Confessions of a Social Media Mall Rat

I feel digitally homeless. It is a feeling of dislocation, lack of focus and general malaise.

What once were clear lines between activities on facebook, twitter and my blog have been blurred, or even erased.

Mallrats PosterI used to think of twitter as the “pub chat” with friends and casual acquaintances and facebook as the “speakers corner” where you could set up your soap box and rally interested listeners to your cause.

But these were just the social spaces, you spent time there but you always headed home. In this context, “home” was one’s blog, the place to invite those friends to join me after the pub, or the place to hold lively discussions and events.

But something happened. People stopped coming. There were simply too many homes to visit, so we all started hanging out more ‘together’ in social spaces.

Facebook grew. It stopped being an open square. It grew and built pleasant boulevards, with plenty of park benches to meet on. It roofed off the sky and promised dependable weather for any gathering. In exchange for viewing a few ads, it gave us the spaces for talking, meeting, watching movies, even eating (or sharing food porn) and sleeping. It became a mall. EVERYTHING happens within it.

We turned into mall rats.

According to Urban Dictionary:

Mall rat: A surly teenager who spends all of his or her time at the mall with friends. Typically seen standing around glaring at customers — sometimes these fascinating creatures will pick fights with mall security and call them “fascists” for enforcing the mall’s loitering bylaws. Also often seen intimidating the elderly people in the clothing stores, they flock back to the “baggy pants with mile-long wallet-chain” section of the clothing store when an employee threatens to call the police.

It seems unlikely, but in fact those of us who used to blog actively are the ones most likely to shout “fascist!” and accuse Facebook of imposing anti-social, privacy-invading terms. Are we that different? We think we own the place yet fail to spend any money, glare at the newcomers, and then threaten to leave, yet continue to hang around.

We have to. Imagine what would happen to our klout scores if we left!

It is a depressing thought.

However, what is more depressing is that the more time we spend wasting our intellectual effort, curiosity and creativity pretending we are being cool in the mall, the more we are building Facebook and not our blogs and ourselves.

Those blogs, our homes, are crumbling.

I see the value of large shopping centres. There needs to be a place to hang out, but we can’t make it our home. We must have a place to go to be ourselves, make a statement and build in order to be able to invite our real friends.

It is time for me to reduce the time spent on social “networking” drastically, and instead focus on my home and my friends.

My name is Robert. I am a Social Media Mall Rat. I am on the road to recovery.

Thank you for coming to visit me, please stay a while and share a glass of wine while we chat.