and keep me alive. I tried to focus on what little I could still do, but to say that wasn't easy, was an understatement.
After years of nothing, laying almost dead in a fever, pretty much confined to bed, screaming out in pain and sobbing my heart out in utter despair, day after day, week after week, month after month, laid staring at a ceiling, eking out an existence, hardly caring what happened to me, I could not have known how dramatically everything was about to change.
The Social Worker in who's care I had been left was so worried about me that I was given a grant to go on holiday and the wild and vibrant city that is Las Vegas exploded into my life. My parents had been there and suggested I would like it, medical opinion suggested the sunshine and dry climate would be good for me, and I knew I could hire a car to get around, saving me having to worry about walking, which was close to impossible much of the time with my health as it was.
So it was that in the summer of 1996 I drove up to the front door of Caesar's Palace (because I recognised the name), and went to ask if they had a cheap room. I was in luck, with the rooms by the front door where all the famous celebrities arrived in their VIP limos being due to be renovated, but available for just a last few days at a knock-down price.
And so, I found myself standing next to iconic actress Elizabeth Taylor, then spending time with pop singer Peter Andre and his brother Chris at the swimming pool, surrounded by beautiful women, and going out driving through the awe-inspiring wild west countryside surrounding that amazing city!
Feeling alive, it gave me something to live for.
Building a new life for myself was the challenge ahead. Returning home to England, I realised just how much the years of physical illness and emotional trauma had taken their toll on me. I had no wish to go back to that. The resultant isolation was hard to cope with. I went nowhere, saw no-one. I felt very much on my own. I was desperately in need of some company and contact with the world.
It was only after I started looking into ways of connecting with the world and making new friends, that I realised it was not going to be at all easy. As things stood, especially as I was not working at the time, meeting people and making friends proved really hard.
I eventually recognised that society was missing something important, with there being no mechanism dedicated to bringing people together to enable them to connect, interact, and make friends. The day I decided to do something about this was to change the whole world.
In 1997, 7 years before Facebook and 10 years before Twitter, I conceived an innovative idea. I was the first to identify the need for a mechanism in society whereby people could connect, interact, and socialise. After much consideration, I decided to shorten the word 'socialising' to 'social', and everything eventually referred to as 'social' in terms of social networking and social media all stems from my idea.
After coming up with the concept of 'social', the first step was to bring together a 'group of friends' that people could socialise with. I was ahead of my time and had to start with a printed newsletter and telephone. The technology of the last years of the 20th Century did make things difficult - computers were unreliable and kept breaking down, digital cameras did not yet exist, there were no smart phones, and the internet itself was still in its infancy.
It took time to get it all up and running, and as no-one had ever done what we were doing before, everything had to be worked out from scratch. There were no set rules as it was all brand new. What would and would not work had not yet been discovered. I was still very ill and it was a struggle, but gradually things came together.
At first, a friend put a simple one page website online for us. Then we had a better web page designed. Then a proper web site built.
Our interactive social networking section of our website enabled people to connect, chat, and interact via the internet, and we had high hopes! Unfortunately, the public in England were not ready for such a radically new concept. All too soon, without any accepted etiquette, it was being mis-used, with some people behaving really badly.
Lots of people started getting upset with us, blaming us for what others had written online, and there was a real furore. Without a freedom of speech right in the UK and following threats made against us, we reluctantly were forced to take the social networking part of the website offline. When our early website was lost after technical problems at the company hosting the server, with it having caused so much trouble, I told them not to re-build that side of the website on the replacement. The world's first experiment in social networking had not been the success I had hoped.
Nevertheless, I am extremely proud the social events side of our business progressed as it did. Over the years it has helped countless thousands of people to be less lonely, find friends, gain in confidence, and enjoy a better quality of life. We have done a lot of good for people and have been the catalyst to change many lives for the better.
At the same time, as my health gradually improved, I continued to work on taking my online social networking idea forward. Right from the start, I saw some incredible possibilities and knew I was onto something that could become enormous. So I spent years trying to explain to people what I meant by all things social and trying to get people to understand the concept.
UK PLC proved much less receptive than I could ever have imagined, often seeming uninterested, lumbering, clunkingly old fashioned, and at times, downright stupid.
The public struggled to understand my concept. The media dismissed us as a dating organisation. Newspapers had no comprehension of how what I had started might put them all out of business. Investment banks were short-sighted and either ignored my letters or turned me down. While famous entrepreneurs you might have expected to at least give me the time of day, simply stole my ideas and instead of backing me, just set up their own versions of different types of social events and experience days.
The British Government were incredibly out of date and unreceptive. Can you believe they turned down a multi-billion pound new industry for Britain? It seemed incredible. I could not believe how ignorant and short-sighted they were.
