Social Media Is For Idiots

I got Facebook when I was eleven. Facebook says you have to be thirteen, so when asked for my date of birth, I put my sister’s, who actually was thirteen.

Facebook was not the first social media account that I had. There was MSN, MySpace for a year or so, although I rarely used it. I had made a Bebo account and used it only a single time because my older sister, Jess, set it up for me, using a password neither of us could remember. Facebook was not my first foray into social media, but it has definitely been the one I have used most.

When I was fifteen, my dad decided that he wanted Facebook. My dad is by no means a technological genius. He texts at snail’s pace, using only one finger. In a little nook of our kitchen sits an ancient and barely functional landline telephone only used by him, forever taking up space because he can’t stand the thought of figuring out a new one. Just yesterday, he was trying to persuade me that I should use the road atlas he put in my car (the one that’s at least 50 years old, and lacks not only major roads, but a fair few towns as well) instead of a sat-nav for my journey to Scotland.

“But Dad,” I said, “How am I supposed to read a map when I’m driving?”

“You read it before you leave,” was his reply.

“But Dad,” I said again, “I can’t remember the entire journey to Scotland. Besides, the map is lacking some roads and towns that I might need. My sat-nav also gives me up-to- date traffic news alerts. Can your map do that?”

Dad muttered something about technology making us lazy and walked off.

So it came as a big surprise when Dad wanted a Facebook account. Did he even have friends to keep in contact with? He only added five people (and today, five years later has less than forty ‘friends’). He didn’t need it for news, as he had subscriptions to four different newspapers. He didn’t need it to send people messages, as he wrote his friends letters and formally worded emails. So what possible reason could he have to get Facebook? Jess and I soon uncovered the truth (mum told us). The real reason he wanted Facebook was to keep an eye on us. Jess had recently turned seventeen, and I was fifteen, and he was worried that we would be going to wild parties and bringing shame and dishonour to the family with our crazy, teenaged antics.

There were many aspects of Facebook that he was naive to, though. People do not post their entire lives on it, although it might seem so. There is a selective process on the photos you post and the stories you publish. If you know your dad has you on Facebook, you will not, for example, post pictures of you throwing up in a toilet after one too many underage vodkas.

You might think that Jess and I would want dad to stay away from Facebook, so we could be less careful about what we posted, but actually, the opposite was true. We tried very hard to involve him in it more. Trying to get him to add more friends, share posts, to go on it more.

We laughed at him when he replied to a message three years after it was sent.

We teased him when he shared a post and was surprised none of his seven contacts saw it in their timelines full of friends.

We mocked him when he told us we should send letters instead of messages, and meet up with our friends instead of liking posts.

We thought he was an idiot for not having social media. 
 Well, until recently.

He is still great friends with his four best friends from thirty years ago, despite not having group messages and liking all their posts. He arranges to meet with them at least twice a year for these grand weekend getaways, despite them living all around the world. They make stories. Dad has thirty-four friends on Facebook, and I have nine hundred. I have friends around the world, and am constantly updated on their day to day lives. And yet, I am lonely. I have lost touch with people, despite how small the world has become thanks to social media. Instead of arranging to meet up with friends after school, I would just message them online. And when we do meet up? Well, we already know what everyone’s been up to — the places they’ve been, the people they’ve seen, the books they’ve read, their thoughts on the new show or film. Even their new love interest, I’ve seen their Instagram and know everything about them too.

So we act interested in stories we’ve already heard, feign smiles for selfies our followers will scroll past with disinterest, and then sit together in silence until we feel an acceptable time has passed for us to leave. Then we repeat this week after week, like idiots.

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