I grew up collecting Care-Bears, not likes on social media | Emma Worrollo

It’s has been 20 days since I wrote my last post about my deep dive into my headspace and emotional goals. People have been super responsive, and I’ve had some fascinating conversations (thanks!), though I think I may have also weirded some people out, like I just flashed my boobs on the internet or something. Baps out or not, (and my god, they used to be out a lot; I refer here to the time I was nearly arrested in Mexico for topless sunbathing. I’m digressing already, first para in, this doesn’t bode well for this post, you better get a cuppa on hand), I already feel so much lighter, freer and focussed. I certainly don’t feel like I got naked on the internet.

My first step towards a healthier headspace was that I deleted social media for couple of weeks to see what it was like going cold: quick disclaimer here, this is not a post about me sitting on a self-righteous judgy throne being all like, ‘I totally just digitally-detoxed, and I’m like totally a new person who lives in the moment now’, because that’s annoying, and also not true, but during some ‘reflection’ (I think that’s the professional term for what I’m doing here with this emotions business, though I’ve always been shite at professional terms), I observed that I’m quite shouty at myself in reference to my phone and social media use. Rather than just listening to these ongoing internal scoldings, I decided to reply to them quite simply by saying, ‘well let’s just try and find oout if you are really addicted, self-indulgent and not living in the moment. This idea was so basic (bitch), yet felt liberating. Being kind and reasonable to yourself, and responding to negative thought patterns rationally and with control, feels like some kind of revolutionary and rebellious act. I highly recommend it.

But first, I wanna go back in time….

xxx has invited you to join Facebook

xxx has invited you to join Facebook

xxx has invited you to join Facebook

“Do you keep getting these invites to this thing called Facebook?”

“Yeah”

“What even is it?!”

“I think it’s like Friends United, but less rubbish and not about school. Maybe more like mySpace, but not your own space; everyone’s all in the same place”

“Oh right. I don’t think I can be arsed. My MySpace is so good and I just worked out how to put a song on”

“Yeah and that video you added to your page of you doing the hula hoop WAS pretty cool”

“I know. It took me 12 days to work that out. It was worth it.”.

 

xxx has invited you to join Facebook

xxx has invited you to join Facebook

xxx has invited you to join Facebook

 

“So, I joined the Facebook – everyone’s on it”

“Who?!”

“Everyone. You can see what people, they write a ‘status’ thing and people have their own wall where you can leave messages on the wall and see people’s pictures”

“Shit. I’m totally joining. I want a wall.”

The year is 2006. Ben and I are living in Australia. I was sponsored to live there for a job I bagged in Melbourne. It’s my second ‘proper’ adult job. I’m really fit. I go to 7am kickboxing classes, to spar. We both skate longboards. We take 6am beach runs. We’re THAT couple. I take flying trapeze and pole dancing lessons. We live in an art deco one bedroom flat, which if you lean over the balcony and crane your neck a bit, you can see the sea. We do not have air conditioning, we can’t afford that. When it gets really hot in the summer, I make an ice bath before we go to sleep, and when we wake up hot in the night, we zombie shuffle to the en suite and take a dunk. I put my pillow in the freezer before bed. We both agree this is a genius idea that we should probably be famous for it. There are penguins at the bottom of our pier. We buy food at the fresh food market every weekend, and I bring it back in a granny trolley on the tram.

It honestly is, as good as it sounds.

Xmas lunch BBQ in Noosa 2006

By this point I had been to university, Ben more the ‘university of life’ and we’d endlessly dated, loved, lost, rebelled, had multiple ‘shitty jobs’. Both our parents were divorced. We’d both left home. He bought a flat. I moved into it. We travelled. A lot. We had passions, a large social group and were really into fitness. We were creative, him making films, me writing bits and pieces and doing crazy-ass clothing customisations and the odd occasional weird painting.

http://elitefitness-penrith.co.uk/valentines-week-special/ This was a life lived without social media.

By the time we’d reached our 20’s, our coming of age had been more analogue than digital. Tech was around and played a role in who we were, but it was playful and non-intrusive. Gameboy, Walkman, Sonic, Nokia 3210, MSN messenger, mySpace and Hotmail, all fond signatures of a 90s childhood. I still remember my original email address: pinkprincess110@hotmail.com what now seems like an now archived symbol of how playfully and childlike our relationship with tech really was (and a wonder how I got actual real jobs using it).

go site Tech in my youth hood was amateur, I think it might have even been wholesome.

source site  We did not grow-up learning how to use social media.

So there we were, ‘living our best lives’, on the other side of the world, starting a new life adventure and slowly creeping towards

Always with a pretend weapon. And he wonders where Phoenix gets it from.