Despite all my best efforts to alert the British Government, they were worryingly out of touch, with no comprehension that we were now in the 21st century. They consistently refused any help and at times were downright unpleasant. We got no assistance whatsoever. They were all stick and no carrot. They would not allow us to have charitable status. They adamantly refused to allow us to remain a not-for-profit 'group of friends'. They bullied us into becoming a business. When I devised something I named a 'social enterprise', they even stole the phrase from me, ignoring the fact that we had already called our company Social Group Enterprises Ltd. (partly in fun, with us being such Trekkies!)
Then, once we were a business, you would have thought 'commercial' was a dirty word in this country. Even though we were still helping people and doing good, and had ambitions to expand and help more people, as well as now trying to generate an income, pay taxes, and provide jobs, we were frequently treated as if we were doing something really wrong.
The people who run official charities often get paid many times what we earn, but as a social enterprise that was apparently overlooked. Meanwhile, public sector bodies such as the BBC or Public Libraries stepped back from having much to do with us, and some of the public were openly hostile. Our reward for trying to do the right thing was to be sidelined. It all felt very unfair.
With us unable to get backing from luddite Britain, social networking became American. The forward-thinking USA showed why it is such a dynamic economy. I'd given England something special on a plate and they'd turned their noses up at it. Americans had a different attitude to embracing potential and threw billions at making all things social their own.
I often get asked if it irks me that my words, ideas, and concepts have been stolen and copied by so many people around the world, and I'm not yet a multi-billionaire. I'm sure the answer to that one is obvious.
In 1999 I met my second wife Cathy when she enquired about joining The Social Group. We fell in love and married in a helicopter over Las Vegas in September 2002. Cathy gave up her job at the bank and we went into business with Social Group Enterprises Ltd together in March 2003. Developing all things social since then has kept us both extremely busy.
Mostly people associate us with running social events, dining out, parties, balls, outdoor activities, weekend breaks, and international holidays with a ready-made 'group of friends' to go out with, meeting people, making friends, and enjoying a good social life. We've helped a large number of people to enjoy lots of good times and benefit from plenty of good company.
At the same time, I have not ceased from developing my original concept. As I had started all things social, no-one knew this sector like I did, and once again, I spotted opportunities as they arose, mostly long before anyone else did. It occurred to me that it wasn't just what you had, but what you did with it. By embracing American social media as a tool, I have actually been able to develop my original vision much further and I now feel we are more on track than ever.
As well as numerous websites, we now have presence across social media, including Friends Reunited, LinkedIn, Wordpress, Facebook, Twitter, and many others. What started as simply a newsletter, Social Group Magazine, continues to be printed. While our web content under the banner of Haglington Media now includes online newspapers.
We have come a long way from the days when some in the press held us to ransom, refused to feature us in the editorial, and often tried to sell us advertising space at exorbitant rates in order to get any exposure.
Of course, all those who offered any kindness or helped us in any way over the years, we are very grateful to, and always take every opportunity to repay the favours. The internet was always supposed to be a web, and I make sure that those who were good to us now get lots of good publicity and benefit from our considerable network.
I am now told I am a social media celebrity and social entrepreneur, even though it's clear most people still haven't got a clue as to what I actually did and where I am heading with all of this. I'm sure some journalists view me as a curiosity, believing I had a good idea in 1997 and that was as far as it went - with them unable to grasp how much further I have taken things since. No-one gets just how far this can go. Many still haven't caught up to where I was in 1997, let alone be where I am this year.
I am recognised by some as having invented the entire social sector of the economy. At the same time, it's amusing that others now find it difficult to believe. You've got to laugh. Years trying to tell people what I'd come up with, then years with people not believing I actually came up with the concept and named it in the first place - all those deaf ears, now finding it preposterous that it might have been what I was trying to tell everyone!
I always expected that eventually the world would catch up and someone who 'got it' would want to put some serious money behind me or buy me out. However, there are signs that some have started to open their minds. Some in business in the UK and in the British Government do appear to have finally understood at least a portion of what they have been missing out on.
As founder of The Social Group, and the one who started all of this, I find myself at the heart of all things social media and social networking. I am Managing Director of Social Group Enterprises Ltd. (an independent social enterprise), Editor of Social Group Magazine, and Chief Executive of Haglington Media. Through our Moor Business consultancy, we offer advice to people about how to make use of social networking, as well as offering a range of social media marketing services.
I am currently writing the autobiographical "THE MAN WHO INVENTED SOCIAL NETWORKING", where much more of what we have had to cope with, how badly we were treated by the British Government, how much damage certain individuals caused, and what really went on 'behind the scenes' in a lot more detail will all be revealed. We have a lot of very funny stories to include, and are certain people will not believe the half of it. Any publishers interested in publishing our remarkable story of all things social, please get in touch.
