This week I decided to reboot and revert to my default setting. I reclaimed my life.
Why? Well it’s easy to blame the explosion of social media in all its myriad forms. So I will.
I knew the part of my life controlled by electricity and wi-fi had taken a depressing turn for the worse when I found myself on facebook leafing through the fourth birthday photos of a child posted by one of my ‘friends’. Nothing unusual in that. Lots of happy smiling faces, a big birthday cake; harassed parents clockwatching; toddlers being flung off a trampoline; flaccid bouncy castle; alcoholic party entertainer …you know the drill. It was when I clicked on image 187 that I heard a voice.
It was shouting “sad loser”.
And it was right. I had never met any of the children, or the parents, or the entertainer for that matter. In fact I had no recollection of ever accepting the mother of the child as a friend in the first place.
How strange. But it’s not is it? Most if not all of you reading this will be on facebook and like me you’ll have ‘friends’ who are actually anything but.
Do you know how much time we spend looking through other people’s crappy lives? Add up the five minutes here, the 10 minutes there and it will stagger you. And I mean really stagger you. Think about it. Is that what social media is about? Really?
The reaction to this road to Damascus revelation was swift and brutal. With a precision any surgeon would be proud of I took an electronic scalpel to my friends list and reduced it from 200+ to a hard-core of 35. Let’s face it, most ‘friends ’ are people you never actually want to meet, never have met and would happily cross a street to avoid. And as for inviting them round to the house, not on your nelly.
I found this an amazingly liberating experience. You should try it. My morning Facebook session is now contained within a couple of minutes rather than the 45 minutes it used to absorb.
And yet, I know some people are upset. They know they have been discarded. They wonder if it’s something they have done. Believe me, it’s not personal. It’s social media. It’s all make believe. It’s a second life. It’s all in the ether. It’s largely inconsequential. It means everything and yet nothing at the same time.
I have a very good friend who I used to work with who spends an extraordinary amount of time on facebook. (Incidentally he is among my inner circle of 35). He has over 1200 friends who he considers to be exactly that. He lives in a remote community and has a happy and active life. And yet last week he posted how deadlines were piling up and how there were never enough hours in the day. It struck me that if he spent less time on social media then he might hit those deadlines.
But it is of course horses for courses. Facebook friends allow you to eavesdrop on their lives and enter their worlds. But ask yourself …do you have all these friends because you are incredibly popular (and let’s face it not particularly fussy) or are their fascinating lives replacing the voids in your own? Ultimately the whole business is entirely voluntary.
For the moment I, for the first time in an age, have better things to do. Like running a business, maintaining the vegetable patch, trying to read more books, moaning, playing cricket and being a good and available husband and father. In other words being me.
Your real friends are probably not on facebook. You (gasp) actually speak to them most days rather than hide behind an electronic curtain. Think about it.
Don’t look on me as a pedant. I went to University last year and gained an MA in multimedia journalism with the vast majority of my studies specialising in social media. I can’t do without it. I am obsessed with Twitter…in a good way. It has replaced Ceefax as the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing I check before nodding off. However those who I follow are motley and transient, and as I get bored easily, I have clean outs regularly. No-one dies.
I guess we are searching for a balance. For me the balance went way too far the wrong way and now I have righted it. I now have control of my life again. And if I have to jettison a few ‘friends’ along the way so be it.
Well, must go. It’s my youngest son’s birthday this summer and I need to find a children’s entertainer. Hang on, I saw a great one on Facebook last week….now where was it…ah….bugger….