You are going to think I’m being a complete dick with this post, but stick with it. I’m not saying that I’m not guilty of any of the points made (I am), just highlighting them in a way that makes you think.
I have been planning this post for a long time & researching these issues for many years. Back in 2008/2009 I based my Masters thesis around social media & it’s uses in a virtual learning environment. After writing 30,000 words & creating my own Social Media platform I realised the many benefits of Social Media when used within a specific context (in this case to enhance University learning). Although I did uncover many drawbacks which at the time (when Twitter was almost new & Facebook very basic) didn’t seem too grand.
Roll on 7 years & social media has become an everyday part of our lives. I for one used to love Twitter, to be able to interact with your peers & the people you looked upto. It used to be a great place, a place of enlightenment and learning. Now it has gone the way of many great tools & become the place to air your dirty laundry or advertise your latest product.
Social Media seems to be intertwined with daily life in 2015. It creates anxiety when people don’t have access to it. Conversations which used to be between friends at face to face meetings or over an instant messaging conversation/email/text/call are now conducted in the public arena. People are putting their entire life on display & it’s creating some interesting issues for society.
Instagram is a platform I used to enjoy. To see interesting things my friends had found, nice sunsets & new additions to well-known places. Now it’s the preserve of the narcissist & the self editors. We use it to present our best selves, perfectly edited & staged to make it look like our lives are perfect & wonderful. This may be all well & good, but when you are living your daily life (which tends not to be some amazing daily adventure) and you are bombarded with images of great restaurants, beautiful cityscapes, 1st class travel, gorgeous people wearing fabulous clothes, it does tend to make you feel a little inferior. This self editing has led to a climate of jealousy & insecurity. It’s plain to see with our young adults who try to always present themselves immaculately for every occasion. Roll back to when I was 16 and I had no money, grunge inspired jumpers with holes in & the best friendship group you could imagine. We also went on adventures & have such epic stories to talk about to this day.
This insecurity can manifest itself in many ways & I myself (who should know better) have even experienced it. Perhaps you feel you should have a better job, your car is a bit crappy, all of your friends & peers are doing well while maybe you are having a tough time. Rather than bringing people together, social media is breaking people apart. A sort of competitive instinct has developed where you aim to show you are doing better than your peers, simply by getting better instagrams, showing flashier venues or nicer vistas. It’s all fake.
It’s the same story with Facebook. People use that not as a social media platform to keep up with close friends, but as a platform to vent their political/social/personal desires & frustrations. Every time I go on Facebook to check if I’ve had a message from one of my friends (I have friends dotted around the globe) I find myself looking on with sheer disbelief. People are either having intimate exchanges (between partners) in public instead of between themselves, or they are venting their latest political or personal vendetta and sometimes generally being bigoted and racist. It’s a completely pointless platform now. Facebook is the platform I hate most. They hide content from people I actually know & show me conversations between someone I know & someone I don’t. POINTLESS! They also introduced that idiotic share button, so everyone’s feed is now full of pointless crap. They have made it so people don’t use the internet, they just use Facebook. One finely tuned propaganda & marketing machine. Oh, and they censor posts (You can’t type the word Tsu for example, because you may be linking to the social media network tsu.co which pays users for the advertising they see). Unethical.
Next we have twitter. This used to be the preserve of the more techie & learned people. This was actually shown in a statistic but I can’t lay my hands on it right now (google “twitter users better educated” and you will see loads of studies). Essentially a study was carried out and University graduates tended to favour twitter over Facebook. Now twitter has become an advertising mecca for brands & self promotion. The interesting tweets get lost amongst the constant crap. Even if you trim your following list you still have promoted tweets to contend with. AD blocking cuts through them but it’s not the platform it used to be. Remember back in the day when you could text status updates to your twitter timeline? I bet few people remember that.
The social media landscape is now endless. Snapchat, Beme, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr and many more. All of them promoting insecurity & a luxurious, perfect life beyond our reach. Living everyday feeling inferior is a bad place to be. A life lived in the hope of one day living your dream life is a life wasted. Every day is precious & every day helps you build towards your own future, a future mostly dictated by the actions of right now.
I have found myself bowing to the pressure of Social Media. In my earlier posts you can read all about my attempts to live a more photogenic lifestyle (let’s just say it didn’t end well). This weekend I made a big change to stem this ridiculous digital ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’. I switched of the internet. More specifically I switched off all of my social media & notifications on my iPhone. I didn’t look at it once. My phone remained silent & to one side throughout all of Friday evening while we watched Children in need on the TV. We had fun, we cried, we ate rubbish food & donated. We actually had a really nice evening. I kept this up throughout Saturday & it was bliss. We got load of things done at home and had loads of time to spare. I’d advise you all to step away from your Social Media accounts during a set time each week. It’s called a blackout amongst the people who do it. Try an evening, and then a whole day, then who knows. It’s so liberating.
I’m not saying it’s all bad, but it is addictive, very addictive. It destroys your productivity too. I used to spend so much time reading content on the internet. Well written content from tech industry folks who I respected. I had a huge list of blogs & sites I’d go to for information. Nowadays, I tend to click only the links that are distributed on twitter. It’s bizarre and unhealthy. The internet was a great place before social media. Before baby scan pictures & your pets (I love your children & your pets, but it’s just not that interesting to the world all the time) the internet was filled with insightful writing & thought-provoking ideas. Now it’s an adword infested, self promoting pain in the arse which saps more time than I care to admit.
If you turn off your social media notifications on your smartphone & don’t open your accounts on your computer I guarantee it will give you anxiety. If I ask you to turn off your phone completely while we have a conversation, you will find a million reasons why you need to be reachable via phone. You don’t, if it’s an emergency (which it rarely ever is), someone knows where you are & can find you. I find the Smartphone has ruined old-fashioned face to face conversations with your friends. Checking your phone whilst taking to someone is like saying “I’m interested what you have to say, so long as a better offer doesn’t come up on my phone, so I’ll be checking that now and then to see if anyone more interesting is speaking to me”. The Smartphone infuriates me. It’s become such a vital part of daily life but such a burden in the process.
I’m guilty of most of the things I’ve talked about, but I’m working hard to take back my time & my social relationships with people. I’d rather meet you face to face for a proper catch up that I’ll remember, and I’d rather be interested in hearing all of your stories directly. I hate the “Oh, I saw you did that on FB/Twitter/other pointless platform” response. It kills conversation dead.
This is just the start of a series of posts I’m going to do on cutting the cord with social media. I’ve still not covered click-baiting, armchair activism, bullying & all the other wonderful things that Social Media easily allows. I’m not trying to suggest it’s all bad, it’s just becoming noisy. It’s less of a useful tool & more of a way to keep us distracted & entertained. As this isn’t an academic paper & I’m sure most people have stopped reading by now, I’ll leave it at that. I’d love to hear your comments on this though.