SUZANNE HARRINGTON: Likeaholism — the curse of our times

My name’s Suzanne and I’m a likeaholic. I never thought it could happen , but it has. Like street opiates, for years I managed to avoid it — I’ve seen what it has done to others.

But inevitably it sucked me in. Everyone else was at it — so I succumbed. And now I’m hooked, with a daily habit. I can’t stop scrolling, liking, sharing, commenting, thumbs upping, frowning, LOLing, sitting hollow eyed in a blank glow like something from Neuromancer, clicking on roller skating
labradoodles and baby
pandas and alt-right outrage.

What’s happening to me? I don’t care about cats in paper bags in real life, so why do I like them online? Why am I signing petitions about executing Twitter racists, or saving the Namibian tree frog when I could be interacting with other humans using speech instead of fingers?

It creeps up on you, likeaholism. It starts out with just a quick peek every few days to see what others are upto (Do you care that someone you have never met has got a new dog? Er, yes. Do you want to peruse the wedding photos of a couple you haven’t seen since the 1990s? Yes again. Holiday snaps of an acquaintance’s ex? Go on then).

And before you know it. you’re reaching for it first thing in the morning — just a sneaky hit before you get up. Before you know it, it’s punctuating the working day the way Marlboros once did.

And by punctuating I mean taking over so you get no work done at all because you are too busy scrolling, liking, LOLing at all those bastard baby pandas.

An interesting read in The Atlantic — ‘Have Smartphones Ruined A
Generation?’ — asked the right question to the wrong generation. Teenagers will be fine. They were born online, and don’t know any different.

You can’t miss a work ethic and social skills if you’ve never had any, but what about us?

What if you are middle aged and watching your work and social life slide away from the corner of your distracted eye, because you are so busy sharing dancing goat memes with the imaginary friends who live in your laptop? Teenagers would not be found dead on Facebook. Facebook is for oldies. Facebook is for me.

I may have joined the party late, but I’m making up for lost time.

Don’t worry if your kids spend too much time online, wrote someone in the
Telegraph recently, in response to parents fretting about their kids living online instead of outdoors.

Spending 27 hours a day in front of a screen is good for them, apparently, because it is improving the next generation’s digital skills, which currently lag behind foreign cyber rivals.

Never mind that our kids will grow up with elongated thumbs and atrophied conversational abilities — what about us, the middle aged? Is it time to do the unthinkable? To unplug? Go cold turkey? Just typing those words is making me twitch.


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