Oh how the world has changed in just a few short years.
In January 2009 I had an old fashioned mobile phone and sent a few texts. I sent the odd email too. I used Amazon and Ocado, but did little else online on my old PC. I had no idea what a blog was. My children were 16 months and 4 months old. I was a stay at home mum and I spent my days chasing my tail. We walked to the shops most days, with Presley in a pushchair and Cash in a sling. I sat with my babies as I fed and played with them.
Skip forward to January 2012 and some things are still the same. I use my old-fashioned mobile phone to send a few texts. I send the odd personal email. I shop online, not just at Amazon and Ocado, but elsewhere on the internet for toys, clothes, electrical appliances and things I don’t really need from Lakeland. I'm still a stay at home mum. My children are now 4 and 3 years old and attend nursery for 15 hours per week. We walk to the shops and the park. I sit with my children at mealtimes and play referee when they fight over toys.
The big change in my life is social media. I have a smartphone and a laptop. I’m a member of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, many forums and Blogger. I have over 500 blogs in my Google Reader. I play Words With Friends.
I could, if I chose to, spend all day every day flitting around in my online life. Is social media a hobby, that can be put aside, or is it something more?
How did we keep in touch with our real-life friends before Facebook? Now we read their status updates and click ‘like’ or comment with a ‘dislike’ as appropriate, but are we really in touch with them or is Facebook a poor substitute for friendship? When did we last chat on the phone or meet up in person? And don’t get me started on Facebook’s appaling privacy record…
I sometimes find it bizarre that people tweet about the most personal of events. They ‘live-tweet’ births, deaths, accidents and relationship break-ups. It just seems a bit… needy to me. Are we all just attention-seekers looking for some kind of validation by telling the world that we’ve just thrown up, or that there are only thirteen sleeps until our holiday or that we’ve written an unmissable blog post?
Does a tree really fall in a forest if there’s no one there to Twitpic it and tweet ‘Timber LOL’?
Of course Twitter can be wonderful if you need advice. I have made some genuine real-life friends through Twitter and hopefully I have other friends there that I haven’t met yet, but I often feel like I’m wasting my precious spare time tweeting and chatting when I could be writing or learning to sew or even – yes, really – cleaning the house. Perhaps I don’t value these friendships as much as I should? I see other online friends chatting happily together every day and I feel left out. I wonder if I need to participate more. I wonder if they see me as their friend even though I don’t tweet daily. Can you have real friends in social media without that time commitment or is it a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’?
I am incredibly nosy, that’s why I love reading blogs and looking at people’s photographs. I tend to lurk online more than participate (sometimes I simply don't have anything interesting to say) and I notice that some people seem to be online all day every day. Even Christmas Day. Surely this is the one day of the year when the online world should pale into insignificance as you spend time with your family. Live. Be in the moment. Step outside the social media bubble. Catch up with your online buddies another time.
I did an experiment over the holidays. I didn’t post anywhere online for 9 whole days. I spent time with my family. It was possibly made more special and private because I didn’t tweet about it. If I had told you that I made the best Christmas lunch ever (which I did), would you really care? I don’t think so. It would have been amusing to tweet that my mum bought me a meat thermometer for Christmas. You could have replied ‘I think she’s worried about the turkey ROFL’, but it would have taken both of us away from our children. I want to remember the look of wonder on Presley’s face when he came into our bedroom with his stocking on Christmas morning. He was too excited to speak. I’d have missed that if I had my phone in front of my face, jabbing away typing ‘7am and I’m the only one awake LMAO’.
I guess, as with most things in life, balance is everything. I sometimes think that life was simpler before social media. Perhaps I’m just being anti-social.
What do you think? Do we spend far too long online or is our real life online now? How do you get the balance right for you?