Ten reasons it’s easy to be a recluse in the modern era

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1. Virtual social life obscures lack of actual social life

You can pretend to have an active social life, be fully engaged in the latest details of the lives of hundreds of contacts just by posting the odd status update on Facebook or wherever and clicking a few random ‘likes’ here and there. There is no need to actually engage with anyone. Should anyone intrude on your personal space by making a comment on one of these updates you can just click ‘like’ until they go away again. I call this the virtual unreality.

2. If you can’t be a part of everything you might as well not exist

There are so many social media platform that if, say, you only really use Facebook and created a Twitter account for the sole purpose of thinking it’d somehow make your blog cooler there are so many other online arenas you are completely failing to engage with. When it comes to Tumblr and Pinterest and other things you don’t even know the name of you might as well be living in a cave.

3. Fisticuffs over Facebook will lead to societal meltdown, or at least intractable family divisions

I envisage that future wars will not be drawn up over boundary or ideological disputes but over those pro- and those anti-Facebook. Seriously, I’ve had some pretty heated exchanges with my brother about why he bothers with sending words via Twitter and images via Instagram when he could just combine the two in Facebook, he argues that FB knows more about me than my fiancé. One of these days it’ll come to fisticuffs at dawn.

4. Your social life depends on your smartphone battery, so its doomed

If you have an all-out power failure or maybe just misplace your phone charger your access to a social life will die in the amount of time that’s left in your smartphone battery. So that’ll be about two hours then.

5. It’s now so much easier to flake on people

It’s easy to ‘forget’ to actually meet people. Remember a life before smart technology when you used to meet people by making plans on Monday that you’d meet on Saturday at the waterfall in the shopping centre at 11, and somehow that actually worked? Now if you don’t confirm and reconfirm plans at least twenty times you have a legitimate excuse to just not show up by saying ‘I’m sorry, you didn’t facebook message me two seconds before I was going to leave the house so I assumed you weren’t coming’.

6. You can be a hermit without anyone noticing

You no longer need to leave your house. Ever. You can work remotely. You can order clothes and food online to be delivered to your door. You can attend online networking events. You can study online. You can meet new people online. You can even Skype friends and family if you really feel the need to look at someone in real time. Once you’ve mastered hurling your bin bags at the bin collection spot there’s no need for you to actually set foot outside ever again.

7. Too much homework to hold an actual conversation in the pub.

There is so much information online, Wikipedia articles, YouTube videos, virals of an elephant riding a horse balanced on the helmet of a man on a skateboard that if you try to go out in public without knowing what’s #trending you will be shamed into looking like a moron and lose any real friends you thought you had.

8. Cybertourism removes the need to actually go anywhere

Ever wanted to see the Pyramids, the heads of Easter Island or just the British Museum? Once upon a time you had to work bloody hard, save up loads of money and then you could go on an awesome trip none of your friends had done and enjoy bragging about it when you got home. Now everyone has already been everywhere that you can see what these places are like through friends pictures online or using GoogleEarth spyware, getting a drone or just doing one of the online tours tourists attractions are offering. Why get out of bed and risk encounters with the stinking masses when you can feel like you’ve had a productive day by having a quick online tootle around Parliament in your pyjamas whilst eating Marmite toast in bed. No-one can see you to judge the butter in your hair and crumbs on your face.

9. Reading the Daily Mail Online increases fear of the outside

Certain highly reputable yet overwhelmingly popular sites, in the UK it’s the Daily Mail online, I imagine in the US Fox news has some sort of online equivalent, would have you believe that the world is a terrifying place full of disease ridden immigrants, violent immigrants, insane immigrants, volcanic eruption-causing immigrants, traffic-inducing immigrants, financial-crisis-inducing immigrants and just bastard-stealing-candy-from-a-baby immigrants who make the world such a terrible place you might as well stay indoors.

10. Being a recluse is really what everyone wants

Technology has been designed to help people lead easier lives (and also to make us think we need expensive things to lead meaningful lives). Cave men lived in caves, which was great but in the age before technology it was realised it was actually easier to live together in commune to get more stuff done in an ‘I’ll milk your cow you give me a turnip’ sort of mentality. Nowadays we don’t need other people for comfortable lives but we still cling on to this concept so all this great technology helps us to transition away from old fashioned ideas of friendship, family and community and to progress towards single unit living, like the single-cell amoeba we all came from.

