Facebook without a Face – time to live?

Way back when Razberry Juice was still very wet behind its ears, I wrote an article (HERE) about Facebook, declaring my lack of a page on the social media website.  A lot has changed since then, Razberry Juice has grown into the magazine I am so very proud of, I have had a baby (now a crazy toddler, who I am also so very proud of) and the rise of social media has continued at a pace which is almost eye-wateringly fast, worming its way seemingly into every part of our personal and business lives.  However what has not changed is my resolute decision to not have a personal Facebook page.  I should perhaps at this point acknowledge that at RazberyJuice.com we do use social media extensively, in particular Twitter and have always been unfailingly impressed and surprised at the interactions with our readers via their tweets, we make contacts, meet new interesting people and keep our readership informed of what is happening on Twitter and Facebook.  

So it is an interesting juxtaposition I find myself now in – I don't have a personal Facebook page, or Twitter account, and yet I use both services everyday, hoping that those who do have personal pages will engage with us and our offering!  This has led me to do some soul searching, and it was viewing Gary Turk's brilliant video (see below – and do watch his words are so much more eloquent than mine), which helped to cement my views and have given me the confidence to support those friends and family members who do have personal pages, but continue my own stance of just using social media as I currently do. 

As I mentioned in that first 2012 article I have form for allowing technology and the online world to take over my life, and I suspect there is more than a little bit of fear involved in staying clear.  I have whole years of my life lost to a MMORPG, and I look upon that time with a mixture of shame, regret and upset.  I thank god that one day pretty much out of the blue – I decided enough was enough and I never logged on to play again!  Had I not done that, I think I can say hand on heart, I would not still be married, gainfully employed, and I would most certainly not have known the absolute joy of motherhood (do not ask me to repeat that sentence at 3 am when teething gel, ice cubes, and cold carrots have failed and only Mummy walking around cuddles will do).

Watching Gary Turk's video inspired me to write more about social media, and perhaps unsurprisingly voice my concerns about the way it has changed the world.

As a mum, I really don't want to miss a single second of my son growing up, and its not just the big milestones – the first step, the first tooth, the first word etc; it's all the everyday things that you can so easily miss; the interaction between two toddlers pushed past each other in their "thrones on wheels", the delight of picking a daisy, an impromptu boogie to the music from a boy racer's car, checking under every car – because if there is a cat under one there must be under all!, not missing a trip which needs a kiss, or a slip which needs a cuddle and probably most importantly just watching them as they discover the world.  Like most women these days I work – I have to!  So there are whole days when I miss things and the days we do get together I make sure I don't miss a thing, 

The above coupled with a small child’s burgeoning proudly held skill of communication, which can manifest in the smallest thing, means that you need to watch, you need to observe and you need to be there 100% – tough luck really if that sounds like hard work, its one of the absolute privileges of parenthood.   So what on earth has this got to do with social media?  I frequently walk, sometimes with my child, sometimes alone and sometimes with my insane dog along a path bordering a large playing field, which is a route to town, schools and housing estates, the playing field itself holds the kind of playground kids’ dreams are made of, and it has literally brought tears to my eyes when I have seen over and over mothers (and fathers and probably aunts, uncles, baby sitters and carers) so very lost in the contents of their smart phones that they utterly miss their children's calls for attention, sometimes subtle and sometimes darn right hollering out for it.   The smart phones may not be at that moment hooked up to social media, perhaps instant messaging or texting is also more important than whatever their progeny is doing; these people are not bad parents, but they have got themselves stuck somewhere in a habit, of which the dangers have crept up unseen!  All of this and more I have seen:

  • The mother walking along while her child on a scooter calls out for her to watch him while he does a wheelie – her head not looking up from her phone.
  • The child standing proudly at the top of the slide ready to hurtle down alone for the first time – his mum is too busy with important business on her phone.
  • Rushing along, one hand dragging along a small girl, her feet almost leaving the floor – she didn’t notice, whatever was on her phone screen was far too important.
  • Swimming lessons time – a girl swims underwater, grabs the float and climbs out the pool triumphantly – her dad isn’t taking pictures on his phone, instead his head doesn’t look up.
  • A gabbling, babbling toddler chatters away from his pushchair happily to his mum, she doesn’t reply or acknowledge that joyful repose, instead whatever is on her smart phone’s screen is more important.

I am rarely one for too much sentiment or writing with undertones of such disapproval, however my vantage point of my phone living in my back pocket or bag until it rings means I see all. Just a few weeks ago, in my local supermarket, an older gentleman was in the queue behind me distressed, when I enquired as to his wellbeing, he told me how he had just dragged a young child, a toddler he said from the very busy road outside.  When he had suggested to the visibly shaken young mum, that perhaps she should remove her nose from her phone and watch her child, she launched an abusive rant at him for daring to touch her child.  He was upset and ruing his actions, but had he not he said there was a good chance the young child would have ended up under a car.  The mother of course shouted at him because of a mixture of shock and shame, she knew damn well what she was doing was wrong – will it change her actions, I don't know!

Its not just parents though, how many times have you had to dodge out of the way of someone walking along lost in their screens, not even seeing anyone around them, how many times have you witnessed a shopper at a checkout so utterly devoid of manners as to carry on using their phones while the cashier serves them.  How many nights out have you been at where everyone gets their phone out to "check it" at least ten times (and me included I am guilty of that one) – but other than a dire emergency, what are we really checking for? 

None of this is new I am sure, and it has all been said before, but for those of us, who live in the real world most of the time, we have a unique perspective, I am not perfect, I regularly correspond with friends and family via Whatsapp, and each day I snap so many pics of my offspring that I have exhausted SD cards in their droves.  However, no message, call or text is as important as spending time in the real world, in real time.

One of my reasons for my dislike of Facebook has always been the “Facebook lives” people create.  If aliens were thinking of invading earth and decided to research us humans via our social media, they would be forgiven for believing virtually everyone has perfect lives, perfect holidays, perfect marriages, perfect homes and perfect jobs.  Our children behave wonderfully and problems are easily solved by a Facebook rant, followed by a few comments back which normally start with “Oh babe…….” and often end with “…… luv ya”.  

I confess that recently I have almost weakened, wondering if perhaps “this time it would be better”, however a short trawl of Facebook looking at old school friends’ pages (so many of whom have obviously never heard of, or care about Facebook privacy and security settings), something struck me – nothing changes – it is over twenty years since I I left school, so I was, I admit, interested to see what had become to some of those whom I hadn’t seen again after school was out on the last day.  The popular kids – well they have well populated pages, full of friends (how anyone actually knows 700 people I will never know), beautiful children, spouses, houses and Labradors, and it’s the people to whom adolescence wasn’t kind, those who were bullied or unpopular, those who just didn’t fit, they are the ones whose Facebook profile picture is a stock picture cat, or who – perhaps very sensibly – have pages locked down with just a grey picture to see, or like me they don’t exist.  So those who I went to school with who craved the attention popularity ensured have continued in that vein, needing the adulation and approval of others.

My school days were good, and I was rather lucky, stuck right in the middle as I was, not too popular and never truly disliked I managed to skate along for the most part happily.  However, a gift my parents bestowed on me, and one I treasure to this day is that “I don’t care if you like me, I truly don’t give a fig if you find me irritating, annoying or trite”, and this gives me freedom and thats a wonderful thing, freedom to not need a Facebook page, because that is perhaps where I differ from so many.  When precious things happen in life, I am content and happy to know that those people I hold dearest will know, and that my special events and happenings are no less special because I didn't paste them on Facebook. 

Maybe it really is time to look-up and live!