I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with social media lately. From the apps I use, to the seemingly bad habits I have developed with my smartphone. I’m not exactly sure what prompted me to start having a closer look at my behaviour, but once I did I was pretty surprised at what I discovered.
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
Join me on a trip down memory lane. I was born in 1991 and had the pleasure and luxury of internet access from about the year 2000. Back then the internet was a little tricky to set up and really, really slow, and as a kid I was way more interested in playing PC games than loading a Yahoo page. As I got a little older I would dip my toe in the world of online games and interactive websites. The Barbie website offered a particularly good selection of games and I was a big fan of the My Scene ones.
When I was about 10 or 11 I got my first email account and subsequently, had access to one of the most formative types of social networking of my generation. MSN Messenger. MSN was an instant messaging service that you could add your friends on and chat with. Remember when you could only be online when you were on a computer? I miss the simplicity of those days.
MSN was my first taste at expressing my creativity online. My display name was usually adorned with song lyrics in a rotation of uppercase and lowercase letters, I placed great importance on finding the perfect display picture~ and would change my email address on a semi-regular basis because I got sick of the old one so quickly. A couple of years into the chat service, MSN created a platform called MSN Spaces. (I beg of you, if you can remember what that was, please let me know.) MSN Spaces was actually very similar to MySpace. You had a little profile page connected to your email account which you could essentially customise how you wanted. My MSN space was carefully curated and I took my inspiration from profiles of peers of mine I considered cool. For me, this was the gateway to even better and more intuitive forms of social media…
Guys, we have to talk about MySpace. If you are a regular reader of my blog (all 5 of you), you will know how passionately I feel about the MySpace era of my life. I honestly believe that it was the best form of social media we’ve ever had and the perfect balance of “the best of both worlds” when it comes to online life. Like MSN, you had to be physically present at a computer to use it. If you weren’t online, you were probably out living your life. Or, if you were like me, probably lying on the couch anxiously waiting for your brother to get off the computer.
MySpace was a place of self discovery, your own little corner of the internet where you could express who you were. I discovered so many amazing bands on MySpace and loved customising my page to suit my style. MySpace was actually the catalyst for the creation of It’s A Dull Life, which happened after I realised there was only so much I could showcase on my profile. My blog was the perfect outlet for sharing things that inspired me, but MySpace was really the place where I discovered so much of it.
I would spend hours exploring people’s profiles, from teens in my hometown to teens all the way across the globe, taking inspiration from them all. MySpace was also a great way to get to know someone you may have just met a little better. Or, alternatively, also a pretty interesting place to meet new people. And before you start lecturing me on the importance of internet safety, let me just say that the social networking aspect of the site made it a lot easier to verify if a person was who they said they were. Like Facebook really, a person’s friends list, comments and pictures were the main indicator. Sorry people, this is not an episode of Degrassi.
Personally, I believe MySpace was the first platform that gave my friends and I the opportunity to showcase things about our lives online. I would scroll through photo albums of other teens my age hanging out with their friends and taking pictures in their bedrooms and experienced for the first time that feeling we often get now when we scroll through Instagram. Jealousy, inadequacy, comparison and FOMO. That and access to personal photos I wouldn’t ordinarily be privy to seeing. I took an interest in documenting my life but was even more interested in taking a peek into others. The seed that would later give me a reason to question my relationship with social media had been planted.
Enter, Facebook. In late 2009 I distinctly remember MySpace feeling, well, a lot quieter. I had heard of Facebook but was pretty adamant I wouldn’t be creating a profile. In comparison to MySpace, it just seemed so lifeless. Every profile was a variation of the same thing, you couldn’t customise your background or font and you could only display photos in the album section of your profile. The most concerning thing, however, was that you couldn’t have a profile song. Facebook felt uniform and boring in comparison to MySpace, it was a place where it was also socially acceptable for your parents to have a profile. In summary, it was pretty much my worst nightmare. Low and behold though, when everyone eventually abandoned MySpace, I felt I had no choice but to sign up for a Facebook account. And here we all are, over 10 years later, still using this platform.
As I’m sure you’re all familiar, Facebook basically changed the game as to how we use social media. It’s essentially a live-streaming platform for our lives. Whether we’re posting stream of consciousness thoughts, pictures from our day-to-day-lives or re-sharing articles, it is accessible 24/7 and is never not offering you new information every time you open it. With the advancement of technology, Facebook has now grown from a platform used only on a desktop computer, to something we can literally access from the palms of ours hands when scrolling endlessly through our smartphones.
(If you are familiar with The Social Dilemma documentary on Netflix you will be aware of the profound impact this kind of technology has and continues to have on our mental wellbeing. If you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend.)