ANDREW HAGLINGTON http://twitter.com/AHaglington
THE SOCIAL GROUP http://www.thesocialgroup.uk.com
NATIONAL UK SOCIAL GROUP http://uksocial.wordpress.com/
DEVON SOCIAL GROUP http://www.devonsocialgroup.com
CORNWALL SOCIAL GROUP http://www.cornwallsocialgroup.com
SOMERSET SOCIAL GROUP http://www.somersetsocialgroup.com
BRISTOL SOCIAL GROUP http://www.bristolsocialgroup.com
SOCIAL GROUP HOLIDAYS http://www.socialgroupholidays.com
MOOR BUSINESS http://twitter.com/MoorBusiness
SOCIAL GROUP MAGAZINE http://twitter.com/SocialGroupMag
HAGLINGTON MEDIA http://twitter.com/HaglingtonMedia
Taxes on travel are making it difficult for any but the rich to be able to afford to move around. Whether you travel by car, train, bus, boat, or plane, the government are making it too expensive to move.
It's the big TRAVEL RIP-OFF!
Train and bus fares are taking a big slice out of the wages of commuters. For some, it's hardly worth going to work!
Petrol tax is currently an outrageous 57.95p per litre and the government are intending to use the budget to raise this to 60.95p per litre! Not surprisingly, instead of petrol being relatively cheap, the UK has the most expensive fuel in Europe, crippling our economy by making all goods stupidly expensive and preventing people from being able to go where they wish. Many are now calling for petrol tax to be abolished completely so that the private sector can boom and make the country successful again!
Flight taxes are an obscenity. Unethical and unfair - steadily making it impossible for any but the rich to be able to afford to enjoy an international holiday! In our view, this is an utter disgrace! Travel is one of life's greatest pleasures and both educational and a boost to health. In short, it's good for everyone! It's not the role of the government to stop everyone but the rich from being able to afford an international holiday!
We are supportive of a lot of what the government are trying to do, but we don't feel they are considering just how tough they are making life for people who don't earn over the average wage of £20,000 p.a.
According to reports on Twitter, the UK Government's increased spending and refusal to cut the wages of those earning £100,000+ in the public sector, has made the national debt even worse. It is now over £1,000,000,000,000 ONE TRILLION POUNDS DEBT!
Quite simply, the government have over-spent and given away billions to the banks.Now they are ruining the economy and robbing you of a holiday to pay for their mistakes - while greedy bankers continue to be paid vast sums in bonusses, evn though their banks are not even making a profit!
Please support our campaign to abolish all tax on travel.
The British people work hard and are industrious and successful - they don't need the travel tax boot of the state on their backs!
We're currently pretty obsessed with the BBC sitcom Outnumbered, which is just wonderfully funny. Superb cast and wnderful writing. Not to be missed - and ideal for all the family! A first series has just been commissioned by the BBC, who know they are on to a good thing!
There was a really entralling film on Sky Movies called Hereafter, featuring three strands of a story about life after death experiences. Recommended! Also, if you haven't seen it, don't miss Despicable Me!
On Twitter, Milton Jones, Jack Dee, Jimmy Carr, Adrian Edmondson, Nino Firetto, and Steve Death have been making us laugh. While Julian Clary's insights into Plymouth where he is in panto have been lots of fun. Also, Ant & Dec have been a great addition to Twitter, as entertaining as ever.
Muscially, Adele seems to be everywhere still and must surely clean up at the forthcoming Brit Awards. This week saw a rejuvenated Madonna return to the spotlight in the UK with a guest star spot on The Graham Norton Show.
In the realms of sci-fi & fantasy, an advance trailer for December's The Hobbit has been released, and we are looking forward to seeing Edgar Rice Burrrough's John Carter Of Mars in 2012. Karen Gillan's Amy pond looks set to leave Doctor Who in the 2012 series, with rumours of something special for the show's 50th anniversary looming - possibly a multiple Doctor story. Terra Nova on Sky One looks like it might have legs, although Fringe appears to have lost it's way a bit.
Drama-wise, Treasure Island was great, with Eddie Izzard hinting at a follow up as Long John Silver. Also, the second series of the new Hawaii Five 0 is now underway on Sky One. Look out again for the comedy legal drama Franklin & Bash.
So plenty to get everyone through the winter months and to look forward to in 2012!
You may be interested in featuring the people who first came up with the name "social" for social networking / social media.
The initial Devon Social Group (now known as The Social Group) was set up as a provider of social networking and social events 7 years before Facebook and 10 years before Twitter.
So social networking is in fact British!
It all started after former ski technician Andrew Haglington suffered an injury, was registered disabled, developed ME Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and was left really ill and weak, and in a lot of pain. Following divorce, Andrew spent the best part of 5 years pretty much confined to bed and a wheelchair. Life was very tough for him and, unable to work, he became isolated and still in his 30's was left in the care of home helps from Social Services.
