Struggling with social media fatigue

If I see another picture of cute kids holding a handmade, cardboard plea for a million ‘‘likes’’ so they can get a puppy, a bunny, a trip to Disneyland or a new kidney, I’ll scream.

Every time I log on to Facebook these days, I’m bombarded with requests for me to push the right button so someone from the other side of the world, whom I will never meet, have never heard about and who will disappear from my short-term memory as soon as I scroll down the page a few centimetres, can get something they want.

Back in the old days, before we could globally harass strangers to do our bidding, pleading with our parents for the much-wanted new pet, latest record, or permission to go and see Sherbert play at the Wagga Wagga Town Hall was done in the privacy of your own home.

But even the parental privilege of refusing outrageous requests without condemnation from the world has been stripped from us by social media. 

I used to think social media was the tool for the masses. It allowed even the most distant, isolated and socially inept of us to stay in contact with people we would otherwise have dismissed into the recesses of our past and quietly forgotten, except in a fleeting memory triggered by a long forgotten incident, piece of music or high school mishap.

But lately I am seeing a not-so-subtle shift in the way Facebookers are using this 21st century phenomenon.

Rather than an innocent way to make a stand against the hierarchy trying to control our thoughts, actions and buying patterns, Facebook has been hijacked by the very organisations at which it originally flipped its digital finger  – big business, government and small children.

There is no escaping the constant haranguing of not just children begging for support in their cause for more material possessions, or the special interest groups who used to blast their message to the passers-by on street corners, and by pushing cheap pamphlets into the tight fisted hands of reluctant pedestrians.

It’s also difficult to escape the people trying to make a quick million by selling me a cure for my insecurities of a flabby belly, too many wrinkles or unfashionable shoes.

I know the smartest thing would be to shut down my digital profile and return to simpler times when I found out about the latest birth, divorce or what someone is having for dinner by the old-fashioned methods like email, text or even phone calls. But it’s a virtual impossibility – literally – because Facebook has me in its cybergrip, refusing to let me delete myself from the vault of the Next G prison.

And, as we are constantly reminded by the social commentators, life coaches and parent experts, it’s our job as the grown-ups to keep up to speed with the way our children are communicating, so we can monitor them in a way our own parents probably had nightmares about.

I feel it’s my responsibility to maintain a presence in the social networking world. But I just have to figure out the best way to make myself relevant to my kids and their peers in a way that won’t embarrass them or myself.

However, it’s hard to decide on the one thing I really want if I got a million ‘‘likes’’– Hugh Jackman to fall in love with me, the ability to eat chocolate cheesecake for breakfast without guilt, or coming home to find the beds made, dinner cooked, and dog washed.

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