Can’t wake up in the morning without reaching for your smartphone and tablet? Less interested in your family than the virtual friends you’ve made in cyberspace? Yes, you are an addict
Emily Bryce-Perkins (above), 29, is a publicist who lives in north London. She uses Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and spends at least six hours a day on social-media websites
I joined Facebook in 2007 when I was a student in Leicester. At first I had no idea how momentous it would become, but very quickly it became something that you had to be on.
Two years later I married my now ex-husband, David, an estate agent, and we bought a house in a Northamptonshire village. We weren’t that well suited, and Facebook was a flashpoint between us – I didn’t think he was intelligent or erudite enough for it and I found his crass posts absolutely mortifying.
I joined Twitter soon after getting married and immediately loved it. Whenever a news story breaks it is just so exciting to watch it unfold in real time. Plus, it’s completely meritocratic: if you’re sharp on Twitter and good with puns it’s a really useful platform both socially and professionally.
Before long I had 3,000 followers and was having online conversations with magazine editors and newspaper columnists – people I would never have had the opportunity to engage with in real life. It gave me so much confidence and within a year I was on it pretty much all the time.
My husband couldn’t stand it. When I got home from work he would interrogate me about who I had been speaking to on Twitter. It became unbearable, and social media was one of the things that I cited in our divorce.
Twitter opened my eyes to the outside world and gave me the confidence to leave my marriage and move to London and become a publicist. It gave me my whole identity. Now, five years later, social media is still a massive part of my life. From stirring a pot as I cook my dinner to even going to the lavatory, my phone is always in my hand.
As soon as I wake up I check my emails, Twitter, Facebook, then Instagram on my iPhone and will respond to any texts or WhatsApp messages. When I’m away from my desk I’ll be checking my social-media accounts on my phone. I post something on Twitter probably 10 times a day.
Sometimes I do worry that my social-media use is a little compulsive, and notice an uncomfortable disconnect between how I appear online and what’s going on in my real life. My online personality is always upbeat, but that’s not always the case behind closed doors.
But not interacting in social media these days – whether it be for work or your social life – is no longer an option. It would be impossible for me to go a day without it, and I’ve never tried.
Natalie Trice, 40, is a stay-at-home mother of Eddie, seven, and Lucas, five, who lives in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. She uses Facebook and Twitter and is on them for between four and five hours a day
I am a complete Facebook and Twitter addict – it’s rare that 10 minutes go by without me checking them on my iPhone. My husband finds it pretty exasperating and often comments that I’m not really present. He also thinks I overshare and if we have an argument or someone annoys me he’ll immediately say, “Oh, please don’t put that on Facebook.” But I usually do.
I will interrupt any family event – whether it’s dinner with my husband in a restaurant or one of the children’s birthdays – to take pictures to post on Facebook. But mainly I just post cute pictures of the kids or my garden. Even if my husband and I are watching something on the telly I might live-Tweet the programme to my 2,500 Twitter followers. Interacting with friends and strangers on social media is a massive part of my life.
Friends sometimes tease me about posting a lot. Someone once wrote on my Facebook wall, “You’ve posted eight times today. Are you bored?” That was really hurtful. I think everyone uses it, it’s just that they are lurking, not contributing to the conversation.
Only about two of my friends aren’t on Facebook or Twitter and you do have to make a bit more effort to see them. But sometimes that’s great, because you can have a conversation with them without them knowing everything you’ve been up to every minute of the day because they’ve already read about it.
Social media is great for me: I’m sociable but I don’t want to be out socialising all the time. This way I get to connect with friends without any effort. It’s also a lot easier to make friends online. I have 550 Facebook friends, and only about six good friends in real life.
I’ve been a heavy user of social media since joining Facebook and Twitter in 2009, and I’d absolutely hate to be without it. I’d feel like I’d just gone back to being a boring stay-at-home mum. With social media I feel I have a real voice and a real audience.
I’ve given up smoking, and hardly drink. This is my vice. It’s free, I can do it at home, it’s my hobby, my absolutely non-harmful addiction. I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with it.
