Antisocial Media

When I moved from my parents’ into my own place, I got a telephone line, a cream-coloured Ericsson T1 and a teak effect answering machine. Despite taking ages to get the outgoing message just right, I got a LOT of hang-ups, silences, wrong numbers, and insane messages from my mother to “pick up; I know you’re there.”

I was disappointed that it was not chock-full of interesting messages from all my pals. Then again, none of my pals were very interesting, and I was only slightly interesting on certain days.

It took me years to realise that I was merely a pawn in the telephone company money-making machine. Where previously a call that was unanswered cost nobody a penny, connecting to the machine cost the caller money even if they heavy breathed and hung up. Heavy breathing was an expensive hobby, especially during the on peak periods.

I was reminded of all this years later when I got a smartphone.

After the initial excitement of setting it up and playing around with apps, it was pretty disappointing. I wanted, needed it to do more, to be more. This thing had to be invaluable and necessary.

But… I still get free calls on the land line, I still get answering machine and voicemail crap that makes money for someone. So what to do with this potentially brilliant thing?

At this point, I could have used the camera on the phone to take pictures of all my meals to share on-line, or I could have shared my cycling or walking routes, or my location on Foursquare. It would certainly make good use of the phone’s features, but in the end I thought I’d better not.

So I decided to try out some of the free sites and apps – stuff like gmail, keep, drive, on-line calendars, twitter, facebook, pinterest, thisismyjam, youtube, stumbleupon, reddit, flikr, and more – and I got them feeding to my phone. This would be fun surely?

After a year of giving it all a good go, I have to say that some of it has been the most anti-social stuff I have ever done!

Before I go on, I have to acknowledge that I realise that each of these “social media” sites can be used very differently; you’d think facebook or twitter would be the same experience for all, but it isn’t. They are what you make them to a large extent.

This maybe best explained with an example – the way I used twitter initially was to follow the stars, but general celebs soon became annoying, so I switched to comedians only, and that lasted for a short while as they are not as funny as I had hoped.

I then explored hashtags during live telly shows – and this was quite funny for a while, as it was like an add-on to the show itself, making the show better that it actually was.

Even so, I soon grew tired of this, and I thought I would start to build my own original content, and doing follow-backs. My wit and humour in 140 characters got me a fast growing following and an increasingly good influence rating – all in a couple of months… but it was time-consuming, and I couldn’t see why I should be an unpaid entertainer and agony aunt. I quit when my target of 600 was reached.

Have I been insulted, threatened or bullied on-line? Not really; I put a couple of facebook comments on that created blind fury, much to my amusement, and there was one attempt on twitter that was easily remedied (blocked),

I did see it happen to others, and I have read the threads, and I felt sad for Mary Beard and for the singer from CHVRCHES (and all the others), but then again, using your real name on the internet is the real problem. Maybe, if everyone went back to using a screen name like we did in the 90s, and I do now, then happiness would be possible.

The best sites, the least threatening, and the most fun, are the sites where screen names are used or can be used, especially thisismyjam, reddit and wordpress.  I think the biggest example of this is when google+ connected with YouTube; everything went to hell in a handbasket.

Facebook used to be for spying on colleagues and exes from failed relationships, but the addition of privacy settings means that it’s now just a type of therapy for the great unwashed masses, somewhere they can air and share their extreme political and religious views, and attempt to market their empty lives as aspirational lifestyles. And they take it very seriously indeed.

So, after my year of smartphoning with social media, the result is mixed. While I got a lot from some of them. I’d say the most antisocial media site would definitely be Facebook, and it’s the one app that cannot be deleted from phone memory.

TL;DR – Social Media can enrich, inform and entertain, but it’s better on a PC than a phone. Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter are great on phones, but can be used antisocially to bully and upset users, which is not what you spent all that money on, is it? My advice is to use them but do not contribute, and cull deep and often.

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