Tuesday 24 February 2015


Like many people, I have a love-hate relationship with social media. Or a ‘Seriously, is this what it has come to?!’ relationship shall we say. As much as I know that technology is a freight train that is near impossible to slow down, sometimes I contemplate jumping off this speeding train of voyeuristic narcissism, into a nice boring field of luddites reading books and drinking chamomile tea without anyone having to know about it (happily I still read and drink tea, so all is not lost).

But in today’s voyeuristic culture, as we all have surmised from one glance at Facebook, for some reason people want and need to show everything. In some ways it’s a good thing. One can connect like never before, it’s a community of sorts in an age where communities are short supply (although I’m thinking we need more tangible ‘in the flesh’ communities as opposed to those in the cyber world, but alas), movements can be started, politics debated, friends reunited, and it’s a brilliant PR tool depending how you use the various platforms. 

Conversely, as we all know, it can also be a bad thing (for the above reasons!) as some are compelled to share every last solitary detail of their lives and do not feel like they exist unless they are doing so. I know this is a human compulsion that was not born with the Internet – our need to be seen, to matter, to exist, but now that we have the platforms to show the world we indeed exist, it’s safe to say that things have run amuck. People post what they had for breakfast; what their breakfast had for breakfast; how long their husband’s nose hairs are and so on. And as most of us have surmised by now, like ourselves, people choose to put their best foot forward. It’s not often you see someone posting a photo of themselves without make up, in front of the mirror in a bikini with their gut hanging over, whilst in a fight with their husband, with their child in the background screaming on the floor because there is no more cereal. BUT no, that would be far too real for social media. (And that would also be too much information, but it’s certainly never stopped anyone before).

There is also an in built pressure that goes along with things like Twitter, Facebook and the like, in regards to the 'friending' process. I’ve hated this whole side of things from the beginning and hence why I basically use certain platforms purely for work related matters (i.e. writing) and other social media avenues are kept much more private. But I’ve always been amazed by those that are actually shocked if one actually chooses to exercise some power over one's social media accounts. “You’re not friending me? Gasp, how could you? But I knew you 20 years ago, don’t you remember?!!” And you know that sometimes you feel the peer pressure to give in, don’t you? Go on, admit it, how many times have you been sent a friend request that you felt obliged to accept? (If you never have experienced this, you must not have been raised Catholic. My guilt is always rearing its head despite my having left the flock). You literally have that moment where you feel badly for not ‘friending’ someone despite knowing them for ten minutes when you passed them in the hallway in the 2nd grade. So note to all those that keep friending despite getting rejected or ignored the first time round. It’s not personal, honest, it’s a choice on behalf of the individual you keep trying to friend, for whatever reason that has nothing to do with you, that you should respect and well, move on.

I suppose from time to time, our society may want to ask themselves what drives our obsession with social media; then again, if you're not self reflective, perhaps you simply don't give a toss about why you cling to your devices like your life depends on it. [For me, it's solely to see how many creepy and hysterical John Travolta photos can go viral in a given year]. Is it to truly show the world how great we are, that we're cuter, better, thinner and more accomplished than the next guy with above average children/pets/relatives who can succeed at anything and travel to the coolest places, whilst eating the best food? (And of course most of these boastful posts are crude exaggerations or mere glimpses of reality that make life a lot more serene and utopian than it really is). Or is to purely scream to the universe I'm here and I'm leaving a big fat footprint so that when I die, someone will know I existed (or of course, it could be, and most likely is the third option: advertising and marketing at its finest and most pervasive, disguised as harmless connection).

Sadly from where I sit, social media and all its offshoots are as much of addiction as any other. Have you ever tried not to look at email, tweet, Facebook or Instagram for an entire week? Not easy is it? I usually try to do this once a year around Christmas as we head off to the sticks with no Internet in sight. It's not easy at first and often my hand for the first few days keeps reaching for my phone like an awful tick, but after a day or two it's frighteningly liberating and I realise that barring a few work emails that can certainly wait until after Christmas, every thing else can wait, or simply, isn't that sodding important. And of course I find that I'm more present with every task, and more importantly, the world didn't stop spinning; the King still grew and accomplished things (or didn't). My relationship with my husband still carried on in all it's bumps and glory, breakfast was eaten, words were written, and yet, gloriously, the world didn't have to know about it. 

Copyright © 2014 Anthea Anka - Delighted And Disturbed