My Smartphone Addiction
I don’t hide the fact that I am an alcoholic and an addict, but in recent times I’ve had to confront the notion that my addictive behaviour isn’t confined solely to drink and drugs. When an addict gives up one addiction, another is around the corner, waiting to pounce on you and consume you like a hungry lion. For me, the lion is Snapchat.
I started Snapchat in November 2016 and have been addicted to it ever since. Over the past year, we have become one of the most prolific Snapchat accounts in Ireland, with thousands of followers across the globe watching our stories on a daily basis. On Friday last, I decided to give it the boot. There would be no other way of doing this than by getting rid of my smartphone, so I bought a Tesco mobile phone for €15, with no touchscreen, no camera and no internet. Having used this phone for 6 days now, I have never been more at peace.
In my time on Snapchat, I’ve received countless messages from followers telling me that our Snapchat account is the one thing that makes them smile on dark days. I’ve had messages from women who had recently miscarried, thanking me for making them laugh again, messages from people who are so low that they cannot leave their home, thanking me for bringing light back into their lives. While I realise that our Snapchat has helped hundreds of people, there is one person it hasn’t helped, and that’s me.
Why I Need A Smartphone Hiatus
If you, like me, have an addictive personality, the chances are that you will become addicted to your smartphone too. Social media can be one of the most destructive drugs you can get your hands on these days. For an addict like me, the feeling you get when a recent photo is getting loads of likes could arguably rival the buzz of a line of coke. You feel accepted. You feel appreciated. You feel great. You don’t want this feeling to end. The more likes you get, the more you want.
When I was boozing, I could not have one pint of beer without drinking myself to the point of blacking out. With Snapchat it’s the same; I cannot upload one snap without doing about 20 minutes’ worth. This would be fine if I were a full-time Snapchatter, the problem is I have a business to run too. At work, I was on Snapchat. At home, I was on Snapchat. On holidays I was on Snapchat. Even when I was not on Snapchat, I was still ‘switched on’.
The public presence Snapchat gave us meant that we were always ‘on stage’ whether we were logged on to the insidious app, or not. With people coming up to us in public, there was a feeling that I was always performing. If someone came up to you in Grafton Street, you had to be nice to them, regardless of how shitty you were feeling. Even when we were on holidays we were still approached by people. For example, in New York City alone 8 separate people came up to us looking for photos.
Followers who come to the café for lunch would often ask for a picture with Jason and I. If we were regular Snapchatters, we could say no. However, when a follower is in the café they are no longer a follower, they’re now a customer. You can’t refuse a photo with someone who pays your wages. There’d be days where we’d take up to 30 different photos with customers. While they were all lovely, meeting and greeting people for a large proportion of the day, on top of Snapping and doing the job I’m actually paid to do, can be tiring and stressful.
Working in a hotel is a full-time job, and by that, I don’t mean 9-5 Monday to Friday. The business is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. You don’t get a day off. This pressure, coupled with my Snapchat antics, meant that I rarely had a moment to myself. The continuation of my Snapchat addiction became compulsive and eventually began to interfere with my ordinary responsibilities as a hotel manager.
Duality of Existence
The duality that exists between your social media self and your actual self can be quite vicious. The two can be in conflict a lot of the time. I have always tried to be honest on Snapchat, indeed this is one of the reasons people seem to like us. However, last week when I was feeling extremely low and worthless, I took to Snapchat asking what my options were. I didn’t want to see the family GP as he would probably speak to me about rugby for 10 minutes and then ask me “so what are you here for”, expecting my ailment to be of the physical variety. As I was snapping, I was acutely aware that there’d be some followers who’d say that I was looking for attention by saying I was low. There was part of me telling myself to keep going, to keep up the honesty, and then another part of me saying “Paul what are you doing? Everyone is going to see this”. This internal conflict greatly exacerbated the whole situation.
You don’t have to be an ‘influencer’ or blogger to fall victim to this dualism. Anyone who is on Instagram is probably already enslaved in this virtual prison of two-facedness. But let me tell you this, if you are the type of person who needs to take 12 selfies in order to arrive at the one you are happy to put out on social media, at some point in your dual-existence life, you will have a fucking meltdown.
The 12th photo might be the one you look your best in, but never forget that when people meet you in real life, you don’t get 12 opportunities to introduce yourself to them. They see the ‘1st’ you. The 12th selfie is an inaccurate depiction of you and therefore not really you. Unless you have been clinically diagnosed with Multiple Personality Disorder, I cannot see how this duality of existence can be healthy for you, or your followers.
