DESPITE being a keen social media user I decided to give both Facebook and Twitter a wide berth over Christmas. I didn’t have to make a huge effort.
After working up to Christmas Eve getting a magazine to the printers, I was happy to switch off, disconnect and throw myself headlong into the festivities.
While I have always refused to set up email on my phone (I hate the idea of having my office in my pocket), I have installed Facebook and Twitter and am a regular user of both.
Over Christmas my traditional usage changed as I found myself happily preoccupied with family, gifts and (over) eating. For much of the Christmas period I didn’t even know where my phone was.
When I logged back on for work, I spent a while scrolling back through my Facebook page. Aside from the occasional posting of lovely Christmas Day photos featuring dinner tables with three and sometimes four generations gathered together, my timeline wasn’t overly busy.
Like me, many of my friends had decided to abandon the internet and live in the moment, something many of us seem to have forgotten how to do.
Nowadays we go to gigs and spend our time recording the artist, looking at them through a phone screen rather than simply watching and enjoying. We go out for dinner and Instagram our food and post it online before we eat it.
We record the intimate moments of our lives – proposals, reunions, farewells, celebrations, gift giving – and then rush to share the footage, or selfies, with everyone we know online rather than losing ourselves in the emotion of the moment.
The more we over-share the more pressure others feel to compete. The cycle is so established now that people first associate the word viral with video footage rather than with illness. We’re now growing up in a world so obsessed with validation from our peers that social media is turning generations into a group of show-offs and narcissists.
It’s easy to point our finger at younger generations, but many parents who should know better are also guilty of playing the show-off game. Christmas Eve highlighted a classic example.
While I hoped, and expected, to see heart-warming photos of friends reunited with loved ones in my Christmas timeline on Facebook, I wasn’t prepared for the photos of Santa loot that popped up.
All parents feel immense joy on Christmas Day when they see the booty Santa has brought for their children, but one wonders why anyone would feel the need to share an image online of all the presents together. We all know Santa is coming to every child in the country, so there’s something crass and tacky about showing everyone how many gifts your little darling is receiving.
Facebook may be a great tool for sharing joy – I love seeing status updates of parents with funny children, of great holidays, of new haircuts, of fun nights out and celebrations – but it has also become a platform for developing insecurities and promoting competitiveness.
We can’t blame the technology, either. It’s more about looking at who we are, and how we want others to see us.
I’d love to see a photo of a friend’s child receiving a new bike on Christmas morning – who wouldn’t? – but do we really need to know they got 15 other gifts from Santa as well?