DANGEROUS LIAISONS – THE ONLINE EDITION

I’m often comfortable trusting the untrusted. Those who have lost our confidence complain of a spotlight…a constant feeling of being watched or questioned. And those who give a shit then work hard to keep their footsteps on the straight and narrow.

But it is the trusted…the loved…the adored who I easily view through glasses of weary suspicion.

And the same goes for social media sites. I’m no longer active on social media sites, this one being an exception. But I listen to friends and students. And it seems to me that one is no longer enough. There is a site for work stuff, a site for gossip stuff, a site for pretty stuff, a site for connecting stuff…and many more for other stuff.

Connecting stuff…the wonder of Facebook – when I still had it – was the ability to remain connected to friends who have moved to faraway places. To see their kids grow and their surroundings change. Quite lovely…until such time as school reunion arrangers find your profile…then I eff off nicely to avoid detection…

Pretty stuff…I feel tempted to join this platform because it seems a real opportunity to just sit back and look at pretty things. But the overload of TikTok videos of pouting lips and swanning poses and stupider-than-shrimp challenges…uh, no thank ye, kindly.

Gossip stuff…Twitter is that untrusted villain everyone’s jaded by but no-one can stand to abandon. What if you miss out on something?! I’ve always found this site a bit harsh for my particular tastes. People are mean and it seems like the ideal house where you can ring the bell, shout horrid things and then run away, unseen.

Work stuff…But I’ve today decided that LinkedIn – a site generally considered pretty benign – is equally dangerous but much more covertly…

My colleagues obviously have very many students and practicing lawyers on their LinkedIn networks. Images of grand graduations with professional make-up, newly bought and deeply uncomfortable shoes that test the ankles of the most athletic of ladies, shiny outfits and proud parentals. Degrees are scanned and uploaded, promotions are advertised and photoshoots make the humblest of employees seem like CEO’s and presidential candidates.

It took me about 10minutes of LinkedIn browsing to feel like maybe I’ve failed at life.

My heart bleeds for those who’ve been told to maintain a bright presence on this platform because it’s an easy doorway to employment. My heart bleeds for the young and disenfranchised in my country who proudly advertise newly established companies, only for the ripples of virus-related lockdown to destroy hope.

I have a tremendous amount of students who are the first in their families to attend university and who go about their business of studying with incomprehensible pressure to succeed and lift an entire family from poverty. They turn every penny this way and that to survive.

And when they graduate and wearily step into the shaky realm of legal practice, they are often disillusioned with the work and – more importantly – their earnings.

How do these young people look at LinkedIn pages? Do they see others’ success as motivation and far-away stretches of winner’s tape to be reached, or do they wonder with heavy hearts when their time will come? Do they have someone in their lives to explain to them that what seems online is almost never what is? That even al old shoe can look shiny on social media?

And does anyone tell the young women that you should never, ever wear high-heeled shoes to their graduation ceremonies?

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