Category: Social Networking


‘We are made to feel poor on thirty thousand pounds a year. To feel poorly travelled if we have been to only ten other countries. To feel too old if we have a wrinkle. To feel ugly if we aren’t photshopped and filtered.’ How to Stop Time, Matt Haig.

I hate social media.

I’ve referenced it plenty of times before and, yes, I’m aware of the irony of the situation but still, I bloody hate it.

I’ve ranted about the frustrating fakery and mundanity of Facebook before, but this quote in Matt Haig’s book highlights just how awful and problematic social media can be.

The main problem is it’s just so easy to manipulate. I’m not saying everyone who uses social media lies but I’ve encountered plenty of people who will use it to paint their lives as blissful perfection, when in reality they living a normal life that rises and falls like the rest of us. It’s so transparent and incredibly annoying, particularly when you know the person well enough to understand that they’re fabricating a false life online. Then, perhaps even worse is the attention seeker. The kind of person who tags themselves at the hospital and then signs off. No explanation. Lots of messages of support and well wishes. All to cause worry and get people talking about them. You wouldn’t do it in real life. You wouldn’t walk into a room full of family and friends and say ‘Oh I’m just off down A&E’, then disappear, allow them to panic about yours safety, then rock up hours later and explain you were only driving past A&E on your way to the post office. You wouldn’t treat your loved ones like that in real life so why do it online?

I’ve been 100% facebook free for almost a year now and I don’t miss it one bit.

Twitter, to me, is a different kettle of fish. It’s less personal, I’ve found, and you’re more likely to actually learn something or reach out to someone. It still has its annoyances but it is far more bearable than FaceyB.

Then there’s Instagram. I have an account and I could happily spend hours scrolling through my feed but I’m starting to understand the dangers of that too. I was one of these people who thought ‘Oh, God. Instagram. All those gorgeous models pouting and posing. It’ll never effect me.’ Wrong. It’s not until you’re almost on the verge of tears looking at the one hundredth posing, leather-skinned, tensed and airbrushed six pack that you realise just how much it’s effecting you. We’ve all been there. ‘WHY can’t I look like that?’ ‘WHY am I stuck at home whilst he’s posing topless on a beach and being paid for it?’ ‘Why can’t I go on all the holidays he goes on?’ ‘What am I doing wrong?’ ‘I’ll never look as hot as that…..’

WHOA! Hang on there. Suddenly I’m thinking thoughts that are against everything I stand for. It slowly gets inside your mind, robs you of your self-confidence and sends you into a miserable spiral of self-loathing.

If you’re not careful.

I’ve always been very proud of how far I’ve come and growing up I wasn’t really bothered what I looked like (and there are photos of the haircuts to prove it), but my personal social media boom does seem to have an impact on my thoughts. I’m more likely to stress out about not being able to afford a holiday, or go out on adventures or not living in the city I want to live in, because my Instagram and twitter feeds are full of people living the lives I dream of. I do have a thirst to do those things but my anxiety is certainly enhanced by watching other people document their adventures online. In reality, I’ve got a lot to be grateful for and my life is pretty full. I once advised someone to not compare their life to others, because it gets you nowhere, but I’m well aware that I need to take my own advice. I’m guilty of wishing for changes in my life and I always end up pining for the life of a city-dweller or a creative type.

Social media can be an amazing thing but I understand why so many people are unplugging. Sometimes I have to switch everything off, including the TV and the lights, spark up some candles and sit quietly, reading or soaking in the bath. It’s during this time that I’m at my most relaxed. When I’m switched off from the outside world. This is when I start to think more clearly and, often, ideas for writing will creep in. So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, sick of reading about misery, or bamboozled by the lives of others, unplug yourself, be grateful and remember no one is perfect.

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It’s Saturday. The high point of the week. The bottom of the countdown. I’ve been out to visit my family, as I do most Saturdays, and I’ve come back to the flat to carry out the traditional Saturday clean. I start in the kitchen and work my way through until every room is spotless. I feel like I can’t enjoy my weekend unless I’ve carried out this weekly routine. I check my phone at regular intervals. Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter. (No Facebook. I’ve mentioned before how I hate Facebook. In my opinion, it transforms friendships into cyber-friendships, and before long you’ve forgotten what this person looks like because you only ever communicate via memes of cats.)

On this particular Saturday, I’m feeling very perky. I’ve got my iPod plugged in and I’m belting out some classics as I scrub, because I am in a very good mood. Last night, I did something new. Something totally out of character that has recharged my batteries. Last night, I went out. Alone. OK, I didn’t go to a club or a bar, but I called in at my local theatre. I became a member late last year and have dropped in two or three times, so I vaguely know a handful of people.  On Friday they were having a bit of a get together so I got dressed up and strutted on over. It was awesome. Nothing major to report, but I was out, interacting with other people, face to face. Talking to people. And it felt good!