Fiz Marcus, 65, is an actress who lives in Elstead, Surrey. She is married with two grown-up children and spends at least three hours a day on Twitter, Facebook and various apps
I live on my own and, as a result, my iPad and iPhone are absolute lifelines. I use them for everything – Twitter and Facebook for keeping up with colleagues, friends and the outside world generally, and Skype and FaceTime to speak to my husband, who works in America, and my granddaughter, who lives in London.
I read all the newspapers online and also play a lot of games online. I was always into the internet and emailing, but when I got a smartphone and an iPad in 2011 my use rocketed. Now the online world is almost as big a part of my life as the real world. When I wake up I check to see if I’ve received any texts and look through my emails on my iPhone, my iPad or my laptop. I then look to see if any of my friends are playing any of the word games that I play online and with which I can continue over breakfast.
Then I will speak to my agent on Skype and look for any jobs online. If there’s been a theatre opening the night before I’ll have a good look on Twitter to see what the reaction is. I’ll then check Facebook and probably look at that for about 20 minutes. It’s such a great way to keep in touch with old friends and colleagues. I sometimes post pictures of my granddaughter and the odd picture of myself. I’ll be at my computer throughout the day and social media will just be there constantly in the background.
I strongly suspect that if I didn’t live on my own I would be on it less, but then I think everyone these days finds keeping up with their friends on social media just so much less of an effort than forcing yourself out of the door and going to see them in real life. All of my friends use email, and most have some sort of smartphone, but I am much more active on social media and gaming apps than the majority, who are not on Facebook or Twitter and don’t use apps.
When I go to bed I will spend a bit of time playing my online games. At the end of any day I’ll often have been looking at some form of screen for approximately nine hours. It is a lot. But all this adds to my life far more than it detracts. I wish more people my age would engage more with the online world, and particularly social media. It keeps me young, it keeps me engaged with younger people and up to date with the way they think.
People my age shouldn’t be frightened of using social media in particular. If they are, they’re isolating themselves from something quite wonderful and are missing out on a lot.
Izzy Mackay, 15, lives in Puttenham, near Godalming, with her parents and goes to a local girls’ school. She uses Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat and spends at least three hours a day on social media
The first thing I do when I wake up is check my phone and reply to messages I’ve missed on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram . I’ll be glued to my phone over breakfast and on the way to school. We are allowed to have our phones on our desks at school – we use them for research, and the thinking is that people use them anyway, so they might as well be open about it – so I keep my eye on all my social-media accounts pretty much all day.
At lunchtime everyone is on their phones. My group of friends is really good at speaking to each other, but lots of other groups will just hang around in silence posting on Instagram.
I’ve been on Facebook since I was 11. At first I used to check it just a couple of times a day but since I got an iPhone at 13 – the age most of my friends got one – my social-media use has increased dramatically to the point where it forms the backdrop to my whole day.
As a teenager today, having a social-media presence is mandatory. No one calls or texts anymore because you have to pay to do that so most communication takes place on apps or online.
Pretty much everyone I know has an iPhone. You could be the coolest person who had lots of friends, gave great parties and was good looking and fun, but if you didn’t have an iPhone people my age would think there’s something wrong with you. That’s just how it is. I feel sorry for people who don’t have one, and have a Samsung or something. The iPhone is so much better and cooler.
School isn’t yet broken down into social-media groups but I can definitely see it heading that way. The trendiest people use Instagram. Gamers, who are people who talk to other people about games on the Xbox, are the furthest down the pecking order.
You have to be streetwise online, as in real life. I would never go on sites like ask.fm, where friends can anonymously post things about you, because you would just be asking for hate.
After supper I watch TV with my phone, and Facebook and Tweet and chat to friends on Snapchat . Then I take my phone to bed. It’s normal for me to be on my phone from 10pm to 11.30pm – all my friends are.
I’ve got 560 followers on Instagram, which I’m pleased with. I mainly post pictures of me or me with my friends, then often people will comment.
Sometimes I think I’m worrying too much about how people perceive me from my Instagram account, and think maybe I should delete it as it’s wasting so much of my time – about 90 per cent of my social-media usage is Instagram. But I’d never actually do it. It would be social suicide.