Social Media, smart phones and the Internet. All things that are as intrinsic to our lives as breakfast and eight hours sleep. I wouldn’t go as far as saying this has happened almost overnight, but in the years since I’ve left school, the western world and the daily lives of most people in it, has changed dramatically.
The spinal column of a day in our society has had its vertebrae irrecoverably shifted in merely the last few years – human behaviour is changing before our eyes. The merits of the Internet and its oft maligned (and increasingly ubiquitous) offspring – social media, can and will be argued by men much smarter than I. It is curious however, to ponder on how much it is now dictating our lives. I am an avid and unreservedly addicted user of several channels of online social platforms, both in a business and professional sense. I was a latecomer to the ever-powerful Facebook – but once I was in, I was absolutely in. What started off as something I’d check once a day has progressed to something that is now as ingrained and automated as blinking or breathing. More and more over the course of the last year, in moments of finding myself with no visual stimulation I’ve noticed my hand moving towards my phone, opening it and scrolling through my Facebook feed. It’s become an increasingly wired and unconsciously mechanised behaviour. Not unlike any addiction, the mere presence of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at my fingertips has subliminally indoctrinated my natural impulses. The act of sitting and doing nothing is gone from my life. The tasteless and forgettable rot that is corroding my consciousness through the screen of my IPhone has infected my ability to simply sit, the most simple of tasks. My thoughts can’t be thought in peace anymore, the traffic from social media is sending smog through my brain, its inanity irrelevant – I’m a slave to it. It’s a scary thought for me and it’s a terrifying one for children being brought up with social media and the smart phone revolution already hitting its strides – they won’t have the jarring sense of perspective the rest of us do. They won’t see photos of themselves in actual physical photo albums and realise the extremes to which their lives have shifted from the very real to the very, very murky and worryingly manufactured version we show the online world.
I’m not a behavioural psychologist nor am I any authority on mental health, however I feel that these online lives we fabricate and trim and prune like a shrub, are having ramifications on our society. There was a time before Facebook, when people went overseas and only their close friends and family would be privy to this information – now its there for all too see. Christ, there was a glorious time not so long ago when we didn’t know what everyone ate for dinner/breakfast every day. We have become acutely aware of what the deepest and most distant of our acquaintances are doing, the same can be said for ex partners and people we’ve fallen out with. We post our lives online, like clothes pegged to a line, to showcase the most glamorous version of our lives to anyone who’ll click or scroll past. Most horrifying of all, we are buying into online versions of other people’s lives and wishing that we had something similar. An engagement has become an event that is a cornerstone moment of someone’s Facebook life, the nature of the online announcement seemingly given as much thought as the commitment itself. We are bombarded with images of people’s lives happening and happening well. Beach days in Bali captured with captions like ‘How’s your Monday going?’ We are begging each other to be jealous of our lives, snapping and posting our way through holidays so people are intimately caught up with just how good life is when you’re not in your actual life. Humans are brilliant beasts, but we are followers and creatures of habit. It is this habitual nature of social media that irks me – why am I scrolling a newsfeed riddled with pictures and updates about people I generally wouldn’t go out of my way to catch up with? People’s anxieties are being fuelled and their attention spans are shrinking, resulting in people wanting to do everything at once but not having the ability to knuckle down and work towards it without moving onto their latest desire.
The Internet age has given birth to a shiny new world of opportunities – many of which I have harnessed for the betterment of my personal and business life. While in many ways our boxes of possibility have been expanded exponentially since the advent of the web as we know it, it is also creating an online cacoon for us to hide in. It has the power to create dangerous illusions of happiness and warped delusions of what we want from our own lives and when. Obviously these are generalisations and everyone is affected differently, but it is becoming increasing clear that we need to filter our social media consumption with a consistent stream of the realities we wish to create for ourselves in the real world – not the online one.