Prior to these times of social distancing, Tanya sat down with Made in Chelsea’s Jamie Laing to discuss his relationship with tech. Having been on the reality TV show since 2011, plus having had various other roles in both reality television and acting along the way and now owning a confectionary line, it would seem that social media is an essential asset to Jamie’s line of work. However, as he tells Tanya, this does not have to be the case.
Over the 10 years Jamie has been on television, our relationship with social media has evolved hugely. At the beginning of his career reality tv stars needed only to worry about their appearance on one type of screen; now they have to navigate both the world of television and the worlds of social media. Initially he enjoyed sharing and posting carelessly to his friends he admits, but now that fame and success seem to demand a presence on multiple social media platforms, it no longer seems to be as fun.
So at what point did social media become a job?
Jamie professes that he personally doesn’t see social media as a job. And yet it does hang over him, he concedes. Having made mistakes in the past and been criticised over not particularly well-thought-out posts, he confirms to Tanya that he is not completely open on these platforms. For example, he doesn’t discuss his experience with anxiety (which he chats about in this episode) nor does he post political views, on the premise that he merely doesn’t think what he has to say is important enough. Whether we view the latter as an admirable restraint to oversharing, or as a discouraging sign of celebrity indifference and distance to the world of politics, his sentiment behind this is so simple it is difficult to dispute: “if I’m going to voice something, it has to be completely important to me, and it has to make a difference.”
On the other hand, one thing he is still more than open with to his followers is his relationships. His Instagram is full of images of him and his girlfriend. But having grown up on a reality tv show, this is completely normal to him. What he still struggles with, however, is being in the public eye when going through a difficult time. As listening to the podcast will reinforce, Jamie Laing has a positive and vibrant persona – which means that when something’s wrong, it’s instantly noticeable.
Growing up with social media
However, Jamie demonstrates in this podcast that his ultimate concern is for the wellbeing of children and adolescents growing up with social media. He believes that for non-celebrities, social media is even scarier. The emphasis a non-public profile inevitably places on your online interactions with your friends is anxiety inducing.
Jamie’s solution? To ban phones at schools. With Tanya’s experience of speaking in schools and her consequent insight into the shockingly high quantities of time children spend on their phones, both agree that something must be done to curb this strange new addiction. But there is no easy solution. Even enlisting parental guidance is not as straightforward as it seems; many worry in limiting screen time they are ostracising their kids. Thus the ultimate solution lies in attaching less importance to our online lives.
At Time To Log Off, we know that, and for Jamie Laing it’s an ongoing struggle. Last Christmas he participated in a digital detox, intrigued by how it would affect his mind. He discovered that, actually, he didn’t really care about not having access to his phone. It’s a bold claim to make, as his phone sits on the table mere inches from his hand, but in telling Tanya that he (rather impressively) doesn’t check social media beyond 6/7pm, he illustrates that he has managed to emotionally distance himself from the online world.
It is Jamie’s overriding belief that ‘you can live without a phone’. But, in times where online contact is so important, we understand this is a statement that perhaps is best considered in the aftermath. Instead, we invite you to heed Jamie’s insights by reconsidering your relationship with tech so that you can get the best out of it. The seemingly endless scrolling through social media, and the consequent endless turning over of what you have seen in your mind, are not that. In times where it’s so tempting to use tech to passively entertain ourselves by scrolling through social media, rather than reaching out to nurture our individual relationships, Jamie’s final conclusion resonates even stronger. “Spend more time speaking with your friends”.