And it all culminated in one particular moment…
Travelling back from a meeting in London, my train hits a black hole. Not in the cosmic sense, but something far worse – I lose signal. No Facebook, no Twitter, no Flipboard, nothing. Floundering around, my eyes stare out of the window desperately looking for some entertainment; perhaps an advertisement with less than 140 characters, or someone ‘checking-in’ to the Sussex countryside. No matter how hard I distract myself, my mind keeps repeating one thought: “I wonder if my 3G has come back?” It was in that moment, my eyes permanently fixed on the top left of my screen, I started to worry. You see, what scares me is we’re not just experiencing a cultural shift towards online communities but fast approaching the grey area between enjoyment and dependency.
And, what’s worse, it seems that the online world is so integral to our everyday lives that we’re unable to recognise the times it’s holding us back. I sometimes let my imagination wander to a future where we finally crack, and come face to face with our potential addiction to social media. It places me in a small room, sitting in a circle with fellow follow-holics. We share the pain of our addiction to poking mates, befriending strangers and taking arty photos of Starbucks mugs.
One of my friends recently quit Facebook, something I’ve thought about doing for a while. “The problem is,” he insightfully told me, “that social media becomes an impression of our real lives that calls itself ‘reality’, without actually providing the many benefits of tangible friendships and relationships.” I think he got it spot on – we invest so much time in a virtual community and virtual friendships that don’t bear the same fruit as tangible ones. Some people would argue that online socialising is just as tangible as its offline alternative, and provides just as many benefits. But in my opinion the moment you have to ask yourself whether online communities are more valuable than offline communities, you’re in real trouble.
So, why don’t I commit social media suicide and disappear from the online realm? The problem is I see its value as much as I see its downfalls. I’ve kept up-to-date with breaking news, come across great articles, met some cool people, had success with a start-up and been entertained through comic tweets. It’s such a powerful tool, and I admire it for that. And there lies the contradiction. I’m constantly thinking about both the benefits and pitfalls, and often find it hard to find the middle ground. I’m slowly getting to grips with a solution that works for me, and it doesn’t mean cancelling my accounts and throwing my iPhone in a river.
Think of all the things you can achieve in the time you spend aimlessly looking at people’s photos and reading endless statuses. For me, checking social media first thing in the morning and late at night is worst – because it’s time I can spend reading, praying or simply resting. Once I keep tabs on using it during these times, I don’t feel so bad. One friend made a pact to never check Twitter when they’re in company. That way they make the most of the time spent with friends and family, without getting a fix of social media during lulls in conversation. I suppose that’s the key – making sure you’re comfortable with the amount you’re using it and ensuring it’s not having a negative effect on your time management and productivity; often a hard balance to strike.
My imagination wanders again: I’m back in the small room. I stand, clear my throat and make a confession. “My name’s Dan, and I’m a recovering Twitter addict.”
threads asks: Are you a recovering Twitter addict? Or do you feel no need to commit social media suicide?