Lately there’s been a lot of discussion in the news about the impact of social media on our lives, both online and, increasingly, offline as well. Much as traditional print media has been maligned in the past for promoting unrealistically perfect images of women (and men) in the pages of glossy magazines, attention is now turning towards the shiny new digital world of Instagram, Facebook and other social media sites.
In relative terms, the online world of these social platforms is still in its infancy, compared with traditional press. The speed at which new apps come and go is scary. Anyone remember MySpace? What about Friends Reunited? Back in those days it was all so new, shiny and exciting, no-one even gave a second thought to how these young upstarts might develop and morph one day into the world-dominating behemoths of today’s digital world.
Those of us ‘Generation X-ers’ (those born between the mid-late 1960’s to around the early 1980’s) were maybe initially a little sceptical about putting our lives out there in cyberspace, making our first tentative digital footprints in the virtual world. It was all a little too Orwellian perhaps for some of us. ‘1984’ and all that. Now you can’t stop us from hanging out all of our metaphorical dirty laundry. Every meal out, every little pit-stop on the highways and byways of life. It’s all there in glorious detail for everyone to judge, envy, pity, gossip about. Well, that last sentence was a bit of a slap in the face. Took me by surprise too!
I bet not one of us over the age of 40 could have imagined how this would turn out. I, for one, would never have thought there’d be a time when I’d have to steel myself to NOT check my phone because I really, really needed to pay attention to; where I was walking, to the person talking to me, to the traffic, to whatever it was that was happening – right now – in the real world. Now we’ve all become addicted. And I’m pretty sure it isn’t good for us.
How many friends do you have on Facebook? Go on, have a quick check. Is it 100’s? I bet you have more than you think. Now try to imagine all of those people gathered in a room together. Imagine you had to work your way around, spending 5 minutes with each person talking about whatever springs to mind about your shared lives. What would you say? Do you really have 5 minutes’ worth of conversation in you? How well do you really know these people? If we’re honest, I bet some of us can barely remember how we know them in the first place, never mind count them as a true friend on life’s journey.
And yet (here’s the rub), we somehow let our lives become one big comparison session with these people. We look at their ‘perfect’ families, perfect children, and perfect dinners (yes, I’ve been guilty of this too – the ‘oh look at my lovely meal’ plate picture – yawn) and think…oh my god..they’re so amazing, and I’m such a failure because I’m not going on holidays abroad every school holiday (because I’m BROKE most of the time, go figure), I work full time and they have hours and hours free every day to spend with their family (they probably don’t), they have an amazing wardrobe of clothes (charity shop? hand me downs? clothes swaps?), they’re soo0000 skinny (dear reader, I’m fat and frumpy again have you guessed?).
See where this is going? It’s not healthy and it’s very much in all likelihood a bunch of assumptions anyway because no-one’s life if perfect. No-one’s. You’d have to be a holier-than-though saint not to look at perfect beach holiday snaps and feel a pang of envy. I really don’t think it’s helping any of us, and I for one have certainly more than halved my social media time lately because I feel myself being sucked into the vortex of comparison.
Try to remember what life was like before the IPhone. What on earth did we fill our days with before swiping and scrolling became a thing? I actually am struggling to remember, and that in itself is quite scary. I feel like I must have read a lot more, got outside a lot more, and talked to people face to face or on the phone more regularly too. Perhaps we were all perpetually bored? I really doubt it actually.
We got out there and lived life in glorious, real, grubby, dirty, full-on, full-fat technicolour, that’s what.
Try this : Have a scroll through your last year’s worth of Instagram or Facebook posts and think for a moment about how you come across to others. Do your pictures and posts have perhaps a slight element of ‘smug’ about them? If you didn’t have the immediacy of the digital landscape in the palm of your hand, would you bother to relate this moment to a loved one over a drink or a meal? Is it really newsworthy? Be honest. If you didn’t know you, would you look at these pictures and think ‘Wow! that person has an amazing life’? I bet you would. Be grateful for everything you have. I’m sure you are, but be more grateful than you ever thought possible. Starting today.
Now go out there in the real world and live that amazing (and many times not so amazing) life with real friends and real people, not a manufactured for the camera, stylised version of you.
Originally posted 2017-04-11 21:57:48.