Social media, as with having children, you have to ask, what the hell did we do before? Presumably we whittled sticks, recorded TOTP on video compilations and skipped through the long grass?

‘I’ve left Facebook’ is greeted initially with shock, laced with considerable disbelief. And that’s before you’ve even told anyone. Ironically it might be your most popular update, that you’ll never get to see. There’s a stubbornness to it; like leaving a great party early, albeit a party at which people are sharing photos of food, children and fierce political party allegiances. And clips of dogs falling off bar stools. It must be that which keeps us all there. The dogs I mean.

Social media is a strange place that demands revisiting like an itch that’s impossible to locate. We are certainly addicted. If someone was checking for their car keys with such frequency they’d be advised to seek therapy. I recently saw a woman check her phone again 4 seconds after she had put it back in her pocket. Someone else was scrolling down a page without even looking at the screen. They are basically adult Fidget Spinners ™ with tied-in monthly contracts and a thousand photos you’ll never look at.

Without social media you’re left in the sort of time chasm that’s perfect for writing your second novel, if only that felt less like a vicious bully following you around sprinkling self doubt in your ear. And that’s on a good day. Actually, I hope that’s not true, the current book is going well, but it’s hard work writing a novel. I should have learned this by now.

People are encouraging, with comments such as “you’ve done it before, you’ll be fine,’ which is kindly meant, yet I’ve done A-levels before and I doubt I’d even get the grades that I scrapped together back then. The most encouragement I’ve had is Arundhati Roy taking 20 years to follow up her Booker winning The God of Small Things (1997) with her second, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, which probably perfectly encapsulates how she felt upon finishing it. I bet she put a Facebook update about that, and then one of a dog falling off a barstool for good measure.

So, how’s it been, leaving this great party in which you sometimes feel that everyone is dancing better than you? Well, you can read a book on a train, which makes you at least 20% more attractive whoever you are. And it’s social media with which novels are competing, but it’s free AND addictive, like crack cocaine for the idle.

Having left, you still wake up with potential updates, such as ‘I’ve just woken up’, before realising that it’s a bit lame and no one will be interested. And that’s the problem with Facebook, even your most private thoughts are fractured through the lens of the potential public eye.

I mean you already know your morning must be bad if the new Mike and Mechanics album has improved things, but sharing that on social media to blank indifference, or some response perhaps involving ‘I preferred them with Peter Gabriel’ (actually, that was Genesis), soon dampens all recovered spirits.

Social anxiety is part of the human condition, and it’s magnified on social media; this worry that you’re missing out is inescapable unless you’re knee deep (ahem) in an orgy, but perhaps social media is the stark realisation that there isn’t some mythical party that everyone’s at bar you, but instead populated by lots of people dogmatically certain of their political opinions, dietary requirements and propensity to overshare. And love of careless dogs.

Shame I can’t share this on social media. Oh well, maybe just one more time.

My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available here – – 

A farcical road trip around Europe. ‘This is what would happen if the Blues Brothers went on a search for the Holy Grail.’

http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/fiction-poetry/the-life-assistance-agency,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –