How I learnt French and forgot how to drive

I was late to social media.

I was sniffy about it, and adopted a facial expression that said ‘pah!’ I proclaimed loudly to anyone who’d listen that it was for children, and that we grown-ups prefer face to face conversations and 3D friends.

No one was listening, because I was already in a minority.

I considered opening a Facebook just to make my point which, in hindsight, was probably the moment I realised I may have to get on board with this or risk social isolation. I mean, I enjoy a bit of social isolation, on my own terms – what healthy grown up doesn’t? – but it’s nice to at least have the option to mix with other humans.

Even digitally.

It was when I started writing about cycling in 2013 that I took the plunge and became a Twitterer, realising that without social media even fewer people would be reading my lycra-clad ramblings.

And now, in early 2017, I have undoubtedly reached social media saturation.

I can handle Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at a push, but that’s my lot. I haven’t got the mental energy to learn another one. I have a loose understanding of what Pinterest and Snapchat are, but no more. If Twitter dies at some point – which seems plausible when you consider that it loses billions of pounds a year – I won’t be replacing it.

People half my age are already using social media platforms that I wouldn’t recognise if they took my photo, drew some funny dog ears on me, and live-streamed me to the world. And if the demographic of these new things is the under twenties, it would be plain weird for me, a forty year old, to be getting involved.

My resistance to new forms of social media is nothing to do with me being a technophobe, a luddite, or a hippy, and everything to do with a theory first brought to my attention by Homer Simpson.

As he put it: “Do you remember that time I learnt French and forgot how to drive?”

In other words, my brain is now full.

Any new things I learn from this point on will just push out old ones.

If I have to navigate my way around some new form of niche online communication I could easily forget my credit card PIN number, my children’s birthdays, or my job. Equally, I might only forget my favourite Simpsons quotes, but still; in the grand scheme of things I reckon the philosophy of Homer Simpson is probably of more value to me.

When my phone tells me that ‘storage is full – check settings’, I wonder whether there’s a little button somewhere around the back of my head that I’ve missed.

“Pah!” I say again.

Only now, I have an emoji “Pah” too, for the benefit of my digital friends.




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