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Friday, 16 November 2012

Is Social Networking REALLY That Social?

The irony of this post is that I got the idea from a good friend's status on Facebook that "...social networking is anything but." So, clearly social media does have it's uses! ;)

Maybe it should be is social media really that great . . ?
1). Who are you ignoring whilst you are being social online? Now that everyone has 24/7/365 access to social networking on their mobile phones, how many people are around you when you are logging on to see what other people are up to? For me the golden rule of phone usage is:

If it would be rude/impractical to open a newspaper in front of your face and start reading, it is rude to use your phone.

Image Copyright PrideWest.co.uk
Would you do this mid-conversation? Whilst walking? In the car?
Basically every time you get your phone out (without it ringing/drawing attention to itself, obviously) when you are with someone else you are saying "You are not interesting enough for me to waste time on. I am going to see what the more interesting people are doing." That's not only rude and disrespectful, it's very anti-social. And people are doing it ALL. THE. TIME.
Interestingly enough, it is now enough of an issue that there are now basic guidelines* for what defines "social media addiction":
You update your status while out with “real people.” This goes back to the first point about being disrespectful and anti-social. Unless you are ALL tagging each other as being somewhere, then at least wait until your time together is over to update.
Losing track of time online. Finding yourself on the Internet longer than you intended. A few minutes turn in to a few hours. Getting irritated or cranky if your online time is interrupted.
Having trouble completing tasks at work or home. Do you find dirty dishes piling up and little food in the house for dinner because you’ve been busy online?
Isolation from family and friends. Is your social life suffering because of all the time you spend online? Are you neglecting your family and friends? Do you feel like no one in your “real” life — even your spouse — understands you like your online friends?
Feeling guilty or defensive about your Internet use. Are you sick of your spouse nagging you to get off the computer and spend time together? Do you hide your Internet use or lie to your boss and family about the amount of time you spend on the computer and what you do while you're online? Feeling a sense of euphoria while involved in Internet activities. Do you use the Internet as an outlet when stressed, sad, or for sexual gratification or excitement? Have you tried to limit your Internet time but failed?
We're all guilty of one or two of those from time to time. More than that and maybe it's time to step back for a while!
2). You are open to the whole world. Now, initially that sounds GREAT! I can talk to the whole world!! Now think about how many people in your day-to-day life drive you crazy. How many you avoid. How many people you come across that you actually want to talk to. I think that is another problem. The whole world of freaks and weirdos is now in your pocket. That includes the people you actually want to socialise with which is lovely, but also those that, in real life, you wouldn't poke with a stick if they washed up on the beach. You are open to the crazy people, the needy people, the whiny people, the nasty people, the psycho-stalker people. And because it is so easy to lie online, you might not find out until it is too late.
3). Some people are just too social. Some of these obviously fall into the wouldn't-poke-with-a-stick catagory. First hand examples have to be:
 - "Found this in his nappy...Is it meant to be that colour?" (accompanied by a photograph, in a public-access album, on Facebook).
- I'm bored...here are many crappy phone pictures of my face (awaits confidence-boosting comments from friends. "Nice Bathroom!" doesn't count).
- Here are a million fuzzy phone-quality photographs I took of drunk people, many of whom I don't know. I will now share them repeatedly for a fortnight, just to make sure EVERYONE gets the chance to see them and knows what a party animal I am, despite the fact that I clearly spent the entire night with my phone in my hand.
- "I'm soooooooooooooooooooo wasted right now! WASTED!!" Repeated EVERY. DAMN. THURSDAY/FRIDAY/SATURDAY. NIGHT. Followed (of course) the next morning by "I'm NEVER doing that again! Someone tell me what happened!! WASTED!!!"
- "My [boyfriend/girlfriend] is such a b*st*rd! I hate them! What a w*nker!! Waste of space! Never wasting time on them again after this!" Closely followed by "...is snuggled up with [boyfriend/girlfriend], love of my life, all you haters can go to hell, we'll be together 4eva..." Repeat on a weekly basis.
Unfortunately these are also usually the people who, if you attempt to stop socialising, will send you a message, wanting to know WHY you unfriended/unfollowed them, or try to re-friend you, assuming it was a glitch in the system, and not the fact that they are completely irritating that caused the severing of your connection. I'm not even going to start on the people with accounts for their pets (one day, I hope all the mis-represented cats and dogs get up a law suit and sue their owners for misrepresentation. If pets had opposible thumbs, they would find something WAY better to do than play Farmville) or fantasy character accounts, because I will upset people. Personally, I think one account per real person/business/band, whatever is enough. Every facet of your life/personality does not need a Facebook/Twitter account. Then again, if people don't want to see it, they won't friend/follow you, so you keep farming/tweeting, Mr Tibbles...
4). Social networking may well be single-handedly responsible for the new rise of The Crazy Cat Lady/Man. Where else but social networks can you find an abundance of single people with cats, and also an abundance of pictures of cats?
