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Barack Obama warned about the irresponsible use of social media

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Former President Barack Obama told Prince Harry in an interview broadcast that people in leadership roles must be careful in their use of social media and warned against spending too much time immersed in the internet at the expense of the world outside.

Obama did not, however, directly mention his successor, President Donald Trump, who has made the use of Twitter a centerpiece of his presidency.

“All of us in leadership have to find ways to recreate a common space on the internet,” he said. “One of the dangers of the internet is people can have entirely different realities. They can be just cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases.”

He spoke with Harry in the prince’s capacity as guest editor of the BBC Radio 4 news program. Both men said the interview, recorded in Canada in September, was Obama’s first since leaving the presidency in January.

Obama suggested face-to-face contact would help counteract extreme views.

"Social media is a really powerful tool for people of common interests to convene and get to know each other and connect, " said Obama. "...But then it's important for them to get offline, meet in a pub, meet at a place of worship, meet in a neighbourhood and get to know each other."

"Because the truth is that on the internet, everything is simplified and when you meet people face-to-face it turns out they're complicated."

Obama said he felt serene the day he left the White House at the end of his second four-year term despite the vast amount of work that remained unfinished. He said it was “hugely liberating” to be able to set his own agenda in the morning to have the time to talk with his wife, Michelle, now that he is no longer president.

“I miss the work itself because it was fascinating,” Obama said of his eight years in the Oval Office, citing his health care reforms as one of his proudest achievements.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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