Let’s be honest: we’re all guilty of using social media to boast to friends about a new car or job or looking up old foes to compare how our lives turned out. But how many people would actually admit to using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat to check up on their nearest and dearest?
The rise of digital technology has spurred the phrase techno-paranoia, where people are using smartphone apps and social media platforms to keep tabs on their friends and partners.
Whatsapp, for example, introduced the blue ticks that let you know when your message has been read. If you don’t respond immediately, any sceptical person would think you’re either ignoring them or thinking too much about the reply. When, in reality, you could just be too busy to get back to them straight away.
When photo and video messaging app Snapchat removed the ‘best friends’ function last month as part of a new update, Twitter went into overdrive with people complaining that they couldn’t see who friends or loved ones we’re talking to, or exchanging pictures with, the most.
Some users seemed annoyed they couldn’t keep a close eye on their partners while others questioned the lack of trust in those relationships.
According to research by a Leeds law firm, Facebook is cited in a third of all divorce cases. Photographs and comments posted on a user’s profile have been used to prove where people were and what was said, forming vital evidence in the case.
Jealousy in relationships hasn’t been created by new technology but, where people used to check a coat pocket or riffle through a wallet or handbag in search of proof of lies, social media has created lots of new ways to snoop on people.
And even the most trusting relationships can fall foul of techno-paranoia, not because we’ve all suddenly become a society of miscreants but because social snooping can be done at the mere swipe of a smartphone.
But ultimately this phenomena is the natural evolution of human relationships in the digital age. Advances in technology and the development of many social networks have made detectives of all of us to some extent as we pry into the lives of people you once sat behind in double geography – the problem being that this natural curiosity can often be misinterpreted as something more sinister as techno-paranoia takes hold.
As people increasingly share every detail of their lives across social media, more people will be encouraged to look. This formula has underpinned the incredible growth of social networks over the past decade.
So fear not, if you have been on the receiving end of techno-paranoia, you are not alone and all you can do is stress that your conscience is clear. If you are a sufferer then the best remedy is probably to reach for the ‘off’ button and find yourself a good book.