Digital Anxiety – By @philgull

By Philip Gull


Digital Anxiety


I’m not that bad in person, I promise. 


I’m just a bit rubbish online. 


I guess this SCAB is partly an apology to my fellow SCAers starting on Tuesday for my lack of sociability over the last couple of months. We’ve got a Facebook group chat full of interesting, talkative people, with great anecdotes, and I have sat myself firmly on the bench, unlaced my boots, and lurked for England. If Missy Elliott reworked her classic 2002 hit ‘Work It’ into a 2018-ready track about people who don’t contribute to online group chats, titled ‘Lurk It’, I like to think I’d be in with a chance to get in the video. 


Unless of course, I had to apply online to do so. 


You see, I love Parquet Courts too, but I’m too scared to say so. 


I don’t know what to call it, but it’s something like digital anxiety. And while it’s not that deep, it’s something I have to get over this year because it’s really, really not useful if you want to go into advertising. 


I’d be much more interesting if I could say my social radio silence was ideologically motivated; if I was abstaining from talking to people because I had principles founded on the belief that everyone presents false versions of themselves online, and I wasn’t going to fall prey to the rat race of fakes on Facebook, and I fully wasn’t going to take part in their self-aggrandising online dialogues.


You might think I was a dick, but at least I’d be interesting.


This isn’t the reason I have a grand total of 3 twitter followers, though. It’s much more banal. I just get really anxious talking to people, interacting with them, presenting myself in situations online. I think it’s something about the permanency of messaging. If you make an unfunny joke on a Facebook group, even if you know, with almost 100% certainty, that no one gives a singular f*ck and will have forgotten it tomorrow, there’s still a little voice in your head that tells you it’s there f o r e v e r.


(You’ll notice that I’ve managed to overcome the physiological hurdle that comes with the knowledge that if you write a bad SCAB it’s there f o r e v e r.)


I don’t think anyone really knows how to present themselves on social media and other platforms – which should be part of the fun, and for a lot of people it is. But these self-reflective SCABs have made me realise that I don’t know that much about me in real life, and even less about my online self.  


The problem is the primacy of online. Even writing ‘in real life’ just now felt like a bit of an anachronism, the sort of phrase you’d hear from your computer-illiterate aunt. Not that I’m a million miles away from your computer-illiterate aunt, as lots of you starting SCA on Tuesday will find out.


For most of my life, I’ve drawn a mental circle in thick Sharpie around what’s ‘real’ and placed ‘online stuff’ securely outside it. This has to change. I haven’t quite got the right analogy, but what really goes on in all our lives is much more like an Outside-Online Venn Diagram with the almond-shaped space of real life in the middle, or, less elegantly, a digi-physical omelette where everything collides messily together. 


I didn’t just pick SCA because I wanted an agency job at the end of it (although that would be amazing if it happens). I picked it because I want to get better at engaging and interacting with the world around me now, not what it once was. I’ve spent the last three years of my life immersed in medieval literature, and now I need to update my toolkit.

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