Social media scares me shitless. Sorry, I know I shouldn’t say that out loud. My children would be horrified (that’s not true actually, they hear me swear so often, they don’t even pause mid conversation to point it out anymore. They know the F word isn’t Fat. Because they’ve been passengers in my car since birth.)
Anyway. Back to the point. Shitless.
What is it about social media that makes even the least social among us want to share our innermost thoughts with 434 people, 400 of whom we haven’t seen since primary school? What is it that makes us feel the urge to share our children’s achievements, our undying love for our significant others, our sporting prowess, our holiday bliss; even a picture of the burger that we had for lunch, that could seriously feed a small African nation?
Or, for that matter, our rambling thoughts on running, or running around?
There are some pretty scary articles doing the rounds right now, detailing how social media exploits weaknesses in basic human psychology to create a cycle of addiction. Shares and Likes are compared to a drug hit, creating a release of dopamine, causing the user to post more, seeking “just one more hit…”
And the Trainspotting generation knows how that turned out.
What scares me most about social media, is not the fact that it was created to be addictive, and that it is being continuously developed in order to be even more addictive. That’s just business.
What scares me most is that part of this on-going search for ‘friend’ approval in the form of likes means that users post what I think of as ‘Facebook Moments’. You know, those moments that happen in between real life, when your children are hugging each other and laughing with their heads thrown back in gay abandon, instead of viciously and unapologetically trying to suck the joy out of each others’ lives. When your significant other brings home flowers ‘for no reason’, instead of walking into the house with his phone attached to his head and nary a glance in your direction. When you are basking in the amazingness of your perfect family, not screaming like a banshee at someone, anyone, to hang up their own bath towels. Those moments when even your cat is quietly curled on your lap while you work, not spraying your brand new curtains with a stench that will only leave the room when you burn the place down.
Don’t get me wrong. My life does not suck by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, it’s pretty damn cushy, as lives go.
It’s just that it is so far – so very, very far – from what I project on Facebook. I like to think this is true for most people. That their lives aren’t all margarita sipping and freshly-painted toenails on white sandy beaches; surprise romantic mid-week getaways, and glowing children on their first day of school. (I couldn’t take pictures of mine, there wasn’t a single smile in the room. My face included.)
What worries me is not that I will mistake these Facebook lives for real life, because I am old (as my children remind me), and wise (this is not part of the reminder).
What worries me is that my children, when they gain access to social media of this ilk, will. That the constant bombardment with Facebook moments will result in them feeling somehow less than they are. Less beautiful. Less talented. Less lucky. Less loved. Less happy. Just less.
What worries me is that they will spend their lives trying to measure up to a version of life that is unattainable, because it is not real.
Despite my age and my wisdom, there are days when trawling though Facebook makes me feel Less. When Facebook moments make my – beautiful, lucky, loved, happy – life, feel like Less.
And there are days when I worry that my Facebook moments make other people feel like Less. And make other people think Less of me too.
Also, there is this large part of me that just feels plain weird about putting pictures of myself, and my family, out there. That feels intensely awkward about sharing my rambling thoughts with my 215 ‘friends’ (I just checked. I really over-estimated my friend circle when I started writing this column.)
It’s like forcing people who barely know you, to trawl through your holiday photos – with an accompanying monologue about a sport that possibly only interests 2% of said friends.
Which is why my posts on Facebook, and my www.runlikeamom.co.za blog posts, have been so few and far between of late.
The problem is that social media has become part and parcel of our lives. I not only rely on the likes of Facebook to keep up with family and friends from afar (and even those who are quite close but who I so seldom get the chance to see), but also for my daily news feed and entertainment in the form of specialist media that I choose to follow.
Ok, and I watch those funny cat videos too.
Maybe the problem is not social media. Maybe the problem is that I am old(ish). And while this does make me wise in the real world(!), it also makes me rather naive in the world of social media.
Maybe the problem is not so much a fear of social media, but more a fear of the unknown.
And maybe the best response – given the fact that this is the world which my children will inhabit – is not keeping this world at arm’s length and so remaining in the dark, but rather embracing it and so gain a better understanding for both myself and my family. So that, when the time comes, I can help my children navigate this weird, wired world.
I guess that’s my way of saying you may be hearing a little more from me this year on Facebook. And who knows, maybe even some other channels. But be kind. Because I still feel weird posting stuff on social media. #SociallyAwkward