Sometimes on social media, it can seem like everybody’s having a fantastic life. 

When we feast on Facebook, Instagram and all the rest, there’s a real sense of a picture-perfect world.

Apart from the odd political post or joke here and there, everybody always seems to be partying, holidaying, dining out and drinking, online.

But social media’s not always an accurate reflection of the society around us.

Presently in Fermanagh and other places, there’s a lot of poverty. But in Northern Ireland and the rural parts, in particular, it’s more severe.

Partly, that’s exacerbated by the geography of Fermanagh.

We’re a county composed of small, scattered settlements. That goes against the grain of an economy based around large urban needs.

Whether it’s London, Dublin or almost anywhere in Western Europe, there’s a concentration on capital cities.

These are the places where capitalism thrives best, and whether in or out of the European Union, that’s the system we’re wedded to.

That’s why there’s a focus on large population centres at the expense of small places, whether North, South or beyond the waters of the island of Ireland.

We’re living in an age when the worst forms of capitalism have been allowed to take root, where profits are put before people. That’s partly why everyday necessities such as fuel now cost so much.

Ordinary people are paying the price of a societal model that’s based primarily on the needs of shareholders.

Essential services are now shaped by greed, not common good.

And the knock-on effect of that is a kind of ‘Squid Game’ reality-contest world of choosing between eating and heating.

There are very few shoppers going on a supermarket sweep around the big stores in Enniskillen these days.

Many people are counting the pennies and watching the baskets. Life’s now an A-Level in making ends meet.

Research suggests that almost a third of people in Fermanagh live in relative poverty. Such a figure comes from comparisons to the average national household budget.

‘Relative poverty’, of course, doesn’t mean that anyone’s facing the same plight as refugees, the homeless or the people living in Gaza.

Nor does it mean that people are poor because they choose not to work.

Many people in work are also poor and the welfare system is so deliberately complex these days, it can also be disadvantageous to work.

Recently, on a visit to America, I met some young people just out of college, working two jobs to pay back their student loans.

Here, it’s very hard for people to dip in and out of work like that, without ending up penalised by a system that’s pinching every penny off them.

Almost every organisation concerned with fighting poverty says that the welfare system hinders people as much as it helps them.

Easier routes to employment would definitely help ease poverty. Presently, as has been the case for decades, there doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of opportunity for young people in Fermanagh, especially in what might be considered as white-collar professions.

Whether it’s teachers going to England or engineers going to Australia, the county’s greatest export continues to be workers going elsewhere.

Just last week, going to those aforementioned shopping centres, I was struck by the amount of school buses gathering in the vicinity.

That’s a lot of labour-in-waiting for far-off shores. Whether it’s Perth or Portland, Vancouver or Vienna, Fermanagh’s emigrants are everywhere.

Many do go in search of better lives. Thankfully, nowadays, most people find success when they do leave.

But surely the county and the broader region are all the poorer for such a relentless exodus?

With such a constant flow of the county’s youth leaving, Fermanagh finds itself in a vicious cycle.

Many of our well-educated young people join Flights of the Earls because a small county can’t meet their employment needs.

But without a more substantial population, the county can’t sustain the other services that it needs – not under the present system of governance anyway, where in the spirit of austerity, everything has to be measured in profits.

And that’s a purely financial profit, not the profits that are measured in other ways.

If we measured things through an index of social wellbeing, for example, it would be very profitable to support small towns and rural communities.

So what’s likely to change, and what’s the change going to be? Perhaps in the longer-term, Fermanagh might end up as a reinvigorated part of a unified Ireland, where services along the present Border are more interlinked, rather than duplicated. That could help.

In the meantime though, as in next-meal-on-the-table time, such long-term aspirations aren’t going to change the situation.

Presumably, a year from now, Keir Starmer and the Labour Party will be in government, or on their way to governing, in Britain.

Though their position on anything across the Irish Sea seems quite vague, that should herald more opportunity for people in Fermanagh. The austerity of the past decade should be eased.

Unfortunately though, I doubt the fortunes of people using the services of Fermanagh’s food banks are ever going to be foremost in the thