social media

Social media: Your life is just a construct

Isobelle Mallinson, kettlemag, social media persona,
Written by Isobelle Mallinson

We now live in a world where everything is virtual. We rely on technology to conform, advise, to entertain; and I really hate it. I hate technology and the internet, I strongly object to how dependent our society is on a concept, the way people prefer to talk through a screen than to a real life face.

You all know the feeling. You wake up to three Facebook notifications, your email inbox flashes up with a high number, your Instagram likes have gone into double figures, you get a notification: “TWO WEEKS TO GREECE” and your tweet got retweeted a glorious three times.

Your likes mean nothing

We live in a world where appreciation is virtual; we hide behind screens in an attempt to gain recognition and power, to feel loved by counting Facebook friends and likes. We get excited at the prospects of getting ‘likes’ from our so called friends, half of whom will be people we have never spoken to. We throw the likes out like sweets at a school disco, not everyone will catch them. We think we are being selective, giving likes to the deserving ones. But break it down a little, what is a ‘like’?  Is it a smile or a compliment, a word to someone who is feeling down? No, it’s none of these things. You break it down, and realise it means nothing.

We present ourselves the way we want to be seen, not the way we actually are. Filters, selfies, memes; all presenting an individual that is constructed, a person we supposedly need to be in order to be socially accepted. Socially accepted in a world you make up, a virtual arena that is fictional. So what is the point? If we are all pretending, how do we tell what is real anymore?

You’re not being you

Someone unfollowed you on Instagram. Is that because you posted too much, you ask yourself. Ah no, it will be the selfie you put on yesterday. Some people may think the caption is immature, that the filter is wrong – delete, delete, delete. We look at other people’s profiles, their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr – we count how many likes and see who these people are. Their status is just like yours was, but why didn’t you get as many likes? Why does this matter if all you present is a construction anyway? How can you feel hurt at rejection when you were using a meme you took from google images, carefully filtered to get the most likes? That is not the real you, it’s a fictional representation in a virtual world.

We have got these phones. Squares of metal that do more than we ever need, unnecessary things that you use because it’s cool and prevalent, or just because you can. You use maps because it’s ‘easier’ than navigating yourself, because using a paper map is deemed as living in the past and who wants to regress? Why work it out in your head, when it calculates the miles for you? We message on multiple platforms, because we need to see when someone has read, seen, received, is replying, is writing, to your carefully created message. We worry about the time between seeing the read notification and the reply; what does that silence mean? We check Twitter – they have tweeted but not replied? You must have done something wrong; you used the wrong tone for the message. You make a status about it, a subtle extension of your mood. People like it, pretending to resonate with something that even you do not understand. Isn’t it just a message? We use FaceTime and Skype, because now we can see each other through a screen, why do we need to meet up anymore? It’s apparently as good as the real thing, yet it isn’t.

You edit your photos

I loathe the use of exercise apps, because why can’t people go running with their friends, motivate each other and arrange to meet the next day at ten? Instead we wear a band on our wrist that beeps every hour to tell us to move, reminding us how we cannot even motivate ourselves to exercise freely. Why do we use apps to alter what is real? We edit photos and videos; change something that we took to represent reality. You take a picture of you and your boyfriend and add a filter, crop the edges, you change the shape of your cheeks using Photoshop, darken the colour of your boyfriend’s hair – you have altered your own reality. You add a happy caption, tag your partner in, and share it to all your social media accounts with a love heart emoji. Do you think people will know you love each other now? When people read your boyfriend’s loving comments underneath the altered snap, are you hoping people are jealous of you? It’s all just constructed for social appreciation.

We use group message and Whatsapp, calling it ‘Lads’ ‘Crew’ and ‘Girls’, creating a camaraderie that doesn’t exist in real life, do you all even talk in person? Or do you just enjoy the incessant flashing of your phone as someone tells you the story of how they dropped their toast on the floor, butter side down?

We play games over the internet, against people we don’t know. Apparently that’s fun, because you don’t have to leave the house. Do you normally talk to strangers in the street, pretend to be action heroes and soldiers? Animated and fervent in your bedroom, you laugh and discuss routes and tactics with people you have never met, I don’t see how this is sociable or fun, and you are living in a world of adult play pretend.

Tumblr, a blogging site that lets you vent to the population. Have you ever come across a stranger’s personal ramblings? Since when was it a thing to share a secret diary? Ah, because this is not secret. It’s a carefully constructed blog that aims to create a reaction, to once again appear as something your not – all cleverly disguised as personal expression. We use phones and the internet to record events and things we need to do. What happened to a paper list, a calendar? Nowadays we erase the plans we changed, the things we already bought. In a society like ours, maybe it would help to remember where we went wrong, what we chose to do before we changed our minds.

Social media is not humanity

We spend more time looking at a laptop screen that we do looking at someone’s face. You prefer to email, text, skype, call than take someone’s hand in yours and tell them they look beautiful. The internet becomes ‘amazing’ because there is nothing it misses out, yet it does. It is not humanity, or beauty or an expression of love. It cannot make you feel happy or safe or like someone is in love with you. The apps, the games, the social media accounts do not make you feel secure, not like a real life human can. Wouldn’t you rather be held by someone who actually likes you, rather than get 20 likes on a photo that you filtered 10,000 times till you found the right one? People would rather sit inside all day, reading pointless updates and statuses and liking pictures of scenery that you are missing out on seeing yourself.

Have you ever walked into a bookshop and spent a day walking amongst pieces of paper that hold millions of words? Have you eaten ice cream sat on a beach while the sun is setting? Felt the lips of another when you wanted it the most. Been asked out on a date by the beautiful girl on your street? Got the top grade in your class?  Eaten steak and chips with gravy, and then wiped the bread through the gravy? Have you laid on a grass hill with the sun heating your skin? Held a new-born kitten? Had a lie in on a Sunday morning till after lunch? Got the job of your dreams? Bent down on one knee and told the girl you love you want to marry her? These things are life, they are living.

Games, apps, social media and computers are not part of living reality; they are the catalyst for construction. The way you present yourself online is not realism or truth or happiness, it’s just a way to conform. Playing games inside on a sunny day or reading articles online instead of going for a run in the countryside is not a good choice, but something you do when you do not know what you are missing. Take away the trappings of social media, of technological expectation and we will be happier people. Run outside and tell someone you love them, check out the realism in that.