When it occured to Andrew that he could not possibly be the only person on his own, in 1997 he decided to try to gather together a 'group of friends' that anyone could join in and go out with. He decided to shorten the word "socialising" to "social", setting up Devon Social Group to run social events across a social network of people in South West England - thus naming what has grown to become a whole new sector of the economy!
With his idea being so very new, Andrew initially found lots of misunderstanding and resistance, with numerous people not getting it and doors slammed in his face. People he approached for investment to back his brand new concept failed to realise the vast potential of what he was talking about. It was just too far ahead of it's time and there wasn't a culture in the UK to back such a venture. As a result, Andrew and his second wife Cathy were left to try to build up social networking in the UK by themselves, leaving the Americans to claim the multi-billion industry as their own, as detailed in the movie The Social Network.
Instead, Andrew & Cathy have focussed more on people connecting and socialising on a more local basis, over the last decade enabling many thousands of people to make friends and enjoy a better social life. Many who have met through the couple's efforts have even gone on to get married and start families. And at the same time, lots has been done to support good causes and charities, raising awareness and raising funds.
The Social Group is now in the process of going national, with new branches opening across the UK.
Through their work as social entrepreneurs via The Social Group, and with them having such high profiles on the internet, Andrew & Cathy Haglington are recognised as social media celebrities. The British Library has preserved copies of their early web sites as being of historical importance, and there is widespread recognition of the vital role Andrew & Cathy have played in making social networking and social media what it is today.
Andrew is currently writing his story of overcoming illness to start up what has grown to become the social media sector - with a working title of "The Man Who Invented Social Networking".
Andrew & Cathy Haglington 08456 121 770 (12noon -7pm)
Nothing helps see a situation for what it is better than getting away and taking a break. The resulting view from the outside usually makes things clearer.
After a tough year of all manner of difficulties, including illness, injury, family bereavement, problems caused by the government, and a challenging economic climate - not to mention the constant rain, cloud, and dark days of the British winter - we really needed a holiday.
So it was great to be able to get away from it all and head off to the sunshine of a Caribbean Cruise with Social Group Holidays.
Landing in San Juan, Puerto Rico (think Majorca/Cuba/Miami), we soon found ourselves immersed in a local festival of flamboyant colour and passion, with stalls on the grass by the beautiful palm-fringed Condado beach, offering everything from mojito cocktails and tasty snacks (e.g. Caribbean Whole Roasted Pig) to live entertainment from a steel band and even a belly dancer!
Fun in the sun, and people making the most of being happy!
And no-one panicking about the collapse of the currency or the government imposing obscene levels of taxes guaranteed to destroy any chance of economic prosperity!
Yes, it's amazing how much better life can seem when you disconnect and escape being fed a constant diet of despair, fear, and panic by the media. It struck us at once how much less aware and how less worried the Americans we met seemed to be. Strange that, when the British have always prided themselves on how resilient we are.
Off then on the 18 storey cruise liner, 3200 passengers, 1200 staff/crew, with all you can eat for the duration, and different ports of call each day at exotic tropical islands off the coast of Venezuela. Beautiful white sand beaches, warm seas, wonderful snorkeling, blue skies, extravagant palm trees, and some exciting day excursions. But best of all, lots of good company and good times. And lots of smiles.
It does make a difference.
And isn't that the whole point. That life is very much a matter of perspective.
If you are in a room full of depressed people, the world outside seems a lot worse. If you are in a room full of happy people, the world outside doesn't seem so bad.
What do they say... "Absence makes the heart grow fonder"? If anything at all can make you appreciate home, it's being away from it for a while.
On a cruise ship in the southern Caribbean Sea, amidst 37 different nationalities, we met some very nice people from America, Canada, Puerto Rico, Russia, France, Germany, Romania, Denmark and all over the world! But there was always a special thrill to meet someone from back home in the UK and that special bond of being countrymen.
The one thing that really stood out for us was being reminded just how special our nation is and of the unique standing we have in the world.
Here's hoping the opening ceremony of the Summer 2012 Olympics in London is not a complete cringefest and instead manages to be a truly classy "Cool Britannia" affair that gets over to the world what a rich culture, past and present, we represent and embrace.
So keep smiling people! The darkest days of winter are now behind us and it will soon be spring.
Summer lies ahead.
So let's all try to have some OPTIMISM and do all we can to BRING BACK THE GOOD TIMES!
And please everyone... do all you can to defeat government plans to further increase taxation on travel and flights! Because, especially when times are tough, we all need to be able to take a holiday. And we can't allow them to take that away from us.
* UK short breaks
* Brittany weekends
* Egypt & Red Sea
* Thailand - Bangkok & Phuket
* Western Australia * Central America * USA - Miami, Key West, & Caribbean Cruise
* USA - California * USA - Las Vegas & National Parks