So here I am; it’s 2 in the morning and my head is thumping from the sound of reggae music and the realization that I’m an embarrassingly arrhythmic white girl. I wrote a long time ago that writing, for me, is only possible when I am left with nothing. If there’s a phone buzzing in my pocket, an Ipod ready to shuffle or the dulcet tones of Mark Corringan echoing in the background, it’s like my fingers are wading through treacle and the chances of me being able to write anything coherent, let alone interesting, is almost the same as Kerry Katona losing the puppy fat without the help of a toothbrush and a toilet.
But, tonight, I can write. This is because I have reached the acme of creative productivity; I have lost all my stuff. I already managed to lose an ipod, a debit card and the TV remote this summer, but, thanks to lager shandy and the feeling of recklessness that accompanies the Notting Hill Carnival (how can you be concerned about zip-closing and bag-checking when you’re dancing to the tune of African liberation, for a culture you only really know by Red Stripe and Jerk Chicken, for freedom and for free-derm youth), my Blackberry also got lost in a sea of red, yellow and green stripes. Wherever you are little purple Blackberry, I hope you’re happy.
So, with no distractions, I sat in front of a notepad and waited for the words… It hurt my brain. What spewed onto the page was the poetic sentiment ‘Fucking Facebook’, so I’m gonna run with that. Social media and relationships: help or hinderance?
It’s dawned me recently how affected our personal relationships are by the internet, and the damaging effect of social media on romance. Our lives are in constant narration in a way that they never used to be thanks to Facebook, Twitter and blogging. My mother calls our generation the ‘culture of the narcissist’: anyone can set up a blog, anyone can write a funny status, anyone can glean fame by tweeting at a famous person. Essentially, the internet has put success and accesbility so at our fingertips that everyone thinks what they have to say, and what they are doing with their lives, is unique and special.
Obviously, with this, the more perverse our culture becomes; because we write, photograph and hashtag our daily lives, it is the complete norm for everyone to know everything about each other. Goodbye privacy, goodbye discretion.
The fact you can track down anyone through Facebook; see what they are like from what they write online, how many friends you have in common, whether you attend the same nightclubs, like the same music, and even what they look like in a bikini, all at the click of a button, removes all the mystery from our lives. It’s like we lie our personalities out flat, creating a check list of compatibility. There is no surprise there, there is no depth. And, of course, it’s impossible to have a fleeting romance because everyone is, eventually, able to be traced. My grandmother told me about a man she met a Kings Cross Station, (he bought her an almond croissant, if sugar-filled pastry doesn’t spell out love…) who she claims is the actually the love of her life, unfortunately, his train was headed in the opposite direction and she waved goodbye to him. They kissed on the platform; she never saw him again.
This is not something that could happen to our generation because you would be able to track him down on Facebook, and you’d see he was into the the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, or wore Speedos on his last holiday, and it would simply NEVER work.
Look at the great romantic literature of our time – do you think Heathcliff would have gone to all that trouble if he could just tweet at Cathy? If Anna Karenina listed ‘its complicated’ with Count Vronsky? Perhaps we’ll run out of great love stories to write because so few things are barriers to great love anymore; in an increasingly secular, technological, multicultural world, what is the blockade to our happily ever after? Perhaps that’s why there is such morbid fascination in romance films of the 21st century; One Day, Remember Me, P.S. I Love You, A Walk to Remember. Can’t find anything to end the love? How about a bit of death?
Everyone talks about the effect of the internet on our privacy, on our future employability, on our eyesight, on our attention spans, on our mental wellbeing, but does anyone ever mention how it affects our love lives? Whoever said absense makes the heart grow fonder didn’t realise how very, very close Facebook was going to bring us. If Romeo poked Juliet… Well, you can imagine the rest.