INTERVIEW: DJ Sara Cox talks social media’s effect on friendship
From Facebook to Snapchat to Skype, the ever-growing digital world is encouraging us to be more and more distant from real-life friendships. In Sara Cox ON Friendship, the Radio 2 DJ explores the effect that the growth of social media is having on our friendships. She discovers what it means to be a “friend” in this era, delves into the science behind these online relationships and learns whether technology can actually aid friendship.
Sara Cox ON Friendship is the first of three documentaries to air on UKTV’s new flagship channel “W”. Starting on Monday 15th February, Sara Cox, Grace Dent and Sophie Ellis-Bextor explore what our ever-changing technology is doing to us in terms of love, friendship and being famous.
We sat down with Sara herself to find out more:
What were you expecting to find before embarking on this mission?
I was expecting to find out that I thought Facebook was a complete waste of time. Despite the fact that something like one billion people were quite into it, I was still thinking, nah – those one billion people don’t have a point. So I was expecting to go on Facebook for the show and then never really look at it again in all honesty. I’m definitely not addicted to it but I don’t think I’m doing it right, which is a really nana thing to say, isn’t it?
Are you still using your new Facebook account?
Yes, I’ve still got it but under my married name which is nice as lots of people are on there with their proper names or married names so it’s quite private. For the first time I’m able to put up pictures of the kids which I would never do on Twitter or Instagram; that’s what I really like about [Facebook] because now my mum (who’s up North) can see pictures which is quite sweet.
I’m more comfortable with the photos. I’ve not sat down and written a big long post. I find that quite weird, it’s quite self-indulgent isn’t it? I’m saying this about a decade late – everyone’s always been moaning about this and I’m like, have you noticed this annoying thing about Facebook?
So, after holding off for so long, were you quite reluctant to join up?
Yea – in the meetings with the producers their faces lit up when I told them I wasn’t on Facebook. I got a bit bloody-minded about it. It’s like the fact I haven’t seen an episode of Sex and the City – I didn’t want to do it as I’ve held off for so long.
But you are a big fan of Twitter (@sarajcox), do you see a real difference between it and Facebook?
Yes, because I love the whole 140 characters thing. You can really have fun with language; you’ve got to have some self-discipline but I love the way you can try and get a gag across or a little quip in just so many characters. I think it’s really fun.
It was in the news that it’s going up to 12,000 characters or something which I think will just completely wreck it. I think that’s leaked as a bit of a PR stunt, I don’t think they’re going to do it.
Do you think social media damages our real friendships?
That was what I was looking into, but I think in reality people are aware of who their real friends are. I think where it is damaging is that people have such a fear of missing out on what’s going on, that we’re all constantly on our phones. I know I am, I’m terrible for it.
I keep meaning to put it on airplane mode and put it in a cupboard when I’m doing homework with the kids or whilst I’m cooking dinner. They’re coming up to me and trying to show me something and I feel like the mum in Matilda, when she keeps trying to show her mum something and she doesn’t notice.
Life is going on around you and instead you’re looking at what Bear Gryll’s wife has been posting. So I feel there’s an issue with that – not really being in the room because you’re just looking at your phone.
Does it make you worry about your kids?
We just try to limit screen time. We went out for lunch recently and I brought felt tips and paper; my son will play hangman quite happily and my little daughter will draw. They all wanted phones and Lola (my eldest) had her phone with her so it’s like a domino effect. I was thinking how terrible they looked but really that’s me not wanting people looking thinking “oh look at her, she’s not doing very good parenting”.
It’s silly really; I think board games shouldn’t just be for Christmas. Around Christmas we play Connect Four, we all love charades but it just feels random on a Wednesday night to say, “charades anyone?”
Does Lola [Sara’s 12-year-old daughter] have any social media accounts?
She has a private Instagram account – I think she’s got about 6 pals on it. I’ve told her that she shouldn’t put anything on there that she wouldn’t want on a cinema screen in her school hall, in front of all her teachers and headteacher and grandma and possibly the Queen and the Prime Minister. It’s mainly pictures of hamsters or the dog. And so is mine really, just horses and hamster – so sad.
What was the most shocking thing you discovered whilst filming the documentary?
I really did love the brain scan – it proved that your pleasure receptors reacted when you see pictures of your close friends. It’s such a nice thought that when you’re with your friends it’s like ding ding ding! I learnt so much; your brain is amazing. To think as you’re walking through somewhere like Soho, past thousands of people, it’s doing it’s facial recognition thing, judging if you know that person. Then if you do see some you really love… ding ding ding!
Do you think in 5 or 10 years everything will come full circle and social media will just be a bit of a fad?
That’d be nice… but I don’t think anything can stop this tidal wave now. Technology is just so brilliant now, isn’t it? I mean, what did we do before we could just Google something on our phones?
(At this point in the interview Sara’s manager interjected to remind Sara that when she asked for representation, it was with an actual hand-written letter. Shocker).
Overall, do you think social media has an overwhelming positive or negative effect?
I don’t know, maybe it’ll break even eventually. I find it entertaining because you can sit and watch Strictly or The X Factor and there’s 775,000 people watching with you. It’s like the world’s biggest couch.
The banter on it (I hate that word) is brilliant. There are some really funny people on there. It’s changed for me a little bit now I’m on Radio 2, I find people are generally quite nice to me on Twitter. When I was on Radio 1 I got, “You’re so f***ing old, get off my radio!” Now on Radio 2 it’s more like, “Are you going to play that Toyah track?”
I rarely get any horrible ones, if I do I like to chide them. I’m never abusive – I’ll say, “that was terribly unkind of you to copy me in to that tweet, what a nasty thing to do. I hope you feel pleased with yourself.”
Catch Sara Cox ON Friendship on Monday 15th February at 9pm on W. Watch a preview clip of the show here.