I’ve been a bit quiet lately. A combination of life, and trips away and recovering from trips has seen me turn pretty lazy. I had a wonderful week at the Benicassim festival (my absolute favs were Florence + The Machine and Frank Turner + The Sleeping Souls).
But I returned a little bit broken, sunburnt (from the last day, isn’t it always the way?) and tired, so tired. I spent about two days in my pyjamas recovering before jaunting off to Dublin for a weekend with the girls and a freaking amazing Ed Sheeran show in Croke Park, and then back to Derry for my mums Birthday and family shenanigans.
It’s been a crazy busy three weeks and one thing I noticed is that my phone was left lying somewhere more often than not. Totally forgotten. I didn’t really go on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram for about two weeks. I didn’t take pictures or think about what everyone else in my life was doing. I lay on a sun lounger on a beach in Benicassim with a beer in one hand and the new Harper Lee book in the other and didn’t even think about my phone. It was lovely and liberating and possibly the most pleasant experience of my life to date. And it reinforced my opinion that social media, and Facebook in particular, can be truly unhealthy.
I think Facebook is kind of poisonous sometimes.
It’s this huge thing, this all encompassing thing that’s been a regular part of my life since 2006. It’s how I keep in touch with friends (ok it’s how I stalk people I don’t really talk to anymore, I keep in touch with my friends by actually talking to them and I have a phone, texts and Whatsapp for that, so it’s not exactly hard is it?).
Facebook is where I get a scope of people I fancy, and find random articles to read via the shares of near strangers when I’m bored/procrastinating/waiting in line for something. It’s not something I need, I’m not one of those people who absolutely has to have their Facebook open 24/7. I get drawn into Facebook chat, especially since they detached it from the actual Facebook app and made it a messaging app in it’s own right, but I don’t need it.
In fact, I kind of hate it. I mean, yeah, it’s got those lovely heart warming adverts about friendship and life on tv now. And it’s dead handy for arranging nights out among groups, and everyone posts their photos there, so you always have the chance of finding a nice photo that you didn’t have to take yourself from 50 million different angles while trying to look natural/happy/carefree. And it’s such a habit, right?
I’ve had a Facebook profile forever. So much of my life from the past 9 years is documented on there. Which is also kind of scary when you think about it, Facebook knows a lot about me, and I have no real control over what they do with that information. Data is the real currency of the internet and you can bet sites like Facebook make a good chunk of money off it.
The best parts of my life don’t involve Facebook. I’m not on Facebook when I’m having a brilliant time, my first thought when I’m having fun is not to update my Facebook status. In fact, a lot of the time Facebook makes me miserable. I once posted a status about a ‘sneaky lunch’ with a friend and later that evening saw another Facebook friend making fun of me for it. It annoyed me so much, but not in a ‘what an asshole, I haven’t even done anything to them’ way, it made me feel embarrassed and stupid and annoyed at myself. Another time, in my younger and slightly more naive years, I posted a vaguely passive aggressive comment about how happy I was to have negative people gone from my life and was attacked for it. Now, it did teach me a lesson about passive aggressive comments and sharing too much on the internet, but it also made me miserable. It made what should have been a liberating (if slightly misguided) action a negative one.
I’m almost afraid to post things on Facebook now. I have a blog page, but have yet to mention it on my personal profile. When I started my Masters in software development I didn’t put it on Facebook. When I get a new job I don’t post about it. When I moved back to Belfast, it took me months to even change my location. I share articles sometimes, but I rarely post anything personal.
I get total social media envy as well. I’m sure most of us do, it’s natural to want more, to compare and use our peers as a measurement of our success. Even though I am fully aware that people only ever post the good things, the best parts of themselves, the airbrushed bits of their lives, I still get social media envy. I can’t help it. It’s where I see exes and old friends move on to bigger and better things, things that don’t involve me. Where I realise that they might not think about me. And sometimes that’s ok, and sometimes it’s sad, and it makes me feel nostalgic, and I think about all the things I don’t have. And if it weren’t for social media, these people would probably never register with me, it would be a much cleaner break.
And it’s so tempting, isn’t it, to go and look up those people. The ones you’ve drifted from. The people you don’t talk to anymore. The ones you don’t like. Because sometimes they’re stuck in a shit job and you know yours is better and you feel horribly smug about it. Then there are the people you don’t want anymore, but you don’t necessarily want them to forget you. It’s toxic. You know it’s unhealthy and bad for your head, but you still do it (I’m using Facebook as an example here because it’s the social media platform I use most and have had the longest, but it could apply to any of them).
I can’t remember the last time something good came out of Facebook for me. I mean, I have a little blog page on Facebook and that’s been known to make me haps on occasion, but my personal profile? It does nothing for me. I keep it just for the sake of a few private Facebook groups that I have with friends and family and wouldn’t want to leave.
That’s what I thought when I started writing this anyway. And it’s true that Facebook can be such a negative place. But then I remembered that if it wasn’t for Facebook I never would have heard about the Software Development Masters that led to my career change. I applied for my masters because a guy I used to work with posted about it. Which led to me thinking: fuck it, I could be a software developer. So I applied, and I never ever would have if it weren’t for the fact that on an otherwise boring evening in the first week of 2014 I was scrolling through my news feed. Facebook is kind of the reason I am where I am now. There are so may people I wouldn’t have met if I hadn’t done my Masters, a bucketload of friends and experiences I would have missed out on.
So I’m left here, not too fussed on Facebook and social media in general, but not willing to write it off just yet. Like it or not, social media is here to stay, and it’s growing. Our lives and reputations online can have a scarily strong influence on our real world lives. It’s an unsettling side effect of this living in the future craic I suppose. But whatcha’ gonna do?