THE BLOG

The Burden of Keeping in Contact

12/04/2016 15:26

The phone vibrates. It's the fifth facebook message in a row and I leave it unopened. Again. It vibrates angrily on the table, shifting from its stationary spot in an attempt to get my attention and to just make me reply. But I don't.

This might seem like the beginnings of a dramatic break up story, or a crime saga but it is just in fact my boring, social media life. You see the thing is, I have a confession. A confession that seems to make people gasp and reel with surprise. I hate social media. And most of all I hate keeping in contact.

It might seem like I am being a tad whiney about this whole situation, I mean it does only take five minutes to reply to an email/text/message/instagram comment for crying out loud, but since starting university I have found that the appeal of keeping in contact online has been wearing a little thin. The problem with your online life is that being constantly available is tiring, it doesn't feel socially acceptable to just turn off when the day is finally done. When you have a phone call, you chat, reply, chat some more and then hang up. End of conversation. No anxious after-thoughts, or guilt for turning your phone face down while you watch the TV.

Instead, we seem to feel the need to be online, all the time, 24/7, 7 days a week. When I went home for Easter this term, I went to a holiday cottage with my family in Dorset and there was no internet. After four days of no online contact when I finally did come back to the realms of the internet, I felt utterly bombarded. I had notifications saying I'd missed parties, events, funny comments on a video of a hamster doing cartwheels. I was totally and utterly out the loop.

Facebook friends? They can see to the very minute when you were last online. Gone are the days when you used to be able to just leave a message unopened and hope that they wouldn't realise you were ignoring them. It has to be NOW. The problem with social media is that it's changing every five seconds. A new comment on a video, a photo that your friend wants you to like, someone's eating a bagel, painting their toenails, taking a cute picture of their dog. It's a constant, unending stream of mundane life moments that demand our full attention. Now if you don't reply to a facebook message but do like someone's photo it's akin to giving someone the middle finger. It's just unacceptable.

Make no mistake, people have busy lives, they have jobs, girlfriends, boyfriends, family, a life, there are a million different reasons why people can't reply, but for some reason it still feels like a personal affront if you're waiting for that notification to pop up saying you have a message. Instead of feeling glad to catch up with an old friend or making plans with new ones, you're left with this haunting anxiety that you have to talk to these people 24/7, because facebook is your social life and if you don't you don't have real friends.

Social etiquette is changing and evolving. To be online and present is to avoid being perceived as rude. Now don't get me wrong, of course you want to stay in contact because these are people you care about and miss. The problem is there is no face to face contact, no visible and readable signs to soothe worries that you've upset someone, or analyse exactly what they're saying: are they actually asking about my day or are they cross I didn't like their instagram post or reply to their text three days ago?

But I've come to realise something. Not replying to someone in the same hour is not the same as telling them their mum's fat or if you don't reply, you're no longer in their top ten friends, plotting ways to ruin your life. It doesn't work like that. I decided to ban Facebook from my everyday life and it's safe to say it's a blessing. If someone really desperately needs me they can text me, call me, or if all else fails, they can send a pigeon. When you stop letting your online presence become your only presence you stop worrying as much. It doesn't actually matter that you didn't write happy birthday on your friend's sister's wall. It doesn't matter that you forgot to say 'going' to a party. Instead, you live in the real world. And if your friends are like mine, they'll get that you're there if they need you but it's not a personal affront if you miss that facetime call.

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