There was a time when social suicide was prancing about in your brand new Adidas trainers purchased by your Mum, until one ‘friend’ pointed out loudly in front of a crowd of people, that your trainers had four stripes instead of the Adidas’ three, and so your swagger died with immediate impact akin to how some birds dropped dead out of the sky recently, never to be resurrected again this side of eternity, all your friends fled from you like you smelt of rotting flesh, and you became a ridiculed loner.
Alternatively it was when you turned up to a party with your hair gelled and parted to the left, instead of the right, like all the other girls and naturally you became a human pariah having not clearly understood the fundamental law of teenage fashion: copy everyone else. Simples.
However in the 21st century , it would appear that the term ‘social suicide’ has evolved and upgraded to something far more sinister & ultimately much wider and life changing in its application, particularly when it comes to social networking. Recent events have brought this premise so continuously to the forefront of my mind that I have come up with a theory:
I propose that joining a social network is to knowingly/unknowingly impose a form of social suicide on yourself.
Why is it suicide? I think this can be explained in what I perceive to be just some of the unwritten, but inherently known social networking commandments:
In joining a social network:
- Thou shalt get into fights over 2 line Twitter/BBM/Facebook messages, which will necessarily lead to the breakdown/loss of a dear friendship which has possibly spanned for at least half a decade.
- Thou shalt find thyself tagged in a photo where in your personal opinion you look unsightly, untag thyself, be tagged in the photograph again, untag thyself again, and so on and so forth until one person gets fed up and angry, which will necessarily lead to the breakdown/loss of a dear friendship which has possibly spanned for at least half a decade.
- Thou shalt make social networking friends to the annoyance of established friends who perceive themselves to be being ignored, which will necessarily lead to the breakdown/loss of a dear friendship which has possibly spanned for at least half a decade.
- Thou shalt discover many undesirable and inconvenient mutual friendship relationships which will negatively interfere with your life via gossip – ‘he said’ ‘she said’, which will necessarily lead to the breakdown/loss of a dear friendship which has possibly spanned for at least half a decade.
- Thou shalt FOOLISHLY give thy password to thine boyfriend/girlfriend, who WILL check your inbox, discover a perceived misplaced ‘ 🙂 ’ or ‘x’ (or 2), get the wrong idea, which will necessarily lead to the breakdown/loss of a relationship that prior to you joining a social network, had spanned many years and more dire tribulations.
- Thou shalt accidentally send a private message publicly, just happening to be bitching about a friend, which will naturally find its way (goodness knows how), directly to the wall of the slighted person, which will necessarily lead to the breakdown/loss of a dear friendship which has possibly spanned for at least half a decade.
- All the above commandments can be encapsulated in this one: Upon joining a social network, thou shalt lose friends and alienate people. Selah.
In case the above hasn’t clearly described the suicidal part, I am saying that it appears to me that joining a social network is almost a proactive and maybe in some cases calculated way, of a person ostracizing themselves from the social world and context that they knew and were happy in before, deserting it, and essentially plunging themselves into that ever-widening, unstable, fickle and unsatisfying abyss of the social network. A world where a Facebook add can signify that you are enough on a level with someone to expect to be invited to their birthday celebration. A world where a tweet mention is as monumental as voting for the next government, except in this case it’s like a vote of confidence in you as a person and your character. A world where people claim to know you really well, even though they’ve never met you….they’ve merely been following your tweets. You’ve never tweeted them, they’ve never tweeted you. A world where perish the thought you don’t respond to a BBM…you must be a very self-centred and antisocial person indeed.
It’s a world of tenuous links and relations, the formation of which can in the most fascinatingly petty ways, destroy previously satisfactory and established friendships. Or is it?
There is always a rebel faction to every new wave of change, and the arena of social networking is no different. There are some who refuse to conform to the above rules/commandments, who in admirable ways attempt to manage real and existent established friendships, make new social networking ones and even manage to bring them all together under the same roof.
But make no mistake, this is not the appointed calling for everyone! Many have tried and many many more have failed, the effects of which have been cataclysmic. Up to this point, I’ve mostly been talking about social networking leading to social suicide on an arguably intermediate level i.e. in terms of the loss of friends. Yes, it hurts to lose really good friends, but in reality, sadly a lot of people don’t maintain the same friends all throughout their life, due to a changes in life direction or location, etc (the ones that do are very blessed), and maybe social networking is in fact an aid; a way to sort the wheat from the chaff in terms of weeding out the unproductive friendships and establishing beneficial ones. But what about when social networking leads to family feuds? The loss of job opportunities? Divorces and subsequently the breakdown of families at the discovery of unfaithfulness? People being murdered by jealous partners/spouses?
I guess what I am trying to say is, social networking is fun and it is cool, but that fun-ness and cool-ness, can often come at a cost we are too often unprepared to bear in terms of our friendships. As prevention is better than cure, this is what I suggest to avoid ‘social suicide’:
In joining a social network:
- Never get carried away with it and lose sight of the people who were there at the beginning and are still there for you now. This is the kind of friend it would be foolish to lose.
- Don’t let petty situations i.e. a misplaced message tweeted, facebooked or BBMd ruin great friendships. Try to forgive and forget. Deleting the offensive message will help. Do not memorize it for future use.
- Do not post pettily letting the whole world you’ve got beef with a person…that’s so secondary school. Before social networking I do believe people used to talk to each other…even if that was in the form of screaming at each other in the street or yelling down a phone. It was real contact. Resist behind-the-back bitchiness.
- Don’t allow yourself to become jealous that a friend is making new friends. That is not an indicator of the value of your friendship with them. Resist the temptation to stalk their communications (even though Facebook feeds automatically do this for you, and Twitter is a free-for-all)
- Know the quality of the relationships that you are forging. The social networking world can be very shallow, unstable and misleading. Just because someone is your FB, Twitter or BBM friend, does not mean that they are actually your friend. Sadly, some people have ulterior motives; wolves in sheep’s clothing.
- THINK. Tweet/BBM/Facebook post with care. You don’t know who is reading, who knows someone, who knows someone, that knows that person you were talking about who knows your boss. Post what you are willing to be accountable for.
- Never, ever, EVER…Tweet/BBM/Facebook in fresh anger. It is the root of all social networking evil.
She’s just a hater
This post probably seems I’m bemoaning the ills of social networking. In contest to that opinion, I would just say that having being a partaker in nearly every form of social networking for the best part of a decade, I love it, I really do. I have made friends through social networking, maintained friends, and it has also provided a convenient way to distance myself from unedifying friends (I’m just being real here). I have also come across great opportunities through social networking, and I can recount many stories of good things happening to people because of it. I’m just under no illusion as to what indulging in it could bring into my life. Having heard many complaints recently about the adverse effects it has had on friend’s lives to the point that relationships (romantic/friendship) are coming under strain and they are stressing and lamenting down the phone to me, I am now convinced that entering this arena shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Social networking is fabulous, but you must know who you are so you don’t lose yourself in the hype and the electronic butt kisses and directly/indirectly set into motion your social suicide, as once the process has started, these things have a way of spiralling frantically out of control leaving destruction in its wake. You might not be the one to trigger the flame and start the process, but if it happens to blow your way, do yourself a favour and don’t fan it by reacting with the same obstinacy, and online for the whole world to see. If it’s petty, ignore it. If it needs discussion, discuss it. In private.
I hope to take my own advice at some point soon. 🙂