A Philosophical Quandary
My mind has recently been preoccupied with this philosophical quandary.
As a youngster I was bullied at school. I went to an alternative school for a while and my teacher explained to me that I gave out too much information, so other kids had ammunition to hurl back at me.
Better to be like a tight ball, he said, not giving out too much information about yourself, so no one had anything to fling back atcha.
When you’re a child you take the word of adults, especially teachers, as rule. And so to protect myself I started to become more secretive.
Fast forward four decades and ‘influencers’- on Instagram etc. - pour their hearts out for all to consume, exchanging personal revelations for likes, or even love hearts. How did things come to this?
We’re all encouraged to tell our story, to share our feelings, but to do this there need to be listeners as well. The art of listening can be easily lost in the jungle of self-expression and social media noise.
When I look at Facebook and all of my friends’ posts it can make me feel a little lost. Everyone with their stories and immaculate photos of places travelled to, all competing for someone to like them, competing for an audience.
So, what motivates us to post our lives online?
There is a topical meme (I like to think meme is literally me-me - all about me. It’s actually from the Greek word mimēma, ‘that which is imitated’) doing the rounds.
It shows a retro photo of a housewife on an old-fashioned phone in the 1950s saying, “I can’t talk now, there is a wiretap.” Contrasted with a woman in 2020 kitchen shouting, “Hey wiretap, what’s the recipe for pancakes?”
The irony being that it was posted on Facebook, the ultimate platform for extracting information from individuals. Fellow Leither columnist and our local MP, Deidre Brock questioned Boris Johnson (then Foreign Secretary) last year about the Government’s unrecorded meetings with Cambridge Analytica, the data mining company that helped swing marginal voters in the Brexit vote.
Despite knowing all of this, Facebook is still one of my guilty pleasures. I know I shouldn’t indulge, but somehow I can’t stop scrolling. And when you understand that the whole point of Facebook is the mindless scrolling, like an addiction, you realise that it may not be so good for your mental health.
I usually scroll mindlessly until I come across a post that upsets or angers me, and then I switch it off in disgust. Only through lockdown did I notice that boredom triggers Facebook scrolling and then anger or disgust makes me switch it off.
I go from aimless to angry. What is the point of that? Is sharing on social media sharing, or is it the opposite, demanding attention? Sharing implies listening, taking in, on social media there are an awful lot of opinions. Sharing is a two-way street. Sharing implies coming to a meeting of minds and exchanging of ideas.
When I launched my fitness business in 2005, I was told by various experts that I had to share my story for ‘authenticity’. No hiding behind a corporate identity, no siree: “People engage with people, post blog posts of yourself doing stuff.”
Thinking back to all of The Leither columns I’ve written over the last 12 years, I have done my fair share of sharing and I truly hope you don’t mind!
I’m happy to share via the written word, but photographs are my friend, I have a bit of a wonky face and tendency to grimace in front of the camera. Hence owning Coco the fitness pug, who is very photogenic and whose image has been shared far and wide (Check her out on Instagram@cocofitnesspug).
What an effective ambassadog she is. I heard that another Leith based gym recently adopted their very own squishy-faced Coco studio dog. So, in the interest of Coco’s privacy she will be retiring from public view after this perky pandemic passes.
In the meantime her snugly pug posts are a positive pause/paws in a social media stream of consciousness and often upsetting updates.
Picking my favourite Coco photo for this story has been the highlight of my day. Her puppy pictures are adorable but I also love the seriousness of her mature face, seemingly understanding of all the world’s problems - a born therapy dog in so many ways.
Coco has obviously been effective, now it is my turn. And here we go again...
In the spirit of over-sharing, I’m pleased to let you know that my second book will be out at the end of this year. Having reached the end of my stipulated word count.
In the spirit of this piece, I shall not over-share but stay tuned for the next exciting instalment.
Do, please, feel free to share your thoughts on sharing via Twitter@tracygriffen. I will reply, promise!
Coco the Puppy and Coco the Schwarzenegger