I have never been a huge social media advocate. And when I say advocate, I really mean user.
I jumped online at their weird time between MySpace and Facebook, where no one was sure where to be or what to be doing on either app.
Prior to that, we had brick phones and only created email accounts so we could be on Neopets. Our plans were made in person at lunch or by a long chain of text messages (which always pushed our daily limit of 100 per day).
We championed MSN in the evenings and would strategically try to line up our online time so we all could chat. We would share YouTube links to new music or stupid videos. We’d customise our fonts and make cool usernames that really weren’t that cool at all.
Then came Tumblr, where only the artsy-ist of people hung out, and created aesthetically pleasing accounts with a sprinkle of emo on top. Tumblr was where memes and gifs ruled the world. When everyone logged off MSN, you could spend hours trawling through Tumblr, rarely finding anyone you knew but always finding people you wanted to know.
Eventually, we joined Facebook and shared everything. Bad moods. Good songs. Dodgy artwork. 60+ photos of a night hanging in someone’s backyard. Copious edits with Picnik to assert just how creative we could be. Oh, and let’s not forget liking every page under the sun as a way to express your feelings.
Instagram really became something around 2009-2010. I was 15 when the original filters ruled the grid and there was no such thing as influencers or brand hashtags. You posted what you captured, then and there, and you’d be lucky to get a handful of likes. But we didn’t care. It was just Instagram, after all.
Fast forward to now, in the early days of 2019, and man have things changed. Social media used to be a fun and, dare I say it, social place. You’d share what you were doing. You’d post a lot of photos just to have somewhere to host your holiday snaps. It was all about the number of friends you had and stalking potential boyfriends and – yeah, let’s be honest. It was mostly about the dream boyfriends.
But we had fun. It was harmless, and just an app on our shiny touchscreen phones. There were little consequences (unless you were tagged in photos looking wasted on the same day you called in sick for work) overall. Yes, internet predators still lurked in the shadows, and we were warned against suspicious chat rooms, but we were okay. It was just the internet, after all.
I often reminisce on my childhood and am met with a mixture of fondness and envy. Fondness, because I had a really great childhood. Every day was spent outdoors with pals and our imaginations ran wild. I still remember the first computer I got in my room, and only being able to use it for Microsoft Word and Solitaire. I’d save my stories and lists on floppy disks and decorate them with stickers. Things were so simple then.
I feel envy, for obvious reasons. The world we currently live in is fucking loud. And exhausting.
Switching off has become the new anti-aging fanatic. How can we achieve it? How much does it cost? Does it really come down to strong willpower or are we all doomed?
The answer is to simply stop caring so much about your phone – but it’s HARD. We’ve become so accustomed to this lifestyle and constantly being connected and available and switched on that we quite literally don’t know what to do when we are faced with a few moments or hours without our devices.
What would our childhood selves think if they saw us now?
I know mine would probably approve of the new hairstyle, but would undoubtably think I was silly for spending so much time not reading.
But hey, that’s just me. Maybe you’re better at this social thing than I am.