The virtual unreality?

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“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” Albert Einstein.

A friend referred me to an article about a woman who spent three months convincing her friends and family that she was backpacking around Asia, when in fact she never actually left her apartment. She said that “My goal was to prove how common and easy it is to distort reality. I did this to show people that we filter and manipulate what we show on social media.”

What’s interesting about the story is not so much the deception of it all but the lack of shock that she could actually pull something like that off. How she did it seems pretty straightforward, why is perhaps another matter.

We all choose to present ourselves in a certain way and make umpteen decisions on how we do this on a daily basis without even thinking about it. For example, we choose what clothes we want to wear when we meet certain people, we retell an event a bit more vividly than we actually remember it or we engage in certain conversations to make a better connection with others. It’s not that we are necessarily misrepresenting ourselves so much as presenting one version of the reality that is us to an audience.

In the same way we might answer ‘I’m fine’ to the question ‘how are you?’ or smile for a photograph we know is being taken even when having a truly awful day. At these times we are more consciously presenting a slightly less genuine version of ourselves. So the idea that we twist the perception of the reality we present to others isn’t new. What is new is how much easier it is to do this on a much larger scale with the multitude of social media options available to us.

If you only took everyone at face value of their facebook pages you’d be led to believe that everyone is constantly experiencing a wealth of fantastic things from amazing parties to random items in supermarkets to adorable pet moments to amazing adventures.

What you don’t always get is that contrary to the smiling party pictures the happy-go-lucky attendee pictured were wishing she’d stayed at home to catch up on the latest Doctor Who. That the fascinatingly shaped carrot amongst the vegetables was the amusing perk of a long and tiring day and an hour trudging around the shops looking, and unable to find, the right kind of flour. That two seconds after the lovely cat photo was posted the owner then spent 40 minutes chasing said cat round the house to get it to give up the half dead mouse it had just brought in. That the amazing adventure mentioned is contrary to all those less than amazing non-adventures, that haven’t been shared as status posts, sat at home in front of the tv.

Not that I meant to say every happy image presented is a lie and secretly we all lead very miserable lives with no real joy to be found anywhere, my point is more that the moments we choose to share have been selected by us to present a certain impression. Not necessarily a happy impression, there’s many a ‘worst day ever’ tweet, but a somewhat distorted image of our reality.

Although most of us don’t go as far as faking an epic adventure abroad over a period of several months. Or do they…? Perhaps I never left London at all and am just hiding out in my Greenwich flat taking pictures of cows pretending they are special Swiss cows and photoshopping myself into pictures with mountains in the background hoping no-one has the geographical ability to identify the mountains pictured as Himalayas rather than Swiss Alps?

Swiss cows or just cows?

Swiss cows or just cows?

If we all know that social media is to be taken with a pinch of salt then it doesn’t really matter if we want to use it as an opportunity to present the kind of person we want everyone to think we are. If we accept that online updates are more qualified than absolute then there’s no real risk provided we make the time to scratch beneath the surface for those we really want to know. The problem is when we get lazy and become content with clicking a like button here and retweeting there without making a real effort to engage with those we care about.

I was talking to my other half the other night about the perils of social media. My argument was that as technology gets ever cleverer and makes our lives easier by doing so much for us including human interaction it may start taking away the humanity from us; in that the easier it becomes to communicate online the harder it is to do so off-line. He was proving my point somewhat, by flicking through various web pages on his tablet whilst trying to dispute this, but argued that social media and online communications were our reality now.

He gave several examples of real friendships he’d forged and maintained in the virtual universe that he was unlikely to have made otherwise, He also pointed out that when living away from many friends and family it’s pretty great that you can still feel connected to them and know what’s going on in people’s lives without having to always try and find time for a lengthy phone call. He also mentioned that without the wonders of modern day technology my blog wouldn’t exist.

I grudgingly had to admit he may have a point. Certainly, without the cyber-sphere my blog would be nothing more than an unread journal or an annoying round robin novel issued once a year at Christmas. So I guess the way we communicate and present ourselves online is a reality. Or at least a very persistent illusion.