Don’t feel sorry for me. Put those tiny violins away, my friends. I’m pretty sure I’m just experiencing something a lot of people my age go through. The majority of my friends have moved away, got married, had kids, settled down etc. and I just…well…haven’t. No one is to blame. It’s just one of those things.

Anyway, I came back from the theatre on Friday with a great big smile across my face because I’d broken the routine. The monotony. I’d gone out!

Don’t think I sit alone in the flat every weekend. It’s not like that. I’ll occasionally go out with my wonderful work friends or visit the theatre with some old school mates, but most of my weekends follow the same template. There’s no spontaneity anymore. I never get a random text inviting me round and neither does my doorbell ring unexpectedly. That’s what I miss.

As a child, I remember how exciting it was to see the familiar car of a friend or relative who just thought they’d drop in for a cup of tea. That never happens anymore! I’m not just talking about in my own life but it seems to be a dying act. If anyone is going to visit you, you know about it, sometimes days, in advance. Is technology to blame? Has text messaging led to the death of spontaneous visits? Now I understand this isn’t for everyone. I would love it if someone thought to call in on me by surprise but I know my Dad hates having visitors, never mind unexpected ones! But it’s another arrow in my war against social media. Does it stop spontaneous visits? Even my grandparents tell me to call them before I visit to check they’re home (which I quietly refuse to do. If they’re not in when I rock up, I’m not bothered because I decided to visit them.)

It all boils down to my continuing argument – Does social media actually make us less social? Have we lost the art of being social?  Has the convenience of technology made socialising…well….inconvenient? And are we too caught up in creating false lives online that we forget to live real ones? When I was growing up I always imagined my life being a bit like ‘Friends’. People would drop in whenever, help themselves to my fridge contents and there’d always be someone around to have a coffee with. Now, I know that’s not really a realistic expectation, (and on reflection I’m not really sure I want you poking around in my fridge, thank you very much!) but it just shows how times have changed. Would Ross and Rachel be together if they met in 2017? This cynical sod says no, because they’d be too busy counting their Instagram likes to notice each other!

Anyway, here I am. Saturday. Hoovering the hallway, sink full of bleach water. Living room smelling like polish and incense. And then a sad realisation washes over me. Every Saturday I emulate my parents. When I was young, Saturday was the cleaning day. The house would be cleaned from top to bottom just in case anyone was to pop over. Twenty years later, I’m doing that in my own place.  Only, times have changed, and the doorbell doesn’t ring.

Bloody technology!

One of my very first posts – years ago, in an account that has been long since forgotten – was about the infuriation caused by Facebook. If it’s not sucking your productivity levels dry then its inhabitants are irking you with a barrage of lols and baes and TMI. I’m aware I may be morphing into a grumpy old man but it really does grind my gears! Settle in and prepare for a rant….

As this week is my one year blog-iversary, it only felt right that I revisit that topic. Especially as I still have so much whinging to do about it. Coincidentally, this weekend marks my tenth week of being Facebook free. Finding the ‘deactivate’ button was tough but after months of failed promises to delete I finally took the plunge… and I’ve coped much better than I thought.

I was a facebook addict. It had a grip on me. I’d find myself wasting hours scrolling through mindlessly dull posts (no offense to anyone on my FB friends list!) Sometimes I’d open the app on my phone without even realising. It had become a default action. I wasn’t learning anything. I wasn’t really doing anything. I’d just become passive. Staring at the screen, reading through rubbish. Snaps of people’s dinner. Mysterious statuses that, in reality, mean absolutely nothing. People checking in at A&E. (Why? WHY?! What possible reason could there be for checking in at A&E other than wanting attention? If I was at A&E with a genuine problem I’m sure the last thing I’d be concerned about would be CHECKING IN ON FACEBOOK! It’s made more annoying when people don’t actually state what’s wrong with them until the fiftieth comment, just to drum up a bit of tension.)

The concept behind Facebook is great. Stay in touch with all of your friends at the touch of button. But the reality is…let’s be honest….bloody annoying! Don’t get me wrong, the majority of people on my friends list I really do care about but there are some that just get on my nerves. I don’t care about your tea. I don’t care about your duvet days. I don’t care about your sodding holiday! (Alright, so I’m bitter about holidays!)

