Paused for thought

Paused for thought

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Deliberations on my relationship with social media

I'll be honest, I have a love hate relationship with social media. At times I splurge every detail of my fairly mundane day over networking sites in the hope that someone might find the can of baked beans that upended itself onto my foot vaguely amusing and perhaps even reassured that they weren't the only ones having ‘one of those days’. On other occasions I'll share my intellectual thoughts of the day or the people who have inspired me and I've wanted to find out more about. Then I'll go quiet, still there, observing, but being quiet and keeping to myself that my 5 month old baby has uttered his first word or my 4 year old had taken his first wobbly moments on a bicycle by himself without stabilisers. Why does this fluctuation occur? Perhaps because finding time can be difficult? Perhaps because I have a moment of self-doubt and don't want to be that person who over shares, don't we all know one? I'll let you believe this but I know it's mostly because I allow myself to be influenced by others. I'm just about to post about my baby's word and someone else will post a photo of an immaculately turned out mother and baby at a wonderfully expensive baby sensory class, 177 likes and 83 comments of "aren't you both adorable" later and I've become deflated. Or my son will take those first wobbly steps to cycling independence and someone will post about their child who has just mastered using a knife and fork and I'll panic that I don't want to look like a show off. In some ways this is human nature, acting and reacting to those around us in a sensible and thoughtful manner is part of our social intelligence. Someone once said "the world isn't about you, not everyone will be obsessed like you are" and they're right. It's not. But human nature also allows for some of these thoughts and feelings to be propelled to the forefront and social media is the worst platform for sharing your own successes for this reason and, perhaps more importantly, because you can't see the reaction of your audience. Like sending a text that says "would you like to meet for a cup of tea and a piece of cake to discuss things?" (this, no joke, is how my husband invited me out on our first date). You have no idea of the tone and whether it's a good and happy occasion or a serious one. Through your posts you have no idea how your online friends will react. You hope, of course, that friends in real time and your family will take things at face value, but real time friends vs. online ones is a post for another day.

So I asked myself some fairly outwardly basic questions: Why do we feel the need to celebrate every minute detail of our lives? Would we do this in person? Waltz into a pub and declare to a room full of semi-strangers that your baby has cut his first tooth? Or that you had a haircut that morning? I suspect not. So what makes it acceptable to do so via an online social media site? We hide behind enhanced photos of sometimes fake or at best posed smiles. When was the last time you saw someone with their bedhead intact after a rough night's sleep for example? Or when someone has been caught in a rainstorm and their normally perfect 'do is slicked against their face, mascara running down their cheeks? Are we turning into Eleanor Rigby, but rather than keeping our faces in a jar by the door we actively encourage our privacy to be invaded and present our ‘face’ from the security and comfort of our homes, or maybe worse, we carry it round in our pocket with our internet enabled devices. Be honest, how many photos or ‘selfies’ have you taken in some wonderful location just to get the perfect one to present to the world as your profile picture?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I know how I feel today, but not tomorrow. I do wonder though if in an age of increasing social media platforms there might be a time, a place, perhaps in the not too distant future, when we wish we’d created more a honest and modest online version of ourselves.

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