Bad Behaviour: How The Online World Is Ruining Our Social Skills

We’re all guilty of at least some bad behaviours online. It’s not our fault, says SOPHIE WHITE – it’s still new to us. But the time has come to start improving our social skills.

Like a lot of Irish women today, I spend an inordinate amount of time on Instagram. Any spare moment, from bathroom breaks to waiting for the kettle to boil, I'm there frantically swiping to refresh the feed... It's a digital tick.

Social media has taken people watching to spectacular new levels of disclosure. In the olden days (the noughties), we had to speculate about what our fellow humans were doing and thinking and feeling (or eating for breakfast or putting in their smoothie or slathering all over their faces at night or doing at the gym). Now, thanks to Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook and Twitter, there's no guesswork or sleuthing required anymore whatsoever, just a quick swipe of the screen and there’s Patricia doing her strength and conditioning. I find the people-watching on social media utterly engrossing, and just to be clear, my online predilections are basic in the extreme – it’s not celebrities leading fascinating lives that I’m following. It’s Sinead, a #MUA from Tramore who’s redoing her spare room that I can’t get enough of.

The explosion of performative living online has been a generational watershed. I am in my early thirties and suspect that those born pre-1990 are the last people to perhaps be somewhat baffled by online life. There is something about our online actions that seem so quaint and sincere, as though we are living in a simpler time, so trusting that an audience isn’t going to mock. From heartfelt status updates to crying selfies, it’s a weird and wonderful time to be alive.

Presumably, the iGen or Centennials will learn from our social media missteps and likely be infinitely savvier in their personal content – some studies have found that Facebook usage has dropped significantly for this generation, which sounds promising. This generation will probably look back on our current, bonkers social media behaviours and see our use of the social channels as being akin to a new toy we didn’t quite know how to operate properly. A bit like when we think of methamphetamine being prescribed as medicine in the 1940s and 50s.

I enjoy the online antics of my peers from a dark-hearted place of mild mockery. I can’t help it – I have a cynical soul. Of course, I am not immune to these tropes. I was tempted to give my own Instagram a fairly heavy-handed edit to eradicate any posts that might be too cringe in light of the rant below. However, I’m only human, and what is life for, if not mining it for content to tickle my 80 followers? Plus, if I’d culled all the posts that were self-absorbed and shallow, I’d have nothing left on there. Tumbleweeds would be blowing through my feed. So here are all the most ridiculous social media tropes we are all sick of looking at...

“This generation will probably look back on our social media behaviours and see our use of the channels as being akin to a new toy we didn’t know how to operate.”

THE “EXCITING THINGS ARE COMING” BREADCRUMB TRAIL

“I can’t wait to tell you about...” Just spit it out then. This type of post is tiresome in the extreme and often drags on for weeks on end, I find.

THE “IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE OKAY” REALISATION

The “it’s okay to not be okay” message is a perfectly acceptable sentiment, though it does seem fairly obvious. Does anyone operating in the real world need telling that, as humans, our moods fluctuate and that’s okay? Also, I find when influencers try to take a slice of the old “issues” pie and make a point about mental health, they can rarely resist including outfit details or some other mercenary element that kind of undercuts the whole deep and meaningful vibe they’re presumably aiming for.

THE “I HAVEN’T POSTED IN A WHILE” APOLOGY
When people open their Instagram stories or Snapchat with “Hi guys, I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while,” I can’t help it – I scoff. C’mon, you post 20-30 times a day, giving incremental updates on things of fairly low-grade importance. I think we’ll be okay if you take a day or two off. Sidenote: Yes, I’m aware of the irony that I am avidly tuning in to lap up the incremental updates, but I’m okay with being a hypocrite.

THE “ME BEING FUNNY ON WHATSAPP” POST

Guilty as charged. I’m all too fond of a WhatsApp repost. I know how it looks, and I just can’t help it. Sometimes I grace one of my WhatsApp groups with such a gem of hilarity, I feel it’s wasted on just my friends and think it would be a crime not to share it with my wider audience.

THE UNINTENTIONALLY IRONIC HASHTAG

#ChildhoodUnplugged accompanying an Instagram post of your child playing is not quite the free-from- devices childhood you seem to think you’re bestowing on them. Equally, the #amwriting is kind of stupid. If you’re writing, you’re writing. If you’re posting on social media about it, then you, my friend, are #postingonsocialmediaaboutwriting. That is all.

THE DONE-TO-DEATH #TBT

I love a good #TBT as much as the next social media addict; what I object to, however, is the constant rehashing of the same #TBT pic. We get it: you looked fab on your wedding day – and God knows you worked hard enough (we suffered alongside every #legssession and #eatclean second of it) – but, my god can we save it for anniversaries only? Or, at the very least, change-up the pic?

THE COMPLIMENT RE-TWEET

It’s very hard to nail the re-Tweeting of compliments without coming across as a horrendous human being. I’m still trying to get the balance of  “little, old me I’m so chuffed” vs “hell yes, Graham Norton tweeted about my book on the day my second child was born and frankly, I’ll treasure that memory over the baby’s arrival for the rest of my life” just right. And yes, that’s a true story #smugmuch.

THE “STATE OF ME, I’M SO RELATABLE” POST

Basically, any time a model posts about eating pizza.

THE EMPOWERMENT STATUS

I think we are all losing the run of ourselves on the empowerment front. Scrolling through social media, it can start to feel like one has fallen down a rabbit hole of #empowerment. I’m all for empowerment, but there are some things I find it hard to accept as “empowering”. You loving your body when you are a conventionally attractive woman whose body has always been accepted by societal norms, for example. Or posting a generic meme crowing “follow your dream”. This is not a brave act of #empowerment; actually following a dream in the face of overwhelming opposition and reclaiming rights that have been denied to you maybe, but following your dream to wear a crop top, while nice, is possibly an over-reach in terms of full-on empowerment.

THE MOTIVATION POST

There is one thing the deeply grating #motivation post is good for, and that is reminding us to exit out of the social media vortex every once in a while. #namaste.

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