A few days ago I had to change planes on my way home from Budapest. I was supposed to spend no more than an hour at Sabiha Gokcen airport, which is Istanbul’s second airport (there will soon be a third) but because delays are now the norm rather than the exception at this airport, I was not surprised to see my departure time slip in half hour increments until we eventually had a one hour forty five minute delay. Despite Sabiha Gokcen’s modern terminal being less than 7 years old the design and fittings of its Domestic section ensures it is one of Europe’s most uncomfortable airports to spend any length of time in. I would personally rank it 3rd worst airport in Europe just behind the bus shelter experience of London’s Luton airport and the cold-steel chairs of Frankfurt.
Ever increasing passenger volumes obviously contribute to delays, which inevitably contribute to unbearable overcrowding, where a growing number of passengers must use the floor instead of the limited number of chairs. So it came as quite a shock when I eventually fought my way through security and pushed through the throng towards my distant gate and arrived into an area of near silence. The area was packed as usual with about a dozen passengers having spilled onto the floor. You may imagine they were all somehow sleeping at 4pm in the afternoon or that they were a large group of nuns or holy men quietly contemplating the universe. But they were just the normal mix of passengers flying down to Bodrum: a few less head-scarved women than for the flights further east, a few European holiday makers regretting their unwise decision to break their journey at Istanbul to save money and a sprinkling Vomits (Victims of Men in Turkey), middle aged European women with over-dyed hair and wearing mutton dressed as lamb clothes, all flying home to their much younger Turkish, or should I say Kurdish boyfriends, who are at various stages of bleeding these delusional women dry.
There I go – digressing again – perhaps I will inevitably have to relent soon to the many requests to do a follow up to my Vomit piece of a few years ago, but for now back to the airport.
The reason for the uncanny silence at the Bodrum gate was because almost everyone there seemed to be mesmerised by their phone or some other device, reading, taping it or scrolling; some people were actually talking into the phone – whatever next? All remained calm as I stepped gingerly over the legs of the people sitting on the floor on my way towards the gate now flashing ‘Last Call,’ until a woman carrying a selection of over-priced pastries suddenly tripped over a stray foot. You may imagine that I would not be the only person helping this poor woman to her feet in a crowded room but I was. However, what was more disturbing was the fact that at least half a dozen of these people had photographed the incident and I suspect, even before I had brushed the pastry based debris from my trousers, had posted the incident on Instagram, Twitter, facebook or whatever.
It is hard to pin-point the moment that social media interest rolled over to social media addiction but I suspect for many it was long before the condition was officially recognised as an addiction by the UK’s National Health Service in 2013.
London based psychiatrist Richard Graham is one of many clinicians now dealing with the problem and he described these core early indications in addicts:
They start to miss or avoid doing the necessary things in life, even at a fundamental level of self-care. They delay eating or avoid eating or drinking, delay sleep, miss meetings or delay getting into work or college.
Ringing any alarm bells?!
Dr Graham treats around 100 social media addicts every year, ranging from very young kids to adults in their mid-30s; there are even one or two professional football players. Judi James, another expert explained that addiction comes when “people are using [social media] when they already have company – or are even out on dates. Or they are sitting up most of the night rather than getting some sleep. Social media should be a way to complete your social life, not replace it. An exaggerated use of social media can have the opposite effect and result in increased feelings of loneliness,” she points out.
Photo care of Ian Grace-Penny
Are You an addict… yet?
10 Symptoms you are a Social Media Zombie.
1. You can’t get to the main course in a restaurant before you get out your phone and instagram the prawn cocktail. Ideally, you would chronicle the bread basket within three minutes of arriving. Because, frankly, a romantic meal for two isn’t a romantic meal for two unless you have shared it with all your followers.
2. The very first thing you do when you wake up is reach for your phone or i-pad (always by the side of your bed, in fact – usually under your pillow) and check how many times your witty comment from the night before has been retweeted or liked. You often do this before you have even left the bed.
3. Your children catch you trying to post Facebook updates while reading their bedtime stories. You know it’s seriously bad when you agree that you will pay them 25p every time they bust you. It has got out of control when they can buy an XBox with the proceeds.
4. You cannot visit a toilet without using the 27 available seconds to investigate how many people have liked your photo. Snapchatting a selfie while sitting on the loo is proof you have stopped understanding basic decent behaviour. Rather sadly, we now swipe, tap, scroll and wipe.
5. Linda from accounts, on a Monday morning, asks how was your weekend. And your first reaction is “What? did you not see all the amazing photos I posted on Instagram? How can you not know that I had a great time?” But what you actually say: “Er, it was nice. Thanks.” And then think, I must un-follow Linda, the ungrateful bitch.
6. You “like” your own updates on Facebook. You “favourite” your own Tweets. You “like” your own instagram pics. You “pin” selfies on Pinterest. Stop it… stop it Now.
7. You “check in” at Metro stations on the way to work. You “check in” when you go out to get your lunch, you “check in” at the pub after work. You want to “check in” when you get home, but you suddenly realise that though you have remembered your phone (of course), you have forgotten your keys.
8. The first thing you do on hearing that someone famous has died is to Wiki their career and urgently, in a panicky rush, find the obscurest fact you can find about them so that you can post an update. “So sad about #Prince. Of course, his greatest achievement was being invited to sing at the Pope’s birthday party. #RIP”
9. Someone tells you a joke, and instead of laughing out loud, you use the phrase “lol”. As in, you actually open your mouth and instead of uttering the purest, most instinctive proof of humanity, a laugh, you say “lol.” But then you do laugh at your own cleverness.
10. Watching Game of Thrones/Downton/X-Factor your anxiety levels rise to almost unbearable levels as you desperately try to be the first person on your timeline to tweet “Has Simon had too much work done?”
Don’t become a social media zombie… STOP IT NOW – BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE! Or you may just end up like one of these two:
Stay on the safe side, keep your devices away when you are having a moment with someone. And if you do feel that temptation to grab your phone, be strong!