I’m old enough to remember not having mobile phones, PCs and never mind laptops! A tablet was something Moses (allegedly) brought down from Mount Sinai and there was no Social Media. People had a Social LIFE back then. I remember card nights at the neighbours, whereas today people would probably play the latest Facebook app/card game against their neighbour and frantically click the LIKE button every time their score was higher than the guy next door. This instead of getting off their backside and going round in person. OK, it’s probably not that bad, it just feels that way sometimes.
Social media has lots of positives, especially when it helps you keep in touch with people you don’t see very often or at all, maybe living a long way away. I use FB mostly as an observer. Just being nosey on what other people are up to. I will use the private messaging facility from time to time to write to someone from “the old country”. I am not all that keen on constantly posting updates about trivial things. I will tweet on Twitter from time to time and post the odd photo on Instagram. I use LinkedIn a lot (basically Facebook for people who work), when I am researching people or companies during my job hunting. If there is one thing I wish I’d done differently, then this would be to nurse my LinkedIn profile when I was working and not playing catch-up once you REALLY need your connections. I have spent a lot of time nearly doubling my number of connections AFTER I lost my job. This could have been time better spent actually finding a job instead.
So, is Facebook, (in particular), just a way for self-indulgent people to self-indulge? Part of me would say yes and I am NOT one of them. Then I again, I am the one who started writing a blog! Go figure. Some people like to share, others like to over-share and others like to read about what others share about their lives. 2013 to early 2014 was a very eventful year in my life. If I was a TRUE Facebooker I would have been setting Facebook in overdrive! In just under 12 months I became a grandfather for the first time, I quit smoking after 30 years, I went on a diet to lose some excess poundage (So far lost 3st 8lbs / 23 Kgs), my mother died and I lost my job.
My wall would have been straining under the weight of my posts:
“Meet nameless grandson, codename “Barry””
“Isn’t he cute?”
“Look, he puked all over me today. Sweet :)”
“Day 1 and 3 hours of not smoking, so far I have saved £x and extended my life by 2 hours”
“Diet starts TODAY”
“Lost 2 lbs this week. Go me!!!”
“RIP Mum. Finally at peace”
“OMG, lost my job today”
And so on and so forth. Sit back and wait for a TORRENT of Likes and status replies and comments and updates and comments to comments and on and on and on.
Actually, looking back on my FB wall, I am definitely not a true Facebooker, you wouldn’t know any of this about me if you relied on my wall to tell you my news. When I go walking I use an app on my Iphone called Endomondo (other phones and other exercise apps are available!) For me it’s a great app. Not that I do much with it once I have finished my walk, but it keeps me going as every half a mile it tells me how far I have walked and how fast I am walking. However, when I stop the walk, the app has the option to automatically post some stats on my FB timeline. “I have just walked 6 miles in 1 hour and 25 minutes. I have burned 577 kcals and I am FANTASTIC” NOOOOO! STOP! I don’t even care that much once I have completed my walk and nor do I think any of my FB friends really care whether today I did 5.5 or 4 miles (“Oh, he’s slacking a bit. TUT TUT”)
Another downside of instant (anti-)social media is you no longer have any privacy to speak of even when something personal or upsetting happens to you. When my mum died late last year, I was out for the evening in Birmingham at a works social function. I had barely arrived when I found out via a phone call that things were looking grim and soon to be terminal. So, I left the party sharpish and within minutes got the call that she had passed. SO now having to digest the news, albeit it wasn’t entirely unexpected, I now had to face an hour’s journey on public transport to get home and also decide who to call and when. Wife and daughter at home, two sons at Uni in two different towns. Maybe it should wait until I could get home and tell two in person and then the other two by phone from the comfort of home. Six minutes after getting the news and less than 10 minutes after the death I am approaching the railway station when it suddenly dawns on me. “FACEBOOK! S..t” Quick call back to my sister, to ask if anyone is thinking about posting anything on FB, to please wait so I can tell my family first that my mum/their mother-in-law and grandmother respectively has just passed away. Too late, by about 90 seconds. So now I have to call my boys first, who are most likely to see updates from a cousin in Norway. Instead of the call from home, I am now standing under some railway arches, next to a busy street and it is pouring with rain. I got to one of them, but the other one had already seen the news on-line. At that point I HATED Facebook.
So, I could have deleted my account. I didn’t. I could stop being on Twitter. I didn’t. I could leave LinkedIn (Definitely not!). We can’t undo social media, and we probably should embrace it, but maybe, just maybe, we should just use it with a bit more caution and more carefully and respectfully? What do you think?