Saturday, 9 February 2019

Anti-social Media

Social media has been on my mind of late, as I’ve had a few conversations with people around the impact of it on them and how they try to manage it.  I asked recently if social media made people feel better, worse or it depends.  Most answered it depends.  I am sure there are people far more qualified than me who can go into the psychology of our relationships with social media.  I however, am going to talk from my experience.

There have been definite benefits of social media.  I signed up to Facebook in the early days, and for some of my friends use it to organise get togethers, and it’s the only place I can get hold of them all to do it, as they are spread across different messaging apps – so it’s the common ground.  But after the period of Facebook games and oversharing, I now rarely post to the platform.  A number of school friends post about their jobs and fancy holidays and after doing the same, I realised that it wasn’t making me happy and was just everyone waving their dick around showing off.  So, I stopped.  I now have an occasional Brexit rant and post rubbish.

On Twitter, things have been different.  It’s helped me meet people and make new friends, share experience and learn things.  It’s also helped me feel better about my body.  I used to struggle with being hairy, thinking it was unattractive.  Positive comments on twitter and the opportunity to play with more people have helped me get past that.  I think on balance, it’s been a positive thing.  But it too is not without its pitfalls.  Like Facebook, it is the aggregate of everyone’s best bits, but for most of us in a kink setting, it can seem like there are days when everyone is playing and having more hot sex than you and where everyone has new gear and amazing playrooms.  In this showcase of the positive prefect kink life everyone seems to have, it’s easy to lose perspective.

There’s been two things I have struggled with.  The first is feelings of missing out, when my friends were at events that I couldn’t go to, I’d find myself on twitter looking at what was going on and all the photos and wishing I was there.   Then, related to this have been feelings of envy.  Of actively resenting friends and playmates having fun and playing when I’ve not been able to.  Clearly, not an attractive or healthy thing, so what to do?

The missing out issue I’ve learnt to manage much more easily.  If there is an event on, I’ll plan to do other things.  Go out, read, do some music, watch some Netflix.  I will deliberately be on my phone less during these events.  But I will then catch up and message friends /after/.  I still want to know what happened and that they had a great time, but I don’t need to expose myself to the aggregate of everyone’s amazing weekend in my face.  I can choose how to engage.

Then envy.  This is more difficult.  But on one occasion I stepped back and tried to consider why I was envious.  Because I cared about the person who was posting a great deal, and I was missing out on the fun they were having and resented it.  But in realising that I cared about the playmate who was having fun, I saw the opportunity to solve it.  Flip the emotion.   My envy meant that my playmate having fun meant a lot to me, and instead, I should embrace them having fun and enjoy them having fun and encourage it.  I’ll fully admit this isn’t always easy to do, but if you look at your emotional response, and look at what is going on behind it, you may see an opportunity for a more positive response.

How we conduct ourselves on social media is also important.  We know that issues occur, and that drama flares up.  I’ve written before about the old English verse:

A wise old owl lived in an oak
The more he saw the less he spoke
The less he spoke the more he heard.
Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?

We’re told by the media and social that our opinion matters, I lay the blame on this on reality TV shows like X Factor where the audience get to decide who wins.  Social media then takes this further and even the news wants us to comment on Twitter and Facebook.  But sometimes in the face of drama and things exploding, actually, the best thing to do is to say nothing and let it blow over.  There have also been occasions, when people have raised valid and interesting takes on thing but done it in ways that are directly critical of people.   It’s far better to challenge opinions than to make direct attacks if you disagree with someone.

I think it’s important to acknowledge that social media is a double-edged sword and from that poll, it seems that most people do.  It can help us keep in touch with people, share and foster new relationships.  But it can also make us feel alone and isolated, when we need actual human interaction.  Social media cannot and should not replace that direct contact with people.  It’s important to realise when it’s having an effect and to shape our response to it, with self-care and valuing ourselves and to realise that our feelings do not have to rule us and that we can take control of our responses to what our phone presents us.