In the long term, I don’t think Facebook is good for your health. It’s easy to fall into the trap of sitting on the sofa for hours reading through the drivel, but that time could be spent more productively. Go for a walk. Watch a film. Read a book. DO SOMETHING. It’s also got to affect you mentally. You can sit reading posts about the fabulous holiday someone is having, or the swanky new job they’ve got or their perfect (non-existent) relationship and, when in the wrong frame of mind, it can really get to you. I went through a phase of thinking ‘God, what is wrong with me? Everyone seems to be off doing stuff and I’m not’. When in reality, I was doing lots of things. It’s easy to forget your own achievements when you’ve got 356 other people’s being shoved down your throat. When you’re at your lowest, having everybody’s perfect lives paraded in front of you is not what you need, but the important thing to remember is that Facebook is fiction. We’re all guilty of using Facebook to live out these polished, airbrushed lives. Very rarely do people post the truth. We like to show off what we’ve got and Facebook is there to allow us to rub it in the faces of the people we went to school with. That can backfire and leave you feeling pretty miserable, but you have to remember that a perfect life does not exist.

For some people, Facebook becomes something of an excuse. I know friends and friends-of-friends who think that by having you as a friend on Facebook gives them a free pass to not spend any time with you. They can go months without making the effort to see you because, as long as they have sent the obligatory message or wall post or comedy meme, they’ve done their bit as a friend. Facebook is doing a pretty speedy job of converting actual friends into cyber-friends. (Note: If you think deleting Facebook will shake your mates up into realising how much they enjoy your company and will spur them into spending more time you, just be careful, because it bloody stings when that doesn’t happen.) For that reason, Facebook can do the opposite of its purpose. It doesn’t just bring people together, it can drive them apart. It’s anti-social media!

In schools, there’s been a significant rise in disputes with parents, thanks to the wonderful Facebook. A number of parents (not all!) will take to Facebook to complain about their schools which then causes more problems than if they had just aired their opinions with the teacher. So teachers are defriending Facebook too. That’s before we even get into the chaos is causes between pupils!

Anyway, I know there’s a hell of a lot of moaning here, but a few weeks ago I had a bit of an epiphany. I was bored of Facebook. I’d planned to do lots of writing but instead I’d been distracted scrolling through the status graveyard. Frustrated with myself, I said adios to FaceyB and deleted. It hasn’t been a life-changing decision but it has certainly improved my mentality. I feel so much more productive. I’m putting more time into my work and finding more creative ways to bust any boredom. If I watch a film, I watch it. I don’t distract myself halfway through by checking FB and then lose the plot thread completely. When I’m out, I’m enjoying myself and my surroundings rather than gazing down into a phone screen. And I don’t have to put up with those ridiculous copy and paste posts which are ‘just for fun’. (Apparently).

So that’s the advice I’d give. Press delete. Even if it’s just for a break. Step away from the like button and start living again. Whether it’s for a week, a month, a year or even if you’re adamant on kicking the habit forever, do it. For the friends that you’ll miss, go and see them. Make the effort. Socialise! For the sake of your sanity, get rid! I guarantee you’ll notice a change.

 Brace yourself…the ‘New Year, New Me’ posts are coming.

You know I have a difficult relationship with social media. I use it every day, yet sometimes I absolutely despise it. The way people use it makes me so cross. One of my major gripes is people who create this perfect online persona – ‘Everything is great, we all love each other. Life couldn’t be more perfect’ – when in reality we all know he’s having an affair and the child is the spawn of Satan.

Anyway, another thing that bugs me is the annual ‘New Year, New Me’ status. We’re about to be inundated with them. People vaguely alluding to some crisis they’ve had recently and vowing to reap revenge or make a dramatic change in 2016. ‘2016 is going to be my year’, ‘No more Mr Nice Guy in 2016’. Oh please! Stop! Very often it’s the usual offenders posting the same promises every year.

I’ve been thinking about this and for one terrifying moment over the weekend I almost made the same the promise. I know. Madness! Reflecting on 2015, I thought about the good, the bad and the stressful of the last 12 months. After a bumpy start, 2015 turned out to be very rewarding – I became a teacher, moved into my own place, got reconnected with some amazing friends and made plenty of new ones. On the whole, a success. I’d have never predicted how kind the year could be last December. So it goes to show we don’t know what we’re going to get given, all we can do is make the most of each moment. However, this was the year of the PGCE, therefore I spent a lot of nights reading/writing/planning/preparing and my social life did suffer. So I do hope that in 2016 I can make more time for my friends and general social-ness.

