Friends have Himalayan salt lamps to cleanse the air as they film a Boomerang for Insta. Celebrities on Twitter bond over star sign compatibilities. Family on Facebook play 'which angel illustration are you drawn to?' psychic games on my timeline.
It's fair to say the supernatural has crept in on social media and become brazenly norm. My natural cynicism comes from my father. A well-read atheist who was born into an Italian family, his hangover from catholic mysticism and his scientific mind have made Dad to be the staunchest empiricist you'll ever meet.
The other side of my family are largely Methodist-christened agnostics who grew up without having to toe the line for theism. With dozens of women and so few men you can count them on one hand, the supernatural became an opportunity for female bonding. Or, as my Bampa put it
'oh look, the witches are around the cauldron!'
whenever we'd assemble.
I have grown up with these conflicting perspectives on all things spooky, so I flit between the two. As a teen I'd get scared by a ghost film and gingerly tip-toe around the house for days afterwards. Despite my cynical voice telling me there's no such thing as ghosts, my other side would insist that there's a malevolent spirit out to get me.
My mother resolutely believes an apparition of her deceased grandmother appeared at the end of her bed to comfort her as a child. She also grew up next door to a house (which mine now backs onto) that had camera crews from UK and USA to document the 'real' poltergeist activity. As a child, this world view was offered as reality.
As an autistic person I rarely speak about the issue of paranormal beliefs in the family, for a few reasons. One is that my struggle with interpreting facial expressions and motivations mean I don't know if someone is judging me for believing or disbelieving. I don't believe in an afterlife (sometimes) but I don't want to ruin the comforts of those missing lost ones.
I've always thought of it as part of my family culture like others bake or hike, mine think they contact the dead. Harmless enough.
That was until I heard about psychic mediums who took advantage of my grieving in-laws to disgusting degrees. For this reason my husband won't even entertain the possibility of supernatural abilities. I've seen Derren Brown, I've watched his cold reading leave people, well... cold.
So why do I still want to believe that strangers in a community centre charging £7 a ticket can really talk to my dead relatives?
Is it because it speaks of female bonding in my family? Is it because it's a necessary part of masking in my family?
For me those may play a part in explaining why I long for these things to be true. On a larger scale, it seems that the vast network of social media along with the transparency and perfection we must hold ourselves to, means a deeply personal interaction of meaning more than appearances is like gold dust.
To connect with a person who knows us without speaking, who we attribute unconditional love and understanding to, is a comfort in the fast-paced and politically charged present.
What we are crying out for is peace, quiet and understanding. When it's more accessible to use a psychic medium than meeting friends and opening up in the here-and-now, maybe it's time we put the crystal ball down and reached out. Myself included.