A rock and a hard place
I want my old life back.
Not the one that everyone automatically thinks I am talking about, the one before Covid19, but the one way before that. My life before Social Media.
I was much happier. Actually, really, truly happy, and blissfully unaware. I didn’t waste time looking at images on Insta, I actually went out and enjoyed looking at wherever I was, and I was in some pretty amazing places. I didn’t post comments on total stranger’s thought processes, I didn’t leave comments for algorithms to pick up, and put me at the front of some queue to make me relevant, I didn’t have to like something for someone to like me back, I didn’t have to envy someone’s fabulous lifestyle thinking where did I go wrong? I didn’t have to turn myself into a brand – WTF! I happily went about my business in my own little bubble, believing that I had a fabulous life, because quite frankly, I actually do.
And, I came late to the Social Media party so God knows what it would have been like if I had of jumped on that bandwagon in the beginning.
But that is only one side of the equation.
Pre-pandemic there was already a plethora of physical and mental issues arising from our screen time. Children as young as five were exhibiting addictive behaviour. The exact same symptoms faced when going cold turkey off addictive drugs, were monitored in young children when their tablets and mobile phones were taken away from them. Age five, and exhibiting withdrawal symptoms! In 2017 a medical condition - a curvature of the spine was noted in increasing numbers in children from as young as eight - it was termed the ihunch and attributed to the widespread adoption of laptops and smartphones.
Digital detox camps for children costing from $6,000 plus per week - which basically taught children how to play outside - were fully booked up for six weeks in advance in Australia, the land of sunshine and sweeping plains (if ever there is a country to be outside in, Australia would be it!). Concentration spans were so reduced, school systems and their structures were being re-designed, as hour long lessons were considered too long to hold concentrations levels. At one stage, attention spans were calculated to be at eight seconds which is less than a Goldfish, but this has recently been called into queston. However, what is true is that attention spans are decreasing. Recent studies have shown that, on average, whilst watching a movie, Gen Z are on at least three other gadgets at the same time.
Experts argue this is less an addiction than a way of life. I am no expert, but if you are exhibiting withdrawal symptoms then… just saying.
The list goes on, and this was before we were locked up for months on end with nothing else but our gadgets to connect us. Social Anxiety Media is a real thing and isolation, loneliness and rising levels of depression, as well as increased mental health issues have all been attributed to the rise in phone and screen time.
We were in a pandemic way before Covid19, but we just didn’t want to acknowledge it.
I am sure many of you will read this and say: “Well if Social Media is not working for you, just get off it (ironically even this blog pays into it). No-one is forcing you to buy into it, you have a choice”, and they would be right, kind of…. But that is part of the problem. I don’t feel anymore that I really do have that choice. I feel that in some way, to remain current and connected, to be informed (for want of a better word), to know what is happening out there, to remain in contact and be somewhat relevant, I cannot completely ignore Social Media.
And there’s the rub.
There was a recent headline about how protests numbers were down in an Australian city for #Blacklivesmatter because they had ceased to be such Instaworthy moments. “They show up when they want 100 Instagram likes”, screamed the headline. The momentum had faded, and so had the numbers. In just a week. What a sad indictment, and incredibly sad legacy we are leaving behind us. When we rally for a worthy cause just because it seems to garner us attention. Now I am not saying this headline was true, and that is the other part of the issue - the feeding of false information, the spoon-feeding and reflection of our own beliefs being force-fed back to us, making us righteous in our ignorance. But sadly, it rang with a measure of truth.
Personally, this false reality that we are creating, the anxiety, the trolling, the cancel culture, the lack of freedom of speech that is occurring, the lack of enjoyment of this amazing world we live in, the medical problems, the isolation and the fear - all of this far outweighs the convenience of a phone connection and of being able to create ourselves as a brand to sell stuff. And that is why I yearn for day’s past.
But, slowly, surely it appears I am not alone. With the rise of Fauxstalgia and Newstalgia - both trends linked to a sense of nostalgia on the rise for the younger generations - it seems that many more of us want to take a step back, to slow down, to go back to basics. To a time when life was slower, when we were not “always on”.
To a simple life, actually an achingly beautiful life in its simplicity. A time before we were a brand, a time when we were not defined by labels and algorithms - a time when we were just us.
For me, that time cannot come soon enough.