Social Media And The New Slaves

I’m tired. If you follow me on my social media Snapchat, you might have seen I went on a little rant last night. I posted a picture of my lunch – crab linguine and crab pizza from my favourite restaurant Olivetos, since you’re asking – and a stranger sent me a snap at 11.30pm asking if the restaurant was Vegan. It’s not, and I didn’t answer straight away because I have a life and I was out and do I need to answer to every single message I ever receive in my life, and straight away? Minutes later he had sent me another private snap calling me rude and wait for it – unprofessional.

It was his choice of the latter word that really bothered me. Why? For all the aforementioned reasons and my annoyance at an entitled world where people think you need to answer their questions within seconds. But mainly for the suggestion that I was being unprofessional for not answering a question that had nothing to do with my work, at an hour where I shouldn’t really need to be working, on a social media platform which is by no means the most professional of social media platforms, anyway.

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In short: what part of this was professional to begin with and why, when I conduct myself in the most professional of manners whenever it’s something actually to do with work, a random person on the internet felt entitled enough to accuse me of being anything otherwise because I didn’t answer his random question at thirty minutes to midnight.

I slept on it and woke up and realised that actually, my annoyance had been partially due to the fact that he had hit a sore spot. Recently, more and more, I’ve been feeling like a slave to my social media.

Don’t get me wrong, I love social media. I love all the incredible connections it’s fostered – I’ve met an actual, real life best friend on social media and made and maintained countless relationships – from the friendships to the more professional – on the various social media platforms I update countless times a day.social media 3I love chatting shit on Snapchat, I love sharing my work on Twitter, pictures on Instagram. I love the opportunities that being active and present on such platforms are affording me, and us, the social media generation. Thanks to social media we have, in essence, been given the opportunity to be our own bosses, to create our own content in the way that we want to; to spread our own message and have our own voices. And on and endlessly on go the pros.

But I’m tired. I recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post on why I’ll never post about my relationships on social media again. I concluded that by inviting an audience to look in and “like” images of our lives, we’re essentially inviting them to draw their own conclusions about us and how we should live.

And actually this stems far beyond just inviting them to comment on your choice (or conscious uncoupling of a choice) of arm-candy, and actually has an impact on basically every single second of your waking, breathing, uploading life.

Similar to how we judge and talk about celebrities as if they’re not real people, Instagram and Snapchat and the many ways we create a narrative about ourselves is turning us all into walking, talking TV shows, and we’re all seemingly becoming characters without real feelings. Or at least, that’s what the prominence of the trolls, and the accidental trolls, seem to suggest.

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So: “just stop posting!” But it’s really not that simple. Other than the fact that sharing our everyday thoughts and feelings and etc is a compulsion that has stemmed far before the internet age (diaries, anyone?), and the fact that I actually really enjoy the dialogue, it’s become such an important part of our lives. That being, of our actual social lives, not just social media lives; not to mention the fact that a social media presence is becoming all the more important in our professional lives, too.

And so the pressure to share and constantly update social media is a very real one. There appears to be this belief these days that if you haven’t posted it, it didn’t happen, or perhaps even more worryingly, that it might as well not have happened. Not to mention the fact that often what we’re posting doesn’t actually have all that much bearing on reality

A photo posted by emilycoxhead (@emilycoxhead) on

Watching Snapchat the other day a singer friend of mine said: “I noticed I don’t often post when I’m in studio, but I’m in studio loads! I had a really good session today.” She’s not the only one. A blogger friend of mine revealed that when she goes on holiday or to a new location she can’t relax properly until she’s taken a good photo to post onto her Instagram.

You snigger but we basically all do it. I read something recently and it was so spot on it was scary: “What Orwell failed to predict is that we’d buy the cameras ourselves, and that our biggest fear would be that nobody was watching.”

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m tired. Social media is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be social. It’s supposed to be real. And yes, for many, myself included, to a certain extent it is a job. But let’s not forget that real people are behind these accounts. Real people who some days just want to stay in bed all day and cry. Real people who sometimes don’t want to have to answer to every single message straight away. Real people who sometimes look like shit. Real fucking people.

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