Girl unplugged: Why I don't use social media

Keira Baker says there are many upsides to not being a "screenager".
Nic Walker

Keira Baker says there are many upsides to not being a "screenager".

The physio digs her thumbs into the crook of my shoulder. "So when you're sitting on the computer at home on Twitter or Facebook, you can do these neck exercises." Like many adults, this physio has immediately made the presumption that because I'm a "teenager", I obviously spend all of my time huddled in a dark room over a phone or laptop screen.

Just like teens in movies, I must also be grumpy and messy and moody and rebellious, desperately besotted with social media, and give my "totally loser" parents massive eye-rolls. (I am pretty good at eye-rolls, actually, but only for sarcastic use.)

The truth is, I'm 15 years old - but I'm not really a "teenager".

I don't have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat. In fact, the only form of social media that I have is Edmodo - a lame kind of "educational Facebook" where you can receive school assignments and feedback.

And even this I can't use because I somehow managed to translate the whole site into Spanish. (I'm not the most technologically inclined.)

If my phone buzzes, it will be my mum saying, "No, you can walk home!" and the majority of my messages come from Optus or are weird call-centre promotions.

In fact, my dad is much more inclined towards social media. He revels in the opportunity for one of his "Instagram trips" - a walk or drive (often during dramatic weather) armed with his trusty iPhone and a wide variety of Instagram filters. He comes back laden with pictures of expressive trees, stormy clouds and the odd misty puddle. For Dad, everyday life presents many Instagram opportunities - along the lines of "Keira! Stay still and let the spider crawl over you so I can take a photo."

I guess there are plenty of reasons why social media is great - keeping in touch with old friends, messaging people, organising things and providing a brilliant opportunity to share millions of horribly unnecessary photos.

I'm not avoiding it to be cool. I'm not making a stand against conformity or trying to be "alt-y" (alternative) and fashionable. I don't have any social media because... I just don't want it.

Not having Facebook or Instagram doesn't have a huge impact on my social life. It does mean, however, that my friends really are just that - friends.

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I don't interact with anyone unless I'm comfortable with inviting them over for a swim or going out to the movies.

Occasionally, I do miss out on something. Our school drama class is organised on Facebook - so all the assignments, notes and reminders about our productions are put up there. My friends are pretty good at letting me know if there's something important (and some less important things: "OMG, you have to see this cat meme"), but every now and then I'll come to class in school uniform while everyone else is dressed as a '50s housewife/ghost/robber for a performance.

My friends say, "Oh ... if you only got Facebook!" because there is a generous supply of terrible pictures of me on my friends' phones. They are of the sort where they're taking a photo and you jump in the way and pull a face, resulting in a beautiful portrait of the insides of your upturned nostrils and a bit of half-chewed food on its way down your throat. Apparently, these horrible pictures are a waste unless they can be posted on Facebook on the victim's birthday for all to see. But come on, what is the point of #selfies unless it is to clog up someone else's phone storage?

One terribly sad side effect of social media is the replacement of the phone call. Birthday mornings used to be busy with calls from family and friends and strange aunts you never even knew existed.

Now on my birthdays, I pretty much only get called by my grandparents - and although waiting on the line while my grandpa hums a tuning note for his annual operatic version of Happy Birthday can be somewhat awkward, it sure is nicer than getting a "hve a gr8 bday" message from some distant friend who only sent it because Facebook reminded them to.

Not having social media also meant I missed out on the whole "acronym" thing. I am still amazed at why people would say "btw" - or "bee-tee-duh-bell-you" - instead of the simple, three-syllable "by the way".

And when you type things like "LOL" and "haha" - are you actually laughing? (If you were to actually type a human laugh, it would be more of a "hmphaa hnphaff hpfhnaaa" than a "haha" anyway.)

Probably the best thing about not being a "screenager" is that I don't have an online persona to keep up. I don't have to worry about which photo is pretty or cool or beachy or alt-y enough for my profile picture. I don't have to build up a social media identity and showcase the things I want other people to see in me. I can be whoever I want to be without worrying about how many "likes" that photo gets.

And perhaps that's the reason I don't have social media. Simply put, I don't want to have that pressure to be fake.

So maybe next time I'm at the physio I'll correct her. Explain that no, my neck problems aren't from hunching over Facebook or Instagram. And I'm not a "teenager" either. I'm 15 years old and a perfectly capable human being. 

 - essentialkids.com.au

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