by Sandy Burgham
I’m really trying to get with the social media programme like, “normal people” but I just can’t seem to get the point of it. Until around seven years ago, I wasn’t even on Facebook, but fearing that I was heading to 50 and being left behind, I hired a pointy-headed friend who made a living up-skilling laggards like me to give me a crash course on what the hell it was all about.
I’d just come out of running a large team in the fashion business, where social media was increasingly critical, but I trusted my Generation Y team to do it all. The most junior member, an even younger millennial, used to irritate us all by having the audacity to go onto her personal Facebook during office hours. (I imagine she is now earning a six-figure salary doing just that). My friend who runs a large empire has an obligation to keep an eye on her brand through social media. When her gaggle of millennials start updating her on what they are doing on her behalf, she asks them to communicate to her as if she was an eager-to-learn, yet clueless golden retriever.
When I was 21, I took up smoking, willingly I might add, nothing passive about it, primarily to look cool and again get with the programme, as everyone was doing it. Now I am well out of that addiction, I find it incredulous I didn’t listen to my higher self, or even just plain commonsense, that it was a road to nowhere. Because that’s what the hours I now spend trawling (not trolling) through the echo chamber of my Facebook feed seems to be. Why do I do it? Unlike smoking, I don’t even like it. My niece, also my younger mentor, works for a social media agency, a business idea not yet invented when I was her age. She tells me my dilemma stems from me wanting to keep up with the play, yet not having found my social media channel of choice.
Well maybe I don’t belong on Facebook because the social code of sharing happy relationship shots with one’s husband of 25 years I find embarrassingly inauthentic. (“Look at us, we communicate well and never irritate each other!”). Not to mention those overloads of “isn’t my daughter pretty!” shots, parties you weren’t invited to, or pets that are not nearly as cute as your own. Ok, admittedly when I’ve posted a column I am particularly chuffed about, I obsessively check my “likes” — all the while feeling very disappointed with myself. “Yes, you see”, says my learned niece. “It gives you a little hit of dopamine”. Oh god, what have I turned into?
So I am shifting over to LinkedIn; it feels more appropriate as no- one overshares personal status updates, opting for more reasonable online behaviour and generous tips for the workplace . . . kind of. There is a little shameless self-promotion going on and maybe I do that when I share information about upcoming courses, but I cannot stoop as low as to put selfies up — the “so proud to be here at the opening of an envelope” — sort of thing. So I did share a selfie of me meeting Gloria Steinem, but come on – that was extraordinary!
A study was done last year which revealed that the average person will spend more than five years of their lives on social media. OMG. I need those five years. I want those five years! So, my commitment is to limit social media usage to 10 minutes a day, and so far, that has been rather difficult. Most of the allotted time goes onto Instagram, which I think might be my natural social media place. My feed celebrates the little things that I find inspiring in Auckland city that I do genuinely want to share, because it’s not about me, me, and me. I am ignoring the expert’s advice that if I put myself into these photos my likes will go up; it would feel counterintuitive and embarrassing, which shows you my social media behaviour is indeed abnormal. I am not so self-absorbed that I want people to like my feed to validate my interests, but while you’re here, if you are interested in Auckland city . . . can you follow me?
— Sandy Burgham
This article first appeared in The Hobson Magazine November 2018