I joined Facebook in 2007. I didn’t really want to sign-up, nor did I particularly understand what it was used for. Especially when people I had not seen or heard from in years started poking me. But then some of the kids I went to school with started friending me, only they were no longer kids; they were proper grown-ups with jobs and families of their own. I trawled through their photos to see how kind time had been to them, and I was careful to only post my most flattering pics, in case they were doing the same with me. I was giddy with excitement as I poked, sent gifts, and played scrabble with friends I’d lost touch with years before, many I assumed I would never see again.
And, many I have never seen again, in person, but I love how connected it is still possible to feel with friends who live on the other side of the world. How easy it is to share photos with family you might only meet up with once or twice a year. Not to mention the old friends I HAVE seen again after finding each other on Facebook.
As someone who would rather not speak on the telephone unless absolutely necessary, it is much easier for me to ‘like’ a friend’s photo, comment on their status, or send a quick message to let them know I am thinking of them.
Although, this general acceptance of social media as a valid form of communication has made me a bit lazy with my nearest and dearest. Instead of calling, we send text messages, IMs, DMs, PMs or tweets. It is much quicker to ping a question to the Greek God(zilla) over IM than it is to call him, leave a message because he is busy at work and can’t talk, wait for him to call me back and then have a 20-minute discussion about it. This way, I can just message ‘chicken tonight?’ and he can ping back ‘sounds great’ or ‘not again?!’ depending on his mood.
Being able to send text messages is a fabulous invention for us phone phobics, of which there are more than a few in my life!
Before social media, I had to put in a lot more effort to keep in touch with family and friends, but in many ways I think my relationships benefitted from this. A smiley face emoticon can not possibly release the same endorphins that laughing for 20-minutes down the phone with your best friend can. And, an ‘I’m fine’ response to ‘how are you?’ can be easily recognised as ‘I really am not fine’ when you hear the true emotion in someone’s voice.
A dinner out was a chance to relax, unwind and talk about your week, not to instagram your food. Cameras were only taken out on special occasions and you’d ask a waiter to take your photo, not to be in selfies with you.
The end of the working day was just that. The end. You logged off your computer and went home and did not look at it again until you arrived back into the office the next day. Evenings were yours to do with as you pleased and there were no distractions or interruptions. I could invite friends over to drink wine and watch a film without feeling the need to send a single tweet.
Now it seems all the moments of our life are recorded and shared for everyone to pass comment on. There is no such thing as total and complete privacy anymore… says the blogger! We have conversations with each other in public view of everyone on our friends lists. And, as frustrating it was to have to go to a shop to develop camera film and wait DAYS to see the finished photos, at least the truly awful ones were not posted online and tagged before you had even finished your main course. You just tore them up and threw them in the bin.
I also had more time to myself before social media. Now I am available to everyone on my contact list ALL of the time. I am constantly accessible to everyone I have ever known, and a few thousand twitter followers that I have not.
There’s also the pressure to respond quickly online thanks to visible notifications stating the exact time the message was delivered and opened. Whereas, taking a day or two to reply to an old-fashioned email is unlikely to cause much offence.
I enjoy social media very much when used at leisure, but it can feel overwhelming to be so switched on all the time. I’ve definitely taken a step back recently and feel better for it.
There was life before social media and there should definitely be life after it too.