Instagram kind of goes hand-in-hand with Facebook as it was introduced as a sort of “sister site” to the social networking platform. Although Instagram can now be accessed via desktop, originally the photo sharing app was only available through your smartphone. Instagram perfectly complimented Facebook in that it was a place to share photos with captions only, which you could then also share to Facebook. Instagram has changed immensely over the decade since it was created, from the infamous #Valencia filter days, to where we are now, in a world where Instagram influencing is considered a real and legitimate career path and advertising well and truly is the heart and soul of the business that is Instagram.
In 2021, Instagram is my social media form of choice. I love the visuals of the platform and have discovered many profiles of influencers, brands and creatives that have and continue to inspire me. Instagram almost feels like the next best thing in comparison to MySpace, it is a creative outlet for so many people and a way to give friends and perfect strangers some insight into your life. The more curated the better, right?
That being said, my relationship with social media and in particular, Instagram, has brought with it a sense of entitlement to having an all access pass to the lives of strangers. Why am I so interested in so many strangers lives? Why do I know so much about mere acquaintances of mine? And why can’t I look away?
My Relationship With Social Media
If you’re still with me, thanks for making it this far. I want to get to the heart and soul of this blog post, the reason why I felt prompted to write it. I want to talk about my relationship with social media.
This is what a typical day looks like for me: I wake up and immediately scroll through Instagram. Within minutes of waking up I am bombarded with images and videos from multiple accounts that I follow. Like most people, I follow a variety of accounts that accommodate for particular interests of mine. Fashion, interior design, celebrity culture, motherhood, health and fitness, and of course, my friends and acquaintances. Within minutes of waking up, I am literally bombarded with this information from every sector. My thoughts may look something like this:
“Ooo, what did my friend get up to last night? Oh wow, this lady is having trouble with breastfeeding, that must be challenging for her. Her baby is so cute. Ooo, thats a good recipe, I’ll have to try that. What’s this influencer I hate-follow up to now? Ugh, she’s so annoying. Oh wow, Kim and Kanye have officially broken up. I wonder why…”
Throughout the rest of the day, regardless of how busy I may or may not be, I will repeat this same process multiple times. While I’m eating, while I’m in the bathroom, while I’m watching TV, while I’m having a conversation with my husband and even when I’m with my toddler. Any small window of time I get, I find myself checking my phone. Just a quick scroll…
The more aware I’ve become of this habit, the more insight I have acquired in regards to my small attention span. I’m just not capable of processing that much information at once. It’s not new information that our use of smart phones has an affect on our memory, but it has been eye-opening to say the least when realising how obvious the solution is.
When reflecting on a time before smart phones and the addiction I can now confirm I have with mine, I realised something. Back in the days of MySpace, where I didn’t have unlimited access to a computer, I was able to be selective about the media I was consuming. I would read books. Actual books with pages, not ebooks or podcasts. I would make special trips to the newsagent so I could buy my favourite fashion magazines and then spend hours thumbing through their pages. I would even try to emulate the fashion editorials I saw through my own photography. Social media was only one of the many mediums I got visual pleasure out of, it didn’t take precedence over all of those other things. The best part was that I didn’t know what everyone else was doing every second of the day. I spent most Saturday nights in my teens at home on the computer desperately wishing I was doing something more rebellious and it would’ve been so much worse had I had Instagram stories and snapchats reminding me of how boring my life was.
Despite these revelations, my love of the internet will probably always remain unending – it was such a pivotal part of my life when I was growing up and I truly believe that in a lot of ways it has shaped me into who I am today. I have many fond memories of the time I spent on the computer in a cosy little nook of our house, chatting to friends, listening to music through my Dads giant headphones and teaching myself HTML. Growing up in a time where I got to experience MSN, MySpace and blogs was a real privilege and I am so grateful that I had a safe space to channel my creativity. To discover things. To write.
The reason I started this blog was to harness my creativity and document my inspirations. From sharing music I love, to scanning editorials from fashion magazines, the inspiration was always external, the execution, however, just happened to be digital. I really want to get back to a place that is similar to those formative years of my blog.
My relationship with social media was undeniably at its healthiest when all of the various forms of social media and apps weren’t so easily accessible. So while It would be naive to of me to expect technology to change for the better, I realise now how desperately important it is to change my habits. It’s a complicated relationship to say the least, and I know there is no quick fix for this dilemma. But I am committed to making some changes, however small they may be. Perhaps I’ll document my journey right here on the blog, I’m not sure yet.
I’d love to know if any part of this post resonated with you but even more so, what is your own relationship with social media like?