I regularly refer to myself as a social networking whore. Because I am. I rely on social media a lot more than I’d like to admit. But the relationship is something of a love/hate one. The idea that people not much younger than me will grow up not remembering a time before Facebook, terrifies me. I want, quite desperately, to know how social interaction worked before the internet. How did people make friends before the ability to stalk them existed? Did you just have to hope you ran into that person again at another party? And then have an actual conversation with them? And I know how silly that will sound to people not much older than me.
I’m torn between these things being an integral part of my existence and really hating that they are. I sometimes wonder what I could have achieved if I’ve devoted all that energy (and all those words) toward a more productive ends.
For me social networking is a type of writing. Just like other kinds of writing, I put together a collection of words designed to appeal to an audience. The difference is that online you get a reaction. Having a story published is a wonderful and amazing thing, but people won’t photocopy your story and post it to all their friends (that was a terrible retweet analogy). The internet provides instant gratification.
This year I live tweeted the census. It was the first time I’d filled out the census by myself and I was pretty excited. Because I’m that kind of person. I also live alone so, naturally, I took my excitement and pointless commentary to the internet. The strange thing is, I got a pretty positive response to that pointless exercise. I shouldn’t be encouraged to spend an evening in that manner. That’s ridiculous.
Sometimes, when talking about comedy, people ask if I write jokes outside the realms of GNW. I tend to answer that, apparently, my blog is funny sometimes. But no, I don’t actively set out to write comedy. That’s kind of a lie. I write jokes on Twitter. I want to amuse people.
Once I was retweeted by the official 30 Rock Twitter feed. I felt as though I’d justified my existence for that day. Which sounds insane but is probably something a lot of you can relate to. Recently Facebook decided to randomly change my settings so that the only person who could see my updates was my brother Fin. In the fortnight before I worked this out, there was almost no activity. No likes. No comments. Silence. This bothered me a hell of a lot more than it should have. Without retweets and replies and comments and likes, how do we know that there’s anyone on the other end of the line? Without those things we’re just a bunch of words floating aimlessly in the virtual void.
There’s an addictiveness to all this. To knowing that you made someone laugh or smile. Traditional types of writing don’t give you that. I’m not saying Twitter is BETTER. Hell no. I’m just saying it has this appeal that’s very difficult to break free of. I’ve always been rather shy. I know I’m pretty confident these days but in a lot of social situations I still find it difficult to relax. And you can’t be witty when you’re nervous. The internet lets you censor your identity. Hiding behind a computer screen you can be the funny, outgoing person that you are in your head.
But sometimes I just want to be me. In real life.