Now I don't know if this phenomenon affects anyone else, but I find myself now noticing that the same CCLs and CCM who I am a mutual friend of will repeatedly join the same cat lovers groups and like the same cat pictures on Facebook. I'll be honest, when I see them liking the same five pictures in one evening, I have to repress the urge to do a little bit of Crazy Cat Matchmaking.
5). If social networking has brought anything important to our attention, it is the fact that there are a hell of a lot of people out there who are not getting the medical/psychological help that they desperately need, and many are turning to social media instead of getting that help. Using Dr Google before making a GP appointment is one thing. Relying on people you might never have met to care enough to save your life when they have no real-life information about you is another.
Some people are just attention-seeking. If you have a Facebook account and have never once seen the following altercation, you are either a liar, or have an excellent grasp of the "Hide Posts" function:
Status Poster: ":("
Replier 1: "What's up hun?"
Replier 2: "omg!!!! what's wrong?!!!?!?"
Replier 4: "Sup babes?"
SP: "Just :("
Replier 2: " **hugs** Wanna talk about it?"
SP: "Can't talk about it on here."
Replier 3: "DM me babes."
Replier 5: Oh no, not [ex-boyfriend/mother/ex-bff] again! What's wrong luv?"
SP: "No I can't talk about it on here, I'm just sooooooooooooo p*ssed off right now...."
Replier 6: "Who's upset ya? I'll go have a 'word' with them, sort them out for ya..."
SP: "No, don't get involved, no-one needs to get involved..."
Replier 2: "Want me to come around?"
Now that is a mild version. We all know it's probably just a teenager who's fallen out with their boyfriend/girlfriend and is holding a pity party. But at the more serious end of the scale, you see genuine cries for help on social networking sites, be it someone announcing that they are going to cut up and waiting to be persuaded out of it, or someone leaving a suicide note as their FB status (yes, I have seen that on my feed, yes it was someone I knew in real life, and yes, they are now OK and getting help). The Amanda Todd case has brought this aspect of social media into the public eye recently, as both a contributing cause and a cry for help in her suicide.
There are places to go on the internet if you are depressed/suicidal/thinking of harming yourself or others. There are people who are specially trained to help you when you feel like no-one else in your real life can. Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter are NOT the best places. You don't know if those people are in just as bad a place as you. You don't know if their advice is good. Go to The Samaritans, Suicide Prevention (USA), CrisisLine (Canada). Their advice IS good. They are there for you and totally confidential. Plus, there will be no record in the public domain when you are trying to forget a bad period in your life.
Now I don't know about FB, but Twitter actually has a service to report users who are threatening to harm themselves or others. How/if they actually act upon this I don't know, but I think it's a step more social networks should have.
6). Once it's out there, it's there FOREVER. More and more employers now routinely check social media when hiring, so a mistake in your teenage years will still be there in your 30s when you are applying for a job. And just because you delete it doesn't mean someone else hasn't saved it, screen-capped it, or downloaded it. Not so cool posting about being wasted every Thursday/Friday night now, is it? People are actually losing out at job interviews for complaining about their previous employers. People are getting fired for tweeting/FBing/Pinteresting at work. Now I do use social media at work. The Facebook and Twitter accounts for the place where I work are run off my accounts. Anywhere else, I would presume that I couldn't!
7). People cannot entertain themselves any more. Now I'm not talking about the people who occasionally pop up with "...is bored at work...Tell me a joke!" I mean the people who, if they are awake, have to be on Twitter, MSN, WhatsApp, Facebook, Tumblr. On the computer. On their phones. Constant internet mental stimulation required to survive. Now, I appreciate that my generation is probably the last one that had to learn to entertain themselves without the internet. My niece could work an iPad better than me when she was 4 years old. It's not necessary to be able to entertain yourself any more, if you're bored there is an endless stream of people to talk to. But it IS necessary to have a life away from the internet. You can't rely on other people to entertain you 24/7. Use the internet if you are bored by all means, read a newspaper or book, write a book, keep a blog, do a course, even trawl Wikipedia for interesting "facts", but don't rely on social media to entertain you. You might be bored, but those people have lives, families, pets, jobs. Of course, online friends never nag you, ground you, rarely tell you off or irritate you, and never eat the last biscuit, so they are more fun than parents, children, friends, relatives and partners! Yay! But when online relationships become more important than real life relationships with family and friends, you have a serious problem. It's sad to see the same parents at work (usually Dads) out with their kids on the only weekends they get to see them, and the kids are playing or wandering around whilst the Dads are engrossed in their phones.
You can never get back the precious time that you get to spend in real life with other people, don't waste it finding out what someone else is doing!
Let's face it, when the apocalypse comes, the first things to go will be the electricity and phone lines. And what will you do then?!
*Examples taken from helpguide.org.

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