2017 is the future. It is what we dreamed of and more. Granted, many older movies predicted that we would have flying cars by now and inhabiting other planets, but we are not too far off. Elon Musk is on his way to Mars. Tesla has self propelled cars. Communication is instant, as is the access to information from multiple sources (though some of those do need to be monitored and read with a sceptical eye because ‘alternative facts’ AKA Fake news is rampant.)
The future is now. Technological advances are far more tangible and realistic.
I recently watched ‘Black Mirror’, a Netflix original series similar to ‘The Twilight Zone’ but set in a more current time. Although some of the content was quite disturbing and slightly farfetched, a large amount of it wasn’t. It feels like certain scenarios depicted in those episodes are just around the corner. We are on the cusp of mind blowing technology we wouldn’t have dared dream of decades ago.
One episode in particular hit a little too close to home though. It was called ‘Nosedive’ and was based on the premise that your “likes” and “ratings” reflected immediately in real life. It was these ratings and stars that determined your social standing, affected who wanted to hang out with you and even prevented or allowed you from owning certain things or hanging out with a certain calibre of person. So obviously you were always striving for high numbers to make yourself upper class but any sort of transgression could instantly drop you down multiple steps on the social ladder. A VERY similar thing happened to me when I approached a public relations company not so long ago. Before they would award me with getaways they wanted to know my social media standing and unfortunately my numbers were so low that they flat-out denied me. I felt quite displeased with myself for having such a low social level and since then have tried to make efforts to gain more followers on certain accounts which has not been easy.
One big part of my life is Facebook of course.
My boyfriend was smart enough to shake himself out of the stupor and chose to remove his Facebook profile a couple of months ago. It was rather terrifying the process he had to go to in order to delete his account which included emailing the creators directly to state that he wished to remove every trace of it. It is like a quest to prove that you really don’t want it and at every turn, they are beseeching you to stay with them. They use heartfelt ploys like – “are you sure you want to leave” and “these people will miss you”. I think eventually he just ended up suspending the account indefinitely because it was easier and I suspect that should he try to log in at any time, it would readily reawaken itself.
I find myself in a sort of limbo when it comes to my profile. I mean I recall when it first came out, Smartphones weren’t as popular, there were no touch screens and apps and browsing the net was far more difficult. I had a desktop computer but without internet access - which seems ridiculous if I try to imagine it now. This left me with an inability to access my profile. I would watch as others were able to indulge, as though they were part of the elite. Eventually I grew so desperate that I literally paid at an internet cafe to browse on Facebook!
The second it became as readily accessible as it is now, we were all pretty much doomed.
My boyfriend and I have a routine in the mornings. Wake up and kiss one another good morning, have a brief cuddle and chat about our dreams and then for the next half an hour, we are on our phones scrolling through whichever social media platform we are enjoying at that moment. I know for a fact that I spend way too much time on my phone and there was even a dark period when I would go to bed and look through Reddit instead of reading an actual book the way I used to. Instead of going through a book a month, I was on top of social media current events and could add to conversations centred around them which is, I must admit, most of the time.
Giving it a little more thought, it is pretty obscure that we swipe up through photos and status’s about what is going on with other people and tapping a ‘thumbs up’ or a heart or whatever it may be. It is equal to passing a judgement on the coolness or popularity of that post. I know for myself if I post a status or a photo and it gets every little activity then I feel upset, let down by others and myself for creating something that is not engaging. Often I will delete the post entirely as I feel like a failure and I don’t want others to see how lame I am. It is quite sad really and links to that idea of other people’s ratings being the measuring stick for your life.
There are people whose lives are dedicated to social media. They spend most of their time at parties or outings on their phone recording the events so that others can see how popular and fun they are. Taking videos for Snapchat, photos for Instagram and Facebook. Instead of just having a good time, someone has to capture the moment of fun to prove to the world that they are.
There are people who like or say that they are going to attend events so that it appears as though they are constantly out and active but it isn’t the truth.
Obviously as humans we need social interactions but I am not quite certain why there is a need to memorialise it all. It is as though the event didn’t happen if there isn’t at least one camera out snapping the food or forced smiles.
I can admit that I had no idea how to use social media in the beginning. The fantastic feature that Facebook offers of viewing your posts “on this day” from years ago is something I absolutely hate. Majority of the time I end up deleting the things I said years ago because I was either too crude or just over-sharing way more than I needed to. I try to erase past me because present me has the understanding of the gravity of the online world. Just look at Penny Sparrow and her monkey comment or; “Has Justine landed yet?” referring to Justine Sacco and her tweet about not getting AIDS in Africa. You any think that you have a tiny following but should something be interpreted as offensive, it can easily break the internet and ruin your life. There was also a Black Mirror episode alluding to that recourse.
My Facebook activity has dwindled quite a lot of late. I mostly just scroll through photos, add my like or comment and then move on to a different platform.
It is a very deliberate decision to not post about my dad dying or my car being stolen or recovered or whatever else may be super private and even with that attempt at restraint, I still end up posting hints about it. To what end? I am not certain. In writing this I can see that I have severe double standards which I will have to forgive because, well it is me after all.
I hop between indignation at the absurdity of it all, to truly living in the moment and not worrying about capturing it so that others can thumb past it or making sure that my selfie is perfect and gets me enough likes on Instagram to feel sexy and popular. I have moved a little away from Facebook and onto Instagram where my pseudonym and I have over 1000 followers and I am now beginning to get 100 likes per post and being approached by photographers. I got a little bit of a lucky break but now the thing is that I have to find a way to cater to and balance to ensure that part of me is maintained (I don’t want to lose the followers after all of the hard work) but I also don’t want to let complete strangers in too deeply into my life. Facebook is a safe haven. They are your friends who generally comment nicely and support you from their couches, There will be the occasional spat, I myself have felt very strongly about a post and commented something harsh enough to cause that person to remove it because well, on social media sometimes we get to talk without thinking. We have lost our humanity and use things that would have been considered taboo or that we have no idea about, to try and get those likes in.
In my anonymity, I have also opened myself up to creepers and trollers. I have been lucky enough until now that no one has trolled by photos but I am slightly wary of that day because what is to keep a complete stranger from cyber bullying. You are safe and unknown from behind a screen and without much thought to the lasting consequences of a few callous words. I was approached by a girl not so long ago who was insistent that she wanted to send me photos of herself. Not just any photos but half naked images. I told her that I wasn’t interested. I have no idea what her end gain was but my refusal made her angry enough to call me, a complete stranger, a word that I wouldn’t even utter in front of my mother.
I think that in a few short years, we went from normal life where you had to pick up a landline in order to contact your friend, to a generation of mindless, unsympathetic clickers all on a desperate search for online popularity that translates into nothing much when all is said and done. Myself included. Maybe life on Mars will have less internet access and more concern about living.