Today our eyes are more open than they have ever been. I don’t mean this in a literal sense, although I have two young children and between them they seem determined to prevent mine from shutting for any length of time, but we see more, know more and are empowered with more information than ever before.
When I was younger I used to read all the time. Books generally. The classics for adolescents, Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and that bloke who wrote all the Hardy Boys books. I say wrote ‘all' the Hardy Boys books, looking back I think he wrote one then regurgitated the same story over and over using slightly different locations, but I enjoyed them. And that was the point. As I matured so did the choice of books, Michael Crighton (who's name may, or may not be spelt like that), Ian Rainkin (same applies to the spelling), Simon Kernick, Stephen King and loads more. More than I’ll ever remember.
I would read at ever opportunity. Passenger in a vehicle of any sort, sitting in bed, sitting on the toilet, waiting for a plane, waiting for anything at all really. I even used to do that whole walk-while-reading thing that you had to do when you were reading a really good book and from this you could develop an astounding sort of sixth sense that would steer you safely through even the busiest high streets.
Now I, like the rest of us, read Facebook. Or Twitter. Or The Internet. Twenty years ago I would have been lost in another world as part of my morning ‘private movements’ in the bathroom, the wonderful world of structured stories with their beginnings, middlings and endings; this morning I was informed that four of my friends had enjoyed an extremely healthy breakfast as part of a ‘new me’ regime, two had already ‘smashed’ the gym, four others were jetting off to New York and one has a very important meeting in London, attended by people who are very important indeed.
And then there’s me. I’ve had chocolate spread on toast, my next holiday will be probably when the kids have finally had enough and move me into a retirement village, I vaguely remember the gym – it was nice there – and the most important meeting I have today involves a hoover and a dusty utility room. And if I’m honest that probably won’t get done.
This, I find, is the problem with Social Media. The average person has 300-500 ‘friends’ on facebook and for obvious reasons we generally only post the stuff that shows us in a positive light. Like our healthy breakfast (always with pictures, in case we don’t believe them), our gym visit as part of the ‘new-me’ philosophy, the important business meeting and the holidays and this queues up on our timelines one after the other. So I’m sat in just my pants and a loosely tied gown, changing a piss-soaked sheet whilst my daughter runs round with a nappy that drags behind her at the start of a grey, suddenly cold day which will see me eventually finish work at midnight tonight having slept for four hours and yet my mind tells me that EVERYONE is jetting off to New York, or having important meetings where they will emerge even more important, or changing their lives for the better. And they’ve even made it to the gym. Fatty. FML, I’m 34 and it’s all over.
I hate social media. But not for its constant reminders of how fat, lazy, incompetent, unadventurous, insignificant and unimaginative I am compared to you people, because deep down I know we all feel like that, I know that we all work hard to make the positive memories and we want to share them, because, well why wouldn’t we? The reason I hate social media is because it’s taken away the stories. For me at least, but I bet for a lot of you. I love reading, always have, but now I read snippets of your life, 140 characters at a time. Or I watch a video you shared, some are funny, some are amongst the most awful things I have ever seen (the recent clip of the two lads in the speeding car anyone?) and it leaves me feeling empty. A great chasm where once stories stuffed themselves and had me walking down a high street, meandering through you people with a book covering my face because I had to know how it all ended.
You’ll say that you could just stop. Come off the social media sites. Go back to your story books. I Can’t, I‘ve tried a couple of times but you just can’t. Addiction is something that has constantly fascinated me since I moved into a job where it is very much relevant and I remember speaking to a man who was addicted to something that needed to be burnt on a spoon before being consumed. He said to me ‘We’re all addicted to something. Just with me society gets to label it and tell me I have a problem’.
That’s always stuck with me. I never knew why, until now.