Belfast Telegraph

My complicated relationship with gadgets

By Claire Harrison

I first realised I had a problem when I found myself waking up around 3.30am every morning to have a scroll through Twitter on my phone.

Social media is both an insomniac's best friend and worst enemy. It was a welcome distraction in those long hours in the middle of the night when I was struggling to rest my mind.

Before I knew it, it became something of a habit and I began waking at the exact same time for a look. Then it became such a routine I began wondering if social media was the cause of my exhaustion and not the cure.

My complicated relationship with social media began about seven years ago. I started with Bebo (remember that?) before graduating on to Facebook and then Twitter.

I instantly fell in love with Facebook as I gathered up long-lost friends, poked my colleagues and chortled at old school photos. There's no doubt it enhances life.

I am in touch with friends and family all over the world. I may never have met their children, but I have effectively seen them grow up on social media through photo galleries.

I have a strict policy on Facebook of not being friends with anyone I don't actually know. If I wouldn't stop to say hello to you in the street, then I don't see the point of having access to your boring holiday snaps. My privacy settings are locked down, you won't see any pictures of me larking about on a drunken night out unless you're someone I'd happily lark around with on a drunken night out.

Twitter is a different beast altogether. When I first signed up, I hated it. If you don't know any of these people, what's the point, I thought? I cancelled my account but a year or so later, I was back.

As a journalist, it's a fantastic source of knowing what's going on pretty much as it happens. It's unrivalled for gauging what people are talking about, chatterboxing when your favourite TV programme is on and finding contacts and case studies. It's addictive, there's no doubt. I can log on to Facebook several times a day, Twitter much more.

But do I need to be on Twitter in the middle of the night? No.

My husband had had enough of the sound of my Blackberry scrolling under the duvet so there was only one thing for it. Cold turkey. Facebook and Twitter access were stripped from my phone, leaving me bereft and bored in the early hours.

Once the panic subsided, though, guess what? I stopped waking up in the middle of the night ...

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