2015 started with a bit of crisis. After a sickly Christmas, I rushed into the year a tired, anxious, frustrated mess. In January I turned 25 and I had a bit of mid-mid-life crisis (fingers crossed for 100). I began to question my life choices and sank into a low funk that I couldn’t dig myself out of.  It didn’t help that my family started to make hints about ‘settling down’ and (goodness me) ‘Growing up!’. It appeared that as I was close to securing what they saw as ‘a good job’, the next steps would be to ‘go out, find a girl and have children’. For Christ’s sake. *Takes a deep breath*. Those close to me know that this is not my cup of tea at all and I have my own opinions on marriage and children (which is another blog post you can look forward to!). How could I expect someone to attach themselves to me when I was feeling like I didn’t really know myself? One family member even told me that now I was ‘older’ I needed to wear more neutral colours – ‘the plainer, the better, at your age’. I questioned everything from friends to lifestyle choices to underwear (yes, I know, ask no further questions) and I realised I didn’t know who I was. In February, I accidentally discovered a secret that changed my circle of friends (sorry, now I’m doing it! Alluding to a secret! Please, forgive! I promise it’s relevant) and when I returned home as a fully-trained teacher I felt very much like I was building my life from scratch. In November, I moved home which kick started a chain of events that has led to me ending the year very differently to how it started. At the moment, I’m happy, confident and determined to have lots of fun in 2016.

This is mostly down to the freedom I’ve been granted since moving out. I can do anything I want now and I feel like I’ve finally started to express myself. When I lived with my parents, I couldn’t start the morning with a yoga session, have last minute gatherings of friends, burn incense in the bathroom or play music into the night because it disturbed the people I lived with (and I’m sure they’d have something to say if I slipped into down dog over breakfast). For the first time, I can be myself and I’m looking forward to exploring that more in the New Year. So what I’m saying is not ‘New Year, New Me’, but ‘New Year, MORE me.’ I want to be able to get to know this person I’ve carried around for 26 years. I want to express myself, try new things and live. Exist.

So here’s to a happy, healthy 2016. I’m not promising to stamp on all my enemies, see the world or anything dramatic. I just want to enjoy the good times and make the most of living. And if it doesn’t work out….well….there is always next year.

 

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that life would be a lot easier without Facebook. I have got a serious Facebook addiction. I can’t even explain why – is it because I’m nosy? Is it because I like to see how my (real) friends are? Do just want my ‘friends’ to know how I’m doing? Or has signing in just become a force of habit?

One of the first things I’ll do when I wake up is check my Facebook account on my phone. I crave that hope of finding out something juicy or someone reminded me of a funny comment or moment by posting it on my wall. After a few seconds scrolling, I get the come down. Instant disappointment.

Then, I might get up, have breakfast, a shower. Then, (If I’m lucky enough to have no plans for the day) I’ll turn on my computer to check my emails. Automatically, I’ll sign back into Facebook and get a glimmer of that excitement that something might have happened in the minutes since I last logged in. As usual, nothing, and the disappointment sets in again.

Then, of course, whatever I’m doing, I’ll check my account several times during the day. Sometimes absent-mindedly. Several minutes of work seems to constitute a Facebook break. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t keep away.

The majority of the time it makes me angry. I am angry at myself for sitting, wasting time looking at old photos, reading comments from months ago or spying on a wall-war. I am angry that whilst I could be working on the novel that I love, I choose to allow my brain to melt all over my newsfeed.

I also get angry by how it’s used. I will never understand why some people choose to post the most intimate details of their life on Facebook. Not only does it make me cringe that someone can discuss the ins and outs of their relationship so openly to people who (most of which) they hardly know, but also – I don’t care. I don’t care about an argument you had with your ‘so-called best friend’. I don’t care about the revenge you are going to get on your boy/girlfriend for leaving you. I don’t care about how naughty your children are and how much you hate their father. And I certainly don’t care about the water infection you had last week!

Some people will quite happily spill the cyber beans on Facebook about personal issues. On the other hand, status’ about the most mundane things equally irritate me. People don’t need to know what you’re having for tea – they’re not interested.

You might ask, ‘If you have so many reasons why Facebook gets on your nerves, why do you still go on it?’

The answer to that question is – ‘I just don’t know’.

On some level, it’s handy. I know that if I send my friends a message they are going to get it and if I urgently need to talk to someone and they are ‘online’ then it’s very convenient. Also, there are a core group of people who I do care about – my close friends – and I like to see what they are up to, especially if we haven’t got round to meeting for a while. But still, if I get to see what they’re doing every day it kills the conversation when we eventually do meet up.

Even whilst writing this, I’ve been distracted by ol’ facey at least twice. The only conclusion I can take from all this is that Facebook is the Devil of cyberspace and it is taking over the world!