Always with a pretend weapon. And he wonders where Phoenix gets it from.

adulthood when it emerged: Facebook. A perfect mirage of communication, a portal to connect and share with friends instantly from across the other side of the globe. It was exactly what we’d been waiting for right?

Our first interactions on FB were pure and simple (note the All Saints reference there 90s kids), we connected with actual friends, people we really wanted to communicate more with. Then we moved onto finding ‘randoms’, old friends from school and past lives which quickly became known as stalking. There was casual banter and cute personal messages left on people’s wall, like postcards and classroom notes had gone got digital. Looking back, those early moments were kinda sweet.

 

Then more people came.

And more people.

And then everyone was there.

People we worked with, people we knew a bit, but not really, people who we had mutual friends in common with, people we hadn’t thought about for decades.

 And then our parents’ came.

Things got really confusing. How could we ‘be’ when there were so many multiple audiences to consider? Who were actually we talking to?

The culls came next, a status message would notify you that ‘if you’re reading this you’ve survived my contacts cull’. It was digital Hunger Games, no longer a place to hang out, share fun and frolics with friends, no longer a free place to express yourself without fear or judgement, or paranoia about what family or employers would see your stuff, it was the opposite: jokes were curated, pictures perfected, content planned, likes sought after, number of friends competed for, comments judged. It became political, bitchy, egotistical and FOMO reared it’s ugly head; if you weren’t in the pic, invited to the event or gaining likes were you even living? Politics came next, a scrappy, angst filled feed of left versus right, less constructive discussion, more angry ranting and over the years of belonging to Facebook, I watched it seep into and blur with real life, creating new social dynamics and challenges that not everyone knew how to deal with. I was no longer convinced this was what we’d all been waiting for.

By 2011, I felt like Facebook was no longer a window into friends’ worlds, the reason I’d signed up; it was THE world. Or at least it felt that way. 

I packed my Facebook bags up shortly after that and moved over to the colourful world Instagram, settling in to find a platform where I felt much more at home. I am a visual person, and the idea of a stream of beautiful images passing through my retinas at my disposable was alluring. I liked the creative element, editing the photos and looking at life in a way that made you to think more like a photographer (allbeit with less of the skill), and that was fun. I found it thought provoking and used it to capture my best bits, my highlights, my faves; my personal stream of memories pointing to moments in time where I felt something, wrapped up in an image and caption that meant something to me. I also found it refreshing how Instagram, seemed more about connecting with people you didn’t know; finding your tribe and following your interests and passions, versus being ‘at the drunk bar of Facebook’ with a random mix of people from your past and present. I felt happy here.

These are some pics of my early posts on Instagram. They were posted for friends and for me, and just like those first Facebook moments, they were fun, sweet and endearing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, it wasn’t going to stay like this for long.

Today the influencer model continues to boom, these are the people who rule the platforms. They make a career out of them, using bots, apps and putting teams behind them to ‘do social media properly’, with their professional shoots, curated feeds and non-stop content creation. Shortly after having fun on Insta, I like many others started to go on a journey with those ‘getting rich and successful’ from the internet. They had more free stuff chucked at them than they (or we) could handle and seemed to have cracked life in a way that seemed impossible to us mere mortals. And why bloody not, all tribes need leaders and spokespeople and they continue to play a key role in saying the unsaid, symbolising universal points of connection and making us feel like ‘we’re not the only ones who feel or do xyz’. But as the platform became smarter, more popular and its use more sophisticated, depending on your mood, on that moment you pick up the phone, it started to feel like those tribes we sought to connect could betray us, that actually we don’t fit, and the more we tried and socialise, the lonelier we felt.

From an evolution note passing social media became about building personal brands.

Here’s some of my most recent posts, which you can observe versus the early lot are much more curated and considered, still coming from the place, the same person, but clearly an evolution in style and thought around what they’re saying influenced by the context of the world they have been posted in.  Funnily enough, considering them side by side, I don’t feel like one is more real or superior than other, they do actually feel like they reflect the context of the times pretty well, an evolution of self and lifestyle, as well as evolution of the media they were created in.

 

I want to pause and say that I know there are millions of people who have a positive relationship with social media, who feel enriched, connected and that good stuff that is very real, without any of the baggage. It is of course a treasure trove of communication and can educate, inspire, uplift and motivate all in the swipe of a screen. I also know some people still continue to use the platforms like the ‘good old days’ and don’t feel as swept up in the hoopla of how things have evolved – we need to study these people more, they are fascinating, and I would hedge a bet that they are likely emotionally advanced and developed with a strong sense of self and contentedness.