Vogue Williams was on the Late Late Show last Friday night. She was chatting to Ryan about how she lives with anxiety attacks; a brave and admirable move by Vogue. However, when Ryan questioned her as to why her Instagram account portrayed her as so perfect, she said that bloggers need to put their best foot forward on Instagram. In other words, bloggers need to give their followers a false impression of them. They need to make their followers believe that they are the only people in the world who have problems. Why should bloggers care if their followers feel horribly inadequate in comparison to the perfect lifestyle ‘put forward’ on Instagram?
In my mind, it is very dangerous to make your followers believe you are perfect. It can have a serious impact on their self-esteem and can often lead to depression. If bloggers care about their followers and want them to feel normal, they need to put their shitty days forward as well as their perfect days. Honesty is key, folks.
The Point of No Return
I sadly don’t own the business I run. My folks do. They are both in their seventies. My mum calls Snapchat Snapshot. She doesn’t understand it. Neither does my dad. It’s a generational thing. When my mum sees me on my phone, she presumes I’m messing. In many ways she’s right, I am messing. However, she doesn’t get that my messing translates into cash.
One doesn’t need 20/20 vision to see that the rise of business in the White Moose Café has been directly proportionate to our proliferation on Snapchat. My parents, however, seem to be wearing blinkers. They can’t attribute the café’s success to something they don’t understand. Recently my father was in a hotel in Kerry and the receptionist nervously asked him if he was ‘the dad of the White Moose Man? I follow him on Snapchat, he is a legend!”. My father replied by rolling his eyes. I wonder if the girl had asked him if he “realises his son has put his business on the world map, making it a bucket-list destination for tens of thousands of people from all over the globe, which will obviously convert into healthy profits, all the while without spending a cent”, would he still roll his eyes?
Everything I do on Snapchat is for the café. Our account is called WhiteMooseCafe, not Paul Stenson. When people see a bustling café, they expect that I am in some way profiting from its success. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I am paid a very modest weekly wage. I don’t get a share of the profits depending on how much money I bring into the business. It can be a little frustrating when you’re breaking your back doing something that’s not recognised by the very people whose pockets you are lining.
Social media has been extremely successful in giving its users a brutally shallow and sad virtual existence. There is little function to it other than to gloat when on holidays and to boast about our new possessions. We live in an age where YouTubers do birthday hauls and where we are more concerned about taking a photo of our food than actually eating it. It’s a look-at-me, look-at-where-I-am, look-at-what-I-got, look-at-how-fucking-sad-I-am world we’re living in, ladies and gentlemen. Does anybody actually care that you’re eating brunch in Ranelagh with Holly and Chloe? Does anyone give a shit that you’re watching Netflix with your fucking cat? Is this really what the human race has come to? Is this how sad we really are?
Apart from everything else, we can’t be ourselves on social media. We have to be the person our friends/followers want us to be. I can’t say I like Donald Trump because my friends wouldn’t allow me to. I can’t proclaim to my friends that I’m anti-abortion as I don’t want people to unfriend me. I can’t be me. I can’t have an opinion. For the record, I don’t like Trump and I am pro-choice, but how do you know I am telling the truth?
At the moment I have 4,906 friends on Facebook. At a push, I’d say I’ve met 5% of them and under 2% have my phone number in their device. A new phone number came with my state of the art 1990’s Tesco mobile device and I made sure that a grand total of 7 people knew this number. These are the people who are closest to me. At the end of the day, they are the ones that matter. If you had a new number and had to choose a maximum of 10 people who could have your new number, you will probably find that your family features heavily in that list.
If you didn’t think that human beings were stupid until now, take one look at influencer marketing. I have often said that you can never underestimate the gullibility of the general public. That’s a phrase I will take to the grave. This whole influencer phenomenon is possibly one of the most pathetic embarrassments of modern-day society. You can become a ‘blogger’ in about 4-5 clicks of a mouse, or 2 minutes work, whatever comes first. You can then type shit about shit, with no particularly strong knowledge of the shit you’re talking about, and get followers for it, usually by buying them. You don’t even need to be qualified in the particular discipline of shit you’re talking about. If you manage to achieve a following, in other words, if you have money on your credit card, you can then get brand deals. A brand will pay you to say stuff about a particular good or service so you will do as you’re told and say it’s great. You can’t be honest when talking about the product, for honesty doth butter no parsnips. You don’t get paid for telling the truth in the influencer world, my friends.
