Saturday, 10 October 2015

The Woeful Network

I think I first realised I was hooked on social media, when I woke up one morning and looked at my beloved of over a decade, lying peacefully (a rarity) beside me. He looked like the love-interest does in films, handsome, sleepy and all covered in stubble. Eyes perfectly closed and forehead not even doing that frowny-thing that foreheads often do when deep in sleep. He was almost smiling in his slumber; a shrewd curl of the lip that looked almost mischievous. In hindsight that was probably just gas.

Anyway, I glanced at this image of my beloved and took a snapshot in my minds-eye. Then, almost instantly, my hand darted to my phone. My phone situated under my pillow. In an almost panic like state I couldn’t find it. I rummaged in the sheets, clambered across the bed and emptied out my pillow case like a maniac.

Then I saw it light up - it was under his head.

What a dilemma. Did I wake my sleeping boyfriend simply to satisfy my curiosity? Yes, yes I did. Because I wasn’t just being nosey, that light might have heralded a text from my Mum to say my Dad had fallen down the stairs. Or I might have missed my alarm and I’m now late for work. Or perhaps I’d received an email stating I’d won the lottery that I’d forgotten to play. All of these excuses and a million or so more darted through my head in order to justify my utter desperation to get a hold of my phone.

When I’d manoeuvred my way under my sleeping partners cranium (which is no easy feat let me tell you) to procure my phone, I proceeded to check for texts /emails/ Facebook/ Twitter updates at an alarming rate. I quickly established the reason for the phone having lit up was due to me having received a message about unclaimed PPI. An instant DELETER, and a shameful waste of effort on my part, which could have resulted in the waking-up of an understandably grumpy man before his alarm.

So what was this obsession with exhausting all outlets for news, gossip and contact with the human race before I’d barely awoken?

Well I’d say it started when I became ill.

I was spending protracted periods of time in hospital and my phone was often my only outlet for human contact; and a welcome distraction from the misery and fear around me. I was often admitted without having time to plan ahead, and would be there for hours or even days before anyone could gift me with their face-to-face company, biscuits or magazines. So my phone became my mini-companion. My reference point for all the scary stuff I was facing, and my link to the outside world. Yes, I am well aware how unbearably SAD and UNCOOL that all sounds but then I’ve never been ‘cool’. Unless you count that time I had hypothermia? See, even that joke was painfully un-cool.   

The truth is, social media, and all the devices we use to access that world, can be invaluable to those with chronic illness. We need to feel part of the outside world, even when we physically can’t be. We want to maintain our relationships and keep up to date with the entire goings on around us (however mundane), because we already feel like outcasts a lot of the time. Time slows down when you become ill, (not literally of course, I’m not an idiot), but life seems to speed on around us and we often feel isolated and behind. Keeping in regular contact even from a far, can be vital for our mental well-being.

Now I am less preoccupied with my mobile telecommunications device. I still get in a mild panic if I misplace it, but that’s mainly because it costs a lot of money and has my reminders to buy Nutella on it. But I still feel a comfort having it with me. It’s a safe place. It has easy access to all my friends and family. It allows me to carry all my favourite people with me in my pocket. It has all my call-in-a-crisis numbers in it and my emergency contact details for when I inevitably become ill again. It’s a reassurance now rather than a compulsion. Something we all need when we are professionally sick.

Plus did you know you can Google my blog and/or pictures of kittens in bowties anytime?! DAY OR NIGHT! The internet really is an INCREDIBLE PLACE. 

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