But this is my story (oo hello, there’s that narcissistic millennial social media user right there) and what I learnt is that though social media can be enjoyed like a nice refreshing G&T, a social lubricant, a chance to relax and let your proverbial identity hair down, if you binge the whole bottle, especially when you’re not in the mood for it, expect things to get messy. For me regular, spontaneous access to social media, which is how most of us do it, isn’t such a wise idea. I can happily scroll my insta feed and feel inspired and motivated and equally scroll that same feed at a different time of the day and feel isolated and like a failure.

Context is everything

I empathise with this from both angles, gobbling up content that makes me feel not good enough, successful enough, thin enough, cool enough, fit enough, cultured enough, just not enough, but also from the other side, for being that person judged for ‘not being real’, making others feel comparatively down on themselves. A dear, dear friend of mine deleted me ‘digitally’ and then in real life for that exact reason. My posts of world travel, London, family fun, women’s empowerment, business, whatever the heck else was in my world at the time, those best bits I was collecting up that were special and important to me, collided and exploded against where her head was at the time. She control+alt+deleted me from her life and we’ve not spoken since.

And it broke my heart.

This past week I’ve acknowledged how much impact that experience has had on me. In this instance it was me who was the wrong content at the wrong time, and though I may not be an official ‘influencer’ as defined by popular culture, it highlighted how we are all catalysts to sparking thoughts in other people’s minds – both a beautiful and dangerous thing.

The extension of what went completely unsaid and unbeknown to me on social media between me and my friend, seeped into real life and I now realise has left a mark on me that I’m not sure I will ever be able to fully shake. It shows the power of the blurriness between offline and online, and how things can be misinterpreted, how real-life relationships can be affected by stuff that’s less important, and the need to make sure our real relationships are nurtured and invested in more than our digital ones.

We seem to expect to know how to deal with social media, we feel like we’re experts and know what we’re doing because we had it first. We don’t. We literally know nothing. We’re guinea-pigs for living with these platforms. We didn’t grow up with it, it’s still really new and whatever ‘this’ is right now, it won’t look like this in the future.

My most vivid youth memories are playing out in the street on my bike, fishing in the stream, collecting Forever Friends bears, waiting for the next episode of Biker Grove, spending hours on the climbing frame in the garden, writing notes to friends, talking for hours on the landline, writing endless journals, sneaking into the pub underage, playing snake, buying Rimmel make-up with my hairdresser wages, going to the midnight showing of the first Harry Potter film, travelling the world without a mobile phone, spending hours writing long emails in internet cafes: discovering the unknown and figuring things out for myself.

These activities, these moments, these memories and behaviours were not logged, shared or captured, but they are still just as special to me.

Am I going to keep using social media? Yes. We’re all in way too deep now, and I want to participate and be active in culture however it’s happening. But if I had the option to push a button and switch it all off, would I push it?

Yeah I think I would.

That said, being unplugged did highlight the positive stuff I get from it all too, the continual inspiration, idea sparks and raised awareness about topics I want to educate myself about…and always the cute pics, babies, cats and lols.

But moving forwards, I am committed to be more mindful about how use it, more attuned with my mood and headspace, and more considered in how I design and select what appears in my feed. If I find myself wandering into negative thoughts, I’ll check myself first, noting that it’s my issue, not anyone else’s. I will treat it more like a magazine, to be enjoyed with a cuppa and a kit-kat, not scramble over it when I’m on the go and when my mind is restless. I will care less about what I post knowing it is not my responsibility to control how people react and that being yourself is what it’s all about. I’m also going to embrace some of my analogue upbringing, I might get a landline (I probably won’t get a pager), I will set up more wine and Skypes with my friends which I did last week and was ruddy brilliant, I will write more, I might get back into physical diary writing, I may share some here, I might not, I will leave my phone at home sometimes, I will unplug when I know I’m heading into a busy spell at work and home. I will be more conscious, I wont assume because I joined a platform in 2006 that I have all the answers and tools to deal with this digital identity creation.

I will just be.

 

You can find me being here…

Instagram @emmaworrollo: https://www.instagram.com/emmaworrollo/  

Or you can follow my cat, possibly more interesting @storm_the_british_blue: https://www.instagram.com/storm_the_british_blue/ 

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Kirra says:

    Dude I love reading your blog, you write down all the stuff that I seem to also be thinking! Am feeling distinctly not-great about social media at the moment. I tried to make something good out of Facebook by starting a support group for Muso Mums and that’s now gone kind of viral and is a really positive thing, but I don’t want to see the general newsfeed any more. It feels unhealthy! I know we pretty much entirely interact via social media these days but some time this summer let’s all meet up in your lovely beach town and chat about it all over drinks and 90’s style hanging out! Xx

    • Yes! This. All the way. Well done on your group, I love to hear of those kind of positive stories. Looking forward to the seaside 90s hangout in actual REAL LIFE. Much love xxx

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