I once asked a wise man whether it was about quality of content or quantity of content…he replied ‘Both’.
I no longer think this is the correct answer. Unfortunately we seem to be living in a time in which it no longer matters what you post but rather when you post it. What you have to say about a particular occurrence or life event is of little importance; what matters is that you are the first to say it…and that people acknowledge that you were the first to say it.
I recently fell ill and as I could barely move for a few days the last thing on my mind was checking my social media accounts and commenting on recent events. It was a detox forced upon me by circumstances I could not control. I was ‘off the grid’ or ‘MIA’ if you will. It actually felt strangely liberating…and yet a couple of weeks prior when I dropped my phone in water and was without a mobile phone for a couple of days I felt panicked and fidgety…in fact I’m pretty sure I was suffering from similar twitches to those of a junkie experiencing withdrawal (think Jessie from Breaking Bad – this is the second time I’ve referenced Breaking Bad in one of my blog posts, I’m clearly still not over the show ending).
Alas the feeling of freedom I had experienced during my time away from social media was quickly replaced by a sense of panic yet again as I made my return to the world of digital communication devices. First were my emails; I had missed out on getting some tickets I had eagerly been awaiting. Then came Twitter; I had lost some followers due to my sudden lack of tweeting. There was also the countless news/pop culture stories I had missed that I usually find out about through either Twitter or Facebook. Not to mention various friends personal updates; Penny’s wedding day photos, Mya’s latest photo of her baby daughter in yet another “amusing/adorable” outfit, Rob’s cryptic and just that little bit passive aggressive status about someone “doing his head in”. These were things I missed. Correction: these were things I had missed out on knowing as they happened and therefore could not provide a live running commentary as my fellow social media users could. However, these were not things I missed in the same way one misses a loved one. Nevertheless missing out can cause anxiety; hence the introduction of the term ‘FOMO’ into our vocabulary; on which I have previously written a blog post.
As I attempted to catch up I realised it was a fruitless and incredibly time consuming task. It was useless. And what I would I really gain by scrolling back through my various accounts? Jenny’s photo of her breakfast 3 days ago? Mike’s twitter feud? James’ gym selfie? Were these things I needed to know? Though perhaps we are now living in a perpetual state of ‘catch up’. My social media accounts are the first thing I check in the morning when I wake up and it has become almost second nature to scroll back to see what I missed whilst I was sleeping.
I cannot deny the sense of elation I feel after a well-timed comment or tweet though. For in that moment, I feel relevant. Important even. I have contributed to the conversation at the right time and my contribution has been recognised…perhaps even praised through the form of a retweet, ‘like’ or share. Although I am fully aware of the absurdity of this feeling. In fact I often feel an overwhelming desire to mock myself in the moment.
“It is imperative that you know I am currently in China Town” is what I cynically thought last night as I shared a photo on my Snapchat story of my surroundings. Of course it isn’t! In fact it is almost ludicrous to think that anyone would care, but perhaps what is more worrying is that people do. People digitally ‘follow’ you for just that reason in fact.
Unfortunately though, as a result of our attempts to ‘be first’ in sharing content online, we have fallen victim to commenting on everything. Even in cases in which perhaps our comments are not warranted, wanted or in any way shape or form, well informed or executed. As I said, it no longer matters what you say as you long as you were first to say it.