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Life

Surviving the Social Internet

Look for the quiet people on the periphery . They don’t get a chance in the sun because the ass-hats stole the sun-loungers

This post originally appeared at Medium – where I often empty my head into the keyboard, and try to make some sense of the world.


Falling off the internet bike

Over the course of the last several months, after vanishing from the internet for entire days (I know, shocking! ), on my return I have sheepishly remarked about having “fallen off the internet bike”.

Life has often conspired to drop me out of the whirling hurricane of tweets, instant messages, photos, blog posts, comments, likes, hearts, shares, re-blogs, and whatever else constitutes the “social internet” — leaving me in a metaphorical muddy puddle of my own making, wondering how best to get back on my feet and carry on pretending.

Here’s the thing — during the periods away from the internet maelstrom, I’ve made a somewhat guilty discovery.

I don’t miss it.


Jumping down internet rabbit holes has a cost

I often spend the quieter moments of each day on the internet —it’s a wonderful escape from the mayhem that typically surrounds me. Late on an evening the internet provides a reminder that a world exists outside of the teenagers, college, housework, and my job.

There is a cost.

I can’t remember the last time I sat down and read a book. It’s almost impossible at home because there’s always something going on — unless you count reading at bedtime.When I try to read in bed I get a few pages in and then wake with a start as my other half prods me awake — the book cumpled at my side.

I haven’t watched much television for years. Occasionally I get swept up in cult shows such as “The OA”, but fear becoming invested because anything I like invariably gets cancelled.


Social isn’t social at all

Maybe the social internet really isn’t social at all. It seems each major platform is not social in it’s own way. Tumblr, once a mighty bastion of creativity and free thinking, has become a ghost town. Instagram has been flooded with inspirational clothes-try-on hauliers. Facebook’s algorithmic timeline has transformed it into a political hellscape where factions of families fall out with one another, never to speak again. Twitter has become festooned with soap-box keyboard warriors — investing just enough effort to type a few hundred characters, but not willing to do anything more towards the causes they broadcast, promote, or cancel.


Waging a war against selfies

Anybody that follows my Instagram feed probably wonders what the hell I’m playing at — posting photos of wine glasses, coffee cups, railway platforms, and such like. I guess in many ways I am reacting to the narcissists.

I get it. I get why people post their face over and over again on Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat. It’s validation. Validation that we’re not that bad — that somebody out there likes us. I’ve always felt there’s kind of a line in the sand though — and you slowly learn that some people are only out there to attract attention — not to forge a friendship. You become statistics on their graph.


All clouds have silver linings

You might wonder why I bother with the social internet at all, if I’m so opposed to so many of the people that use it. Fox Mulder once said that all of the evidence to the contrary isn’t entirely dissuasive. I think the same is true of the people of the social internet.

If you can stand being in the middle of the mayhem for a while, you notice the quieter people on the periphery. The people that don’t get their chance in the sun, because all the ass-hats stole the sun-loungers. The quiet people are the only thing that has made the social internet persuasive for me for quite some time.

We share thoughts, hopes, and dreams with each other. We confide in each other. While we will likely never meet, we become closer friends than many we know in the real world. That’s worth persevering for.

6 replies on “Surviving the Social Internet”

Tumblr exploded across the internet in 2007. For the first two or three years it was an incredible place to be – filled with creativity, stories, thoughts, hopes, dreams – everything you might look for in a global community sharing their lives. And then censorship happened, and corporate ownership, and suddenly the platform became “the man”. Two ownership changes later, and it has become a pale shadow of the place it once was. The community left a long time ago.

Liked by 1 person

I agree with you about the quiet people. They do feel lovely, to me. And there is peace around them, which I really, really miss in the loud and angry world of social media.

But I realised the other day…the angry people are angry for reasons that are very real to their perceived reality, and usually they’re a little sad and broken because of them.

So maybe next time you are triggered by the keyboard warriors, it might help to think of the pains and heartaches that lead them to their soap box in the first place? That’s what I’m starting to do. I’ll probably still want to run away from them, in favour of the quiet and lovely ones, but I hope this way I’ll feel a little more compassion for the others. ✨

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