Social media icons on smartphoneI’ve just spent all day drinking tea and talking to a friend. We’ve been in pretty constant contact via texts and social media but this is the first time we’ve been in the same room for almost a year. Communications with my friends on social media generally go something like this:

Friend: ‘Just back from Tibet – trip was amazing!

Me: ‘Wow! Photos look great’!

Friend: ‘Clare’s first day at school – doesn’t she look cute in her uniform’?

Me: ‘Wow! Photos look great’!

You get the idea.

This is how we tend to use social media. It’s a shop window where we display our lives. And if the whole world (security settings notwithstanding) can see our lives, wouldn’t we want to be showing off our fabulous new kitchen or exciting holiday rather than admitting that, after another exhausting day, we’ve just sat in a onesie eating a ready meal out of the carton trying to remember how we imagined our lives would turn out. The perfect lives we see online can make us feel like a failure or even a freak by comparison.

It’s not so much that we don’t share the bad stuff; it’s more that social media may not seem like the best place for the everyday stuff that grinds us down and makes us feel guilty or humiliated. For example, after being in the same room as my friend, I now know that post-natal depression, as well as being horrible, can last for two gruelling years! Who do you know who would post ‘still depressed’ every day for two years as their Facebook status?

The other thing social media cannot do is gossip. In his essay, ‘On Human Nature’, Schopenhauer describes Schadenfreude as ‘a mischievous delight in the misfortunes of others, which remains the worst trait in human nature’.  He’s right. It is. It also feels delicious! Like scratching the itch in the middle of your back with a hairbrush:

Friend: ‘No, X is back at work – she married this super-rich businessman’

Me: ‘Really? What happened to the other fella’?

Friend: ‘Dumped! She thought she was onto a better meal-ticket. Thing is, Super Rich is now bankrupt and the credit cards have been stopped.

Me: [laughing merrily] ‘Oh poor X, that’s awful’!

Yes, I know, but X is truly appalling!

Thing is, online this is hateful, possibly illegal. Offline, in a crowd, it’s just not very nice. But with one or two trusted friends who won’t let it go any further, this is bonding.

It’s so important to make time to be in the same room as often as you can. The 400+ friends you have on social media really can’t replace one or two real friends who can remind you that not being plastic-surgery-perfect or having a particularly exciting life is actually normal. And virtual friends can only make you lol, not belly-laugh till you’re sore.


Anecdote, Relationships