Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Why there is no logging out of the social networks

In the olden days teenage girls sat by the phone willing it to ring. Thankfully, in this era of on-the-go eterno-contact, you needn't sit at home to do this.

Instead, you can do all manner of distracting things while you will your phone to ring.

Brilliant advancements in technology mean that, should you happen to find yourself sitting at home waiting for your phone to ring, you can simply switch it off and hide it under a cushion before you go insane.

But it's getting harder and harder to switch off completely. These days, you can evaluate your popularity and your social prowess by how many things you need to log into every time you open your computer, or tablet.

And you can bet your 10,000 Facebook friends that, during those tricky moments when your phone refuses to ring, all those many methods of mass communication will call out like sirens to fill the irksome gap created by your phone's stubborn silence.

And this is how you go from relaxing on the sofa with a book and your mobile hidden down the crack at the side to frantically checking your every other communicative portal to the outside world, hair awry and heart racing as you Facebook-stalk a stranger using all the giddy stealth of a huntsman tracking a prize stag.

When the madness finally passes and you eventually breathe again, you realise just how ingrained in your head all these various things and their sundry passwords really are.

You find yourself composing tweets in the shower, which you know you can never actually tweet because people will either think a) you're tweeting from the shower (which is lame) or b) you are tweeting a pensee you fine-tuned in the shower (even lamer).

You see the Facebook login page in your mind's eye every time you find yourself in a situation which might either make people jealous or make them think you're cool.

Your moral compass becomes swayed by the GPS on your phone, with the potential to let everyone know should you accidentally-on-purpose end up in a trendy place.

Is the solution to remove yourself from these spheres? That doesn't work, because, every so often, someone else will reveal your whereabouts in a post of their own, or you'll end up in the background of a picture - tagged as part of the furniture of another's existence. You can't escape. And you know it.

Perhaps this should be heartening. Perhaps it means that you're necessary - indispensable even.

But it too frequently taps into something darker, which means you're no longer qualified to spend time on your own without checking there isn't something more fun you should be doing. And it leads - in certain acute cases - to that weird state of social telekinesis, when you happen to look at your phone and it starts ringing, even though you have been willing it to for the past three hours without any success.

It's the mental equivalent of those funny noises radios make when a phone nearby is about to start buzzing. Except those noises are inside your own head.

But, still, at least someone is ringing you, right? And you can close Facebook, Twitter and all the other things you have been using to answer.

"What am I up to? Oh, you know, nothing much. Sometimes it's just so good to have some time to yourself, isn't that right?"

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