The internet is a magnificent breeding ground for miserable cunts. It provides a social centre where that one head-wrecking neighbour on your road can congregate in packs of other gob shite neighbours. People love arguing with each other on social media. They wouldn’t dare do it in real life, but the keyboard gives them a spine. It often astonishes me how sad people can be online. They spend their lives spewing hate at each other. I also don’t get how anyone in their right mind can find satisfaction in writing a negative review of a business but put it down to the fact that these people must simply have some sort of psychological derangement. Didn’t these people’s grannies explain that “you’ll never rise up by putting others down”?
When you willfully write a negative review on a business, you are actively seeking to damage the reputation of that business. This business employs people. You are putting the jobs of these people at risk. I recently learned that reviewers can earn badges on TripAdvisor depending on the number of reviews they have written. The number of badges you possess indicates how far up through the echelons of TripAdvisor society you have travelled; an obvious and true reflection of your self-worth. Some people see the badge-gaining process as a bit of a game. They are fed up of Farmville. They need something a bit more thrilling. Why play with virtual farm animals when you can play with the livelihoods of real humans, in real jobs?
It’s a terrible shame that there isn’t a website called CustomerAdvisor.com where businesses could review their customers. In the past, I have called out a number of negative review writers on Fakebook. On each occasion, I have been asked to withdraw my response. Yes, folks. Why should businesses be allowed to respond publicly to something written publicly? That’s not on. The self-importance of the reviewer is key. It cannot be challenged under any circumstances.
Giving Up My Smartphone
My smartphone addiction wasn’t always a negative force in my life. It allowed me to get stuff for free! New glasses, a full car service, food and drink in restaurants and hotel stays (sometimes in the Presidential suite) are on the list of freebies we were given as a result of being ‘people of influence’. However, no amount of free shit will ever compensate for the freedom you get when you give up your smartphone.
I’ve never slept better since I gave my phone the P45. When I go to bed now, I sleep. There are no more distractions. No Twitter wars to worry about. No more pings at 3:30am when Mary from Mongolia messages on Instagram. When I wake up in the morning, I don’t spend 15 minutes checking emails, answering WhatsApp messages or looking at meaningless shit on Fakebook, I get straight into the shower and my day begins without delay.
The internet leaves little to the imagination. When I got rid of the smartphone, my imagination began to flourish again. I even began to write a certain blog post. I can now watch a TV programme from start to finish with no interruptions. I can focus on what’s happening in it. When I go out for dinner, I don’t bury my head in the phone, I talk to people. I engage with human beings.
At work, I can concentrate on tasks. I get shit done. Snapchat is a great way to market your business for free, but it’s at the expense of some of the more important tasks like paying wages, drawing up staff contracts, fixing toilet seats and other glamourous jobs expected of a hotel manager.
By saying goodbye to the smartphone, you’re also bidding adieu to the viscously toxic people that exist online. You are at peace. You are free. Giving up your phone allows you to live your life again. The only downside to date seems to be the boredom you experience when sitting on the pot.
By giving up my smartphone, I am not waving goodbye to social media. I still allow myself go on Fakebook or T-war-ter, but via my laptop only. By doing this I am limiting my time on social media as I don’t/can’t carry my laptop with me everywhere I go.
The phone was the toxic influence in my life. I would actually lie in bed all morning and ignore the phone if it was ringing, even if it was my own family trying to make contact. The phone was the devil and anything that emanated from it was a curse.
As it so happens, giving up the phone gives me less of a hunger to go on social media when on the laptop. It’s like when you remove sugar from your diet, over time you’ll have less of a craving for sugary foods.
If I had my way, I would concentrate purely on social media and I’d get a manager in to do the boring shit like bookkeeping, hiring staff, listening to American guests complain about why there isn’t a plug socket in the shower etc. I’d keep the people coming in and the manager would manage the place. Do you think my folks would be happy with this arrangement?
The bottom line is I need to break free from the shackles of my parents. I am a 37-year-old man. If I had my way, Charleville Lodge would be one of the quirkiest and coolest hotels in the world. I’m allowed to do some stuff, but when it comes to furthering the business, I am told ‘no – we don’t have the money’. My attitude is ‘well let’s get the money’ but my father always knows best. He is one of these people who is always right. I don’t think in my 37 years I have ever heard him utter the words ‘I am sorry’ or ‘I was wrong’. I need to break free from my parents for once and for all and do things my way.
I realise we now have a lot of fans out there who get daily entertainment from our Snapchat and I don’t want to let you down. Last Friday I said I won’t be gone forever, and that is true. I just need a little more time to sort things out and get my head back in gear. I promise you that when I’m better I will be back to you, maybe not on such a full-time basis, but I will definitely return and the ‘Best Snapchat in The World’ will make a comeback in your lives – OKAY???
For now, I’ll just have to go back to paying for stuff again, but at least my sanity will be intact.
Much love to you all,