by Rebecca Flynn
Every morning, I set off on my journey from Leeds to Huddersfield. I work in various schools around that area and more often than not I'm darting through the station, zig-zagging between the influx of commuters arriving in Leeds. Most days I stop at the platform and take my phone from the zip pocket of my backpack to flick through, interchanging between Facebook and Instagram. I look up, glance around at my fellow travellers, who are all looking down at their own illuminated screens. I look further afield, across the station.
At least 9 out of 10 people are completely still, apart from a thumb scrolling through endless triggering images and clever one-liners. We’re all looking at another world, one where we show only the best of ourselves. It’s a world of continuous chatter without a word of relevance; where cyber creatures known as trolls make light of real issues that should be taken seriously. It’s a world where 20 or more photos are taken, curated, adapted and edited in order to present the very best, most polished, quirky version of the truth.
Our sense of self is so intertwined with social media that technology has almost ceased to be a separate entity, and is instead an extension of ourselves; not just a way to communicate, but a way to be. We have time to carefully adapt everything we share, with every message instant and accessible day or night, and our entire friend pool at our fingertips. So, I wonder, is this constant social accessibility preventing us from having conversations with real depth and meaning? I judge myself here along with the rest. I’ve sat with my partner in a restaurant - having texted each other all day, pre-searched the menu online, chosen what to watch on Netflix – and found that neither of us have very much left to say.
So many flock to therapy with issues making and maintaining meaningful relationships. It’s an issue I can myself relate to – despite having friends and family that love me, and who I connect with wholeheartedly. I am blessed with an amazing support system, and yet I can't help comparing myself to the things I see online. Images upon images of girls with countless friends holidaying in Dubai and Vegas, and other pricey destinations. They’re never in the same outfits, rarely with the same friends.
I try my best not to compare; my life is full, I am loved, I have purpose. My life is full, I am loved, I have purpose. I use this mantra to battle the pressure of seeing someone else’s *best life* on social media, or that overwhelming worry that I’ve said or done something wrong in the group chat because that blasted “read” symbol shines blue and bold, with no sign of a response. All rational belief that the recipients are also in the rat race running about from one meeting to another evaporates; NO, they are pissed off with you or, even worse, it’s that you’re so insignificant that you don't warrant a response.
I’ve been in a lot of group chats where nothing important was being said, and even less of it made me feel any closer to the others in there. Part of this is because I moved away to the other side of the country and I miss a lot of the banter. But eventually having the continuous online contact actually began to reiterate that distance every day. I'm no longer there. I’m here but have one foot in, privy to the Saturday night plans I can't attend and jokes that I didn’t hear. It was a continuous bombarding of events to remind me that I wasn't really involved any more.
So I have a suggestion, and it’s something I’m working on. I’m going to try being in the here and now, and make a real effort with the people that I’m actually geographically close to and connect with. I’m leaving the group chats, and trying to talk to the people who matter on an individual basis. I won’t rely on the group dynamic anymore, but will make contact with friends and see them in real life, to talk and listen – to ask how they’re doing. Social media is a powerful tool, but only when it stops simply being about image. I’m going to put my phone down, live in the present…and stop showing off. I’m not great with diets, or not eating cheese, and I missed the whole January deadline to give something up. So, instead, I'm going to bite the bullet and give up all social media in February. A cleanse. A sort of “practice what you preach” kind of deal. See you on the flip side 😘
Rebecca is a long-time friend of Harpy and self-employed ABA autism tutor. Read more of her words here.
Title image: holoholo/Adobe Stock