Gents, We Need To Talk About: Social Media
In the eighth instalment of our regular column – in which we use our pondering skills to delve deep into clichés, stereotypes, and seemingly unimportant male-orientated issues – we consider social media, a virtual world where nobody steps in dogshit.
Gents, I’m leaving social media. I’ve had enough, I don’t trust it anymore and I’m kicking the habit. I won’t miss your memes, your choreographed happiness, your pugs or your hilarious one liners. I’m committing to the real world, a world where jokes aren’t pictures with words on them and where real dogs exist, ones that are big, don’t wear clothes and don’t suffer from breathing problems. I am excited for this world. A world of eye contact, of food without endless cheese on it, of cafes without cats in them. A world of debate and truth, where people occasionally step in dogshit.
I, like you, am addicted to social media. I absolutely detest the fact that I am, but I definitely am. I have tried blocking it on my computer, but its addictive and seemingly essential tendrils have weaved their way into my daily life to such a degree that I always seem to slip back into old habits. I block it, but then I need to update the work Facebook account. I delete apps from my phone, but then I need to organise 5-aside. The dream is always: Nip in, communicate, nip out. The reality is: nip in, communicate, watch a video of a car driving around on two wheels, send a gif of a highland cow and scroll, then log out twenty odd minutes later, feeling bad about wasting time. A change is definitely needed.
Don’t worry, I haven’t gone full on sandwich board preacher. I know that history is fraught with technological advancements-related pant shitting, from Gessner’s response to the Gotenberg printing press to the editor of The Daily Express being terrified of John Logie Baird, the Scottish bloke that invented the first television (“He says he’s got a machine for seeing by wireless. Watch him – he may have a razor on him.”). I can’t help but feel it’s different this time though, it’s bigger, closer, parading in plain sight, attacking democracy, privacy and open debate. It’s easy to speculate on psychological effects, but Facebook’s own studies show that passive use can make people feel worse and funnily enough, their antidote is to engage more. Other research shows that social media is damaging for young people’s mental health and week-long breaks can boost wellbeing.
What’s especially interesting is Facebook’s own people speaking up. Sean Parker, Facebook founding president (Justin Timberlake in 2010’s The Social Network) has openly admitted to media website Axios that he’s ‘something of a conscientious objector’ on social media. The former vice-president of user growth, Chamath Palihapitiya, went even deeper, telling an audience at Stanford Business School of his “tremendous guilt” about working on “tools that are ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.” Of course, Facebook isn’t the only platform at fault, Twitter is a toxic echo chamber, but it’s telling that Zuckerberg sits atop an empire that counts four of the five most popular phone apps as its own.
There are obvious barriers to my upcoming social media endeavor. Communication being the main one. It’s going to be difficult organising 5-aside without a group chat. It’ll be less convenient keeping in touch with far-flung friends and it will be harder navigating press contacts without Twitter. There’s the possibility of missing out on events and there’s even the possibility of alienating myself slightly. It’s also easy to forget that communication is bigger than social media. Communication existed before Facebook and Whatsapp, just like creativity existed before Instagram, inspiration existed before Pinterest and opinion existed before Twitter. Time to reset and return to the real world.
Words By Davey Brett