Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Swings and roundabouts; the seven year digital itch that's not so scratchy anymore

some of the most recognisable social media icons of modern times.

To get completely cliched off the bat, I've got a number of social media accounts, which is par for the course these days. There's one here (obviously), there's twitter, linked in,, pinterest and of course there's a presence on the number one site that is currently giving a lot of people a lot of aggravation at the moment. Yup, it's facebook.

I've had an account on there for several years. I've pruned my online presence and the friends list has been altered extensively over time. Ive also had some odd changes on there, which led me to suspect that my account may have been compromised a few times. This may have happened during my travels, when I was using my phone to access it at various points around the world. But that's all past and it's all 'done with', so to speak. Nothing to worry about for me on that front.

Now I'm not going to go into the whole history of the platform, including how revolutionary it has all been and the resultant impact on society en masse. Neither will I be going into 'storm off in a huff' mode either. In effect, whatever I have to say on it is just another opinion at the end of the day.

But I do feel entitled to say something, cause I think a lot of this is just like the feeling you get when a long term relationship in your life, starts going through changes. Some of those changes aren't always welcome..actually all changes, when unannounced, aren't really embraced with open arms, which may have something to do with the 'lizard brain' part of our mental scapes( for information on that aforementioned reptilian concept, feel free to have a search on the internet). Facebook has done this a lot in the last three to four years. None of the changes, to my knowledge or memory, have been given as an option. You just have to 'roll with it', as it were. But there are logical reasons to justify this, at least to a degree.

In order to remain current and ultimately competitive with any other upcoming platforms, facebook has had to make a lot of changes to it's layout, with the ubiquitous (and arousing controversy) timeline and newsfeed areas going through the brunt of it. This seems to be the major gripe voiced by all. But I think that all of that  is still the 'cooking steam' so to speak, of this interesting stew that is really bothering a lot of people, including me to some extent. It revolves around the issue of connectivity to both the app and the world within and outside of the platform. Put even more simply, it's all about burnout.

It's fair to say that a lot of people spend a large amount of time on there during the day. Im 'guestimating' well  over 2 hours a day of combined useage, with perhaps four hours (or more) becoming a 'norm time'. I have no idea of the percentages, but I'm hedging that this accounts for over 50%  of the entire user base. Think about that for a second. Now think about the concurrent effect that has on people's 'real world' social interactivity. Now think about the other potential knock on effects to relationships, and general behaviour per se, both individually and collectively.

Im not talking about some 'hidden agenda' to brainwash the masses, or inferring that there is some other veiled nonsense going on there ( I don't buy into those theories as a rule), but more about how we're all pandering to the '15 minutes of fame' effect. There's nothing wrong with  letting the world know how good or bad everything is, but I suspect it's all becoming a streamlined route to sometimes parodying our actual existence, in almost real-time.

And as our actual existence becomes more reliant on ironically becoming more anti-social in the physical sense in order to use social media so heavily, some of us are almost intuitively  kicking backwards and sloping off into the blue yonder on hiking trips and log-cabin style retreats in ever increasing numbers, out of  some sort of  hardwired, evolutionary/ biological frustration.

At a deep core level, we're all social animals. We need human contact. The physicality aspect, the non verbal cues, the sensory perceptions such as the smell of a person, their facial gestures and so on, just cannot be met using social media. That, I think, is the biggest subconscious frustration. If you're miles away from someone , wether a friend or even someone you've just connected with on there that you get along fine with, with a view to becoming 'real world' friends, then the next natural step may be to organise a gathering or meet up. Or am I in a minority there, for thinking that's still a 'normal' thing to do?

If I am in a minority on that respect, then why on earth are we all complaining at some level? Because the core selection of 'reasons to grumble' alludes back to the basic human need aspect that I've already mentioned. It's almost like continually watching yourself watching others watching you, watching yourself being watched by others watching you, who are also being watched by others , who now have the opportunity to watch you as well, whilst watching themselves, without having their deeply embedded sociological needs met, which in itself takes you away a little more from wanting to go out into the world to spend more quality time with, and so on.

For example, I've occasionally felt a little self conscious on there, because I've seen names of people come up in threads that I don't know, and I've replied to them directly due to the context of the post allowing this.  Sometimes, as in the real world, it leads to a bit of an 'awkward silence' and at other times everyone just joins in. I have to commend facebook for trying, wether by luck or design (it's likely to be a well examined combination of both) to alter people's perception of what is considered a better way to communicate with each other per se, and of course en masse.

On a personal note, I suspect im just feeling the knackering effect of repetitive interactivity on there, which is akin to having the same menu options in an a la carte place or fast food outlet, without any real revamp; you're going to ultimately eat one of three or four of the options ( maybe less for some who are absolute creatures of habit), day in day out  .Consequently, maybe I'm in a minority and feel ive painted myself into a bit of a corner on it after several years. But I used to be one of the heavier users that I've described above.

I haven't deleted it off my phone or deactivated my account. Why? Because I'm honest enough to admit that I still like the idea of having an account on there so I can still chip in with the odd quip,clever factoid, have a minor whinge ( no point in denying that it's something that isn't done, cause I'm pretty sure everyone has had a rant or 'big moan' at some point too) or just stride onwards to savour those moments of  rheotrical greatness and glory, where we're all in agreement or one of us ( i.e. myself), is the one who gets loads of likes from people that matter. A bit comical and 'sixth form college student' really, but at least I have the chutzpah to admit to the above. Ultimately, It's the best ' sociological quick fix' provider there is, when the need be, both good and bad.

To conclude, it's back to my relationship analogy. It's literally the seven year problem for me. After a long period of using facebook robustly, I've gradually lost interest in using it over the last six months. But that may well change at some point. Eventually I may delete the account, deactivate it or just abandon it, with facebook admin supposedly sending me an email at some point, reminding me of my account, asking if I'm still wanting to keep it and use it.

But as I also stated earlier on, it's just my opinion of it right now. What I'm not going to do is end by going into the major negatives that I feel are also being alluded to it,  such as it becoming some sort of amplified  digital/virtual zoo , and  it pushing people towards hypersensitive emotive mood swings and so on ( there are arguements for and against both of these scenarios on the internet, but that's for another time). Because ultimately, even though it can act like a massive hall of mirrors to your own psyche, you still have a choice as to how much and with whom you want to interact to and with. As long as that's there, then just like anything else in life, you can walk away from it and do as you please.

On a personal note, the real world was and very much still is, always more important to me, otherwise I can't feed back after recharging in it when I have to go back into the digital world, to interpolate and reiterate my experiences. That in itself speaks volumes about the digital landscape potentially being enough to subject you to burn out, which is slightly paradoxical considering all the aforementioned, but that particular scenario encapsulates all digital interactivity per se.

Ultimately, I'm still very much aware of my need for actual 'terra firma', friends and family, and right now that's where my priority time lies. It's not about anything serious or heavy duty. It's all about change. Just like I'm noticing the leaves on the trees outside starting to turn that very warm and welcoming shade of orange to brown here and there, as we come into autumn/fall. The smell when I leave the house, is a little more musty and 'wet oak like' on occasion now too.

And a large field of wheat (or similar) about 18 miles away, has now been shorn down and harvested, leaving a clean and tidy landscape of multidirectional acreages going into the horizon and beyond. Metaphorically, a clean social media landscape is also the best we can hope for in the next five years and beyond.

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