The internet isn’t holding me hostage, people are…

We’ve all heard it, felt it, lived it. The constant barrage of notifications, chat requests, friend requests, arguments…. We often feel overwhelmed. We’ve all at one stage said that the internet that has brought us all together has driven us further apart or that we feel trapped by always being available to anyone at anytime thanks to tech. We all want to say that we would like to sometimes just switch off, to stop the barrage. To not be held hostage by our Twitter notifications, Facebook feeds and Instagram likes. But have you ever stopped to think why it’s a problem? Today I did and I realised that the internet isn’t holding me hostage, people are…

We live in an unprecedented age of connectivity, communication and knowledge. Anything we want is just a Google search away, a chat away. Feeling down? Hit up a friend… or 10. A blast of messages to 10 of your closest internet friends, hey; yo; whaddup!; hi; greetings. Ping ping ping ping ping. All through. Blue ticks all round. They’ve read it, now for just one to respond and start a convo. I’m bored.

This is the ease of which we communicate in this day and age. You pick up a phone and are instantly able to communicate with multiple people anywhere in the world. Herein lies the problem. It’s not the internet that causes our “always available” fatigue, it’s our own inability to set boundaries.
I’m sure you’ve all been there, you are insanely busy and you get a text from a good friend. You’ve just had a huge argument with a customer or fellow colleague and you feel like you could destroy worlds with your anger. A supernova wouldn’t hold a candle to your anger, fury and frustration. You pick up your phone and it’s a stupid meme that isn’t in the least funny right now, even though at any other time you’d be heard laughing 3 blocks away by your favorite lunch take out joint; or a 3 minute long video that you just couldn’t be bothered to watch at that moment or at all for that matter.

You are anger incarnate.

You ignore the text because you cannot cope right now. But the inevitable happens, your friend replies 10 minutes later…. “No? Didn’t hit your funny spot? Come on it was so funny!” Instantly you feel bad because your friend shared something with you, thought about you and you couldn’t even bother to respond. You respond with a “LOL” and a “Sorry, was hectic at the time, was really funny”… a complete and utter lie. It wasn’t funny but you feel obligated to says something because of some “unwritten rule” somewhere that you should find it funny, that you should LOL, that you should reply.

This isn’t the tech that’s causing this. It’s our own need to boost our friends, make them feel worthwhile and in turn, make ourselves feel good too. We all chase that elusive laugh from someone else, the perfect witty response and we need to keep on top of the current topics and trends to make sure that when we joke, it’s current and relevant. We scour our timelines seeing what the latest gossip is. To ensure that when others say something we know what they are talking about. We go through all of this because when we don’t respond, we are asked “Why?”

It’s the single most horrifying thing to answer to anyone online. When we are asked why we did not respond, we are afraid of hurting those around us. Afraid of making someone feel underappreciated in this crazy world where we are all tired and overwhelmed by the constant influx of information on Social Media and the internet as a whole. Mix that in with instant contact in the business environment and it’s all just a crazy, blurry life. We don’t want anyone to feel unwanted because we would see it as cruel because of how demanding life is.

And here is where one starts to realise that it’s not the tech, but the people using it. That includes ourselves. How often have we held a friend, an acquaintance hostage by demanding a response to our texts? How often have we been held hostage by others doing the same to us?

Perhaps we need to start changing the mindset and it starts with oneself. Start first by not doing this to others. Then stop responding out of some “hidden rule”. This doesn’t mean be rude. If someone messages you “Hey, how you doing?” don’t take 3 days to respond. Respond in kind. But when receiving a meme? A silly video that did nothing for you? There is no rule that you must respond to this and people shouldn’t expect any. We are all so quick to speak out against the fatigue we feel online but no one is willing to do anything. Some may forego any social media completely. Cut themselves off from specific platforms. This is all fine and well, and really nothing wrong with it. But should it be necessary? Why do so many feel like they have to go to extremes to get some “rest” online? We shouldn’t need to.

We should all feel secure enough in our worlds to be able to leave and ignore that which doesn’t interest us to fall aside for more important conversations, things that genuinely make us smile and laugh. Why MUST we respond with at least a LOL when a cat flies through the air after an epic jump, misses the mark by a hair, plumets in to a bowel of bird seeds and have a flock of pigeons descend on it? Ok that may actually be funny, but that’s not the point. The point is we shouldn’t feel forced to respond and we shouldn’t force responses on others.

Sometimes our joke we share just isn’t so funny to someone else. That 5 minute video? It’s actually getting in the way of someone working if we demand they watch it. It may be causing further friction during a couple’s argument. They are already on bursting point and the darn phone won’t stop beeping for 5minutes!

I think we can all take a step back and realise that just because we sent something zooming out across the world, doesn’t mean we should expect a response. It’s not fair. It’s rude and it can make someone’s day worst, not better.

Don’t hold anyone hostage. Let go and realise that likes and LOLs don’t define friendships or relationships online. Let’s stop the siege of each other’s digital worlds. It’s time to call a truce.

Today I say no more. No more will I do this to others or allow others to do it to me. If I don’t respond, don’t take offence. Accept that I had my reasons and that those reasons are my own. If I want to share my reasons, I will. If I don’t want to then allow me that silence. Allow me the rest in this digital world and realise that you are not the only one online wanting responses on these texts. It’s frustrating when you have a phone full of notifications and each one you just know people will ask, when you don’t respond, “Why?”

In turn I will extend that same respect of privacy to others. I will not demand the response. I will not demand that reaction. I will accept that people need time away from their digital lives.

The irony? I’m writing this all online… Go figure.