Back in the dark days of 2017, I was unenlightened enough to believe that social media was the work of the devil.
What was wrong with people, and why were they so intent on sharing their lives with strangers on the internet?
I could only imagine that some evil curse had befallen them, so I decided the best thing to do was keep my head down and try not to fall victim, until someone found a cure and the curse could be lifted.
We’re All Doomed!
This proved to be easier said than done because by that time, social media was everywhere. I had a particular dislike of Twitter, which I believed was responsible for slowly desecrating the English language, one emoji-ridden tweet at a time.
Some days it was all I could think about.
Sometimes, my family would find me sat in darkened rooms, rocking back and forth, muttering about inevitable doom and the end of the world as we know it.
Luckily, they had the good sense to ignore me. And somewhere along the way, I started to change my mind about social media. I either finally came to my senses or the curse got to me too, depending on how you look at it.
False Alarm – I May Have Overreacted
Fast-forward to February 2020 and I’m pleasantly surprised to report that I couldn’t have been more wrong about social media. [You’ve not gone crazy or discovered the secret to time travel, this was written pre-pandemic. Keep reading for the post-pandemic update.]
I’ve been an (over)active user of Twitter since the beginning of 2018.
I expected it to be a human cesspit, where I’d frequently become embroiled in pointless arguments with keyboard warriors who had nothing better to do with their time.
But I didn’t.
I’ve not had one single solitary argument in the two years I’ve been on Twitter. I’ve not had to block or mute anyone.
Is this because I’m a forgiving, easygoing, positive person?
It’s because social media is whatever you choose to make of it.
If you’re looking for arguments and drama, there’s plenty of it.
But if you’re looking for a supportive community of like-minded writer types to network with, like I was, that’s exactly what you’ll find.
It’s like anything else, if you walk into a pub looking for a fight, I can guarantee you’ll find one. But if you try to avoid violence because you’re a normal sensible and well-adjusted individual, you learn who to avoid and become attuned to any situations that might have the potential to escalate into something unpleasant.
In normal life, we do this every day. It’s called self-preservation.
But it’s strange how people think that because they’re communicating in cyberspace and not in the ‘real’ world this somehow gives them the license to behave like twats.
My rule is don’t say anything to someone on social media that you wouldn’t dare say to their face.
This could be wisdom or curse-related babble
So, what’s the lesson in all this?
Sometimes, despite all your better judgement, you have to take a leap of faith.
My leap of faith was joining Twitter, and you know what? Despite all my fears, I’m a better writer for it.
So don’t let your fears hold you back, and be willing and happy to be proved wrong from time to time. Stepping into the unknown is the only way we can develop our craft and grow as writers.
Or, it could be that the curse has affected my brain and I’m wrong about all of this, so I guess you’ll just have to take your chances.
Damn it, was I right all along?
Of course, there’s a little more to this story because I wrote this right before the pandemic hit, in those carefree halcyon days of innocence, laughter and naivety, when Twitter was just for tomfoolery and light-hearted shenanigans.
But now I’m older and more jaded (and my hair is unfathomable from when I tried to cut it like Al Pacino during the first lockdown), and those words you just read seem a tad hollow now.
Because if you’ve been reading my blog (and I hope to god you have been because I’m very needy as well as having a dodgy haircut), then you’ll know that I turned into a bit of a knobhead during the height of the pandemic, and became embroiled in lots of pointless arguments with keyboard warriors who had nothing better to do with their time.
In fact, I became one of those keyboard warriors/twats as a direct result of not having anything better to do with my time. And I quickly realised just how dangerous and addictive social media can be.
I’d always been worried about the pervasive effects of Twitter and the like, and yet there I was, a paying spectator adding to all the noise and nonsense.
Now, I still stand by what I said about social media being what you make of it, but so is having a gambling app on your phone or a pet reticulated python — it doesn’t make these things any less dangerous.
Social media is brilliant in so many ways, but the power of it shouldn’t be underestimated. Of course, anything has the potential to be abused, but social media is so damn convenient, so fast, so easy.
And that’s the problem.
It turns out that doom scrolling is not a rewarding hobby
For the majority of people, gambling is a pastime that they indulge in on high-days and holidays — it’s an occasional hobby that they can easily keep under control. But when something like lockdown happens, all bets are off (or on as the case may be).
Suddenly, you’re no longer able to socialise or go to the gym, or any of the other things that you’d usually do to maintain your sanity, health and wellbeing.
So, you reach for the thing that’s closest to hand.
Then, within seconds, you find yourself winning a few quid on a gambling app, or ‘winning’ an argument with a complete stranger (or possible bot) on Twitter. And suddenly dopamine starts flooding through your veins and the reward centres in your brain start lighting up like there’s a tiny Las Vegas in your skull.
And very quickly, in the absence of normal daily life and social interaction, that little electrical gadget that sits so comfortably in your hand becomes your whole world.
But when you’re angry, scared or confused, you’ll usually shape that world (digital or otherwise) in your own image, and you’ll start deliberately seeking out all the bad stuff — kinda like a pissed off version of god.
And that’s exactly what happened to me.
It got to a point where I couldn’t put down my phone. I’d spend hours doom scrolling through Twitter, deliberately seeking out stuff that I knew would piss me off. I’d have arguments with strangers, and couldn’t seem to stop until I’d ‘won’, always insisting on having the last word.
My relationship with social media had changed for the worse. And as a result, I had become a belligerent dickhead.
What have I become?
Without even realising, it just kinda sneaks up on you. And suddenly, you just can’t seem to put down the gambling app. You can’t seem to resist teasing and provoking that pet snake. And what was once a just fun way to pass the time is now a self-destructive dependency.
And the real clincher is that unlike The NeverEnding Story, which does end (I’ve never forgiven those lousy filmmakers for lying to me), social media just goes on and on and on and…
Just like the gambling app doesn’t ever shut shop.
And the reticulated python continually eats its own tail to form the ancient symbol ouroboros, which signifies infinity and the eternal cycle of death and rebirth.
Okay, that last one might be a bit of a stretch, but you get my point.
Take heed, lest Twitter turns you into a doom-seeking dickhead too
So this post is here as a warning that social media, like a gambling app, or anything else for that matter, can easily get the better of you.
It’s important to remember that social media shouldn’t be your whole life, and your phone shouldn’t be the first thing you reach for in the morning. Social media should be there for you, not the other way around.
So, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Be a cuckoo because they’re right crafty buggers. Or just be clumsy and drop those metaphorical eggs anywhere you damn well can.
Or to put it in plainer, and less batshit, terms — my advice is to limit your use of social media (and all things digital for that matter), and try to find other healthier and more constructive ways of getting your jollies.
So that the next time shit hits the fan and the external world has gone nuts, you’ll still have something other than doom scrolling and argumentative bots to fall back on.
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