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Uncomfortable feelings towards social media

I do, but I don’t like it

I pick up my phone to check the weather and ten minutes later realise I’m watching a panda roll down a slide. I’ve become the computer that is actively doing a task with about twenty others in the background. Too much cat meme, notification popping, endless scrolling and feeding makes me feel like my internal hardware is running on overdrive and in desperate need of a cooling fan. On the tube, I look around and see the bored content scrollers around me and feel envious that I haven’t been bothered to work out how to get internet on my phone while underground.

Annoyingly, social media makes me feel uncomfortable because I’m not good at it. I wish I was better at it. I hate it, but secretly want to love it, conquer it and then knowledgeably give it all up (in that order only). I wish I was wittier, more creative and more liked. When I eat breakfast, I don’t think of symmetry, I’m too focused on drinking a flat white and eating a banana while doing the one hand email check. But I love #symmetrybreakfast — and I want that book! Green suits me but jealousy is the wrong tint.

This article will probably be shared on social media (here’s hoping!) Yes I know it’s ironic. The truth is however, I enjoy questioning and challenging social media for three personal reasons: it makes me laugh at how subconsciously addicted I am, I realise my inadequacies and on a deeper level I genuinely believe that social media is the sun and kryptonite rolled into one.

Laugh out loud addiction

GlobalWebIndex reports that in 2016 Internet users have an average of 5.54 social media accounts. What? Ok, realistically there’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, WhatsApp… Shit, I just started typing that arrogantly, thinking five accounts was an exaggeration — but there you go — I’m above average. Somebody should tweet about that.

If you’re not organised enough to manage the quintet, sextet, or octopus of content platforms you have, you will inevitably find yourself having more than one anyway, just for the sheer pressure to have a ‘presence.’ Plus it doubles your chances of success! I don’t mean career success, I mean feel-good success. I feel myself reaching for my phone to quickly light up the screen, just incase I’ve received a notification. I mean, I’m too busy to look at it in detail right now — but just incase — it’s good to know it’s there for later. Researchers are now referring to this as addictive reward behaviour.

Say something quick and meaningful

I’ve just found something out — a very important life lesson that needs to be shared to people who know (of) me so I can let them know this is a very important point (for me) to make. Should I post the same thing on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn? My perception should be genuine and well-rounded.

Quick, find something else smart that someone else has shared to increase your smarts by association and validate that post from the other day.

Does my opinion still have the same power if I haven’t summarised it in 40 words or less and devised a market-friendly hashtag? (not too many though, because that looks desperate apparently). Is an expert still an expert if their knowledge isn’t immortalised into a 30-second video that can be watched without sound?

The rules of engagement are complex and fluid. I’ve grappled with what my semi-immersion means — others have so much more presence than me! They’re just so creative in their posts! It’s mesmerising to watch but makes me acutely aware that my love/hate relationship towards social media means I feel inadequately prepared to join in. It’s a slippery slope and sometimes I’d rather just be the silent spectator on the sidelines.

Superman theory

Social media holds unbelievable power to make us feel more connected, more thoughtful, beautiful, knowledgeable — ‘alive.’ Interestingly, it’s been suggested that a happy status can have a profound knock on effect to others, a finding that suggests we can harness that power to create positive, large-scale movements that would be impossible prior to the digital phenomenon.

But on the flip side, there are implications that are subtle and still slightly uncomfortable. The profiles presented are an idealised view of our existence. It makes us strive and aspire, but in bullet speed can devastate an individual and make us question our own humanity. Issues such as anxiety and cyber bullying have been raised as cause for concern, but what is more subtle and personally more concerning, is how it changes our interactions to those physically in the room. Hello? What are you searching for? Competing for your friends’ or partner’s attention when there is a more knowledgeable and entertaining model in hand is not a future I imagined.

Like, ok.

Empowering and weakening at the same time, social media is the epitome of the best and worst of us. As part of the first generations that remember when the word social wasn’t attached to media, I have to admit that there are times where I want to turn off. Not sleep, but shut down the Facebook, Instagram, etc. routines of occasional invest and addictive reward.

I haven’t and I probably won’t, but it feels good to acknowledge my uncertainties from time to time, even if just for nostalgia value or some notion of Mr Robot sticking it to the system. I know I’m more comfortable when I’m conscious.

However the potential to keep relationships going that would otherwise cease to exist — for that reason alone, I’ll most likely continue to use Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn as connecting and stalking tools. It’s a cop-out after all my complaining, but at the end of the day, I’ve decided my engagement is amusingly passive with bouts of inspiration; and I like it. Other than that, it also means I can watch another panda video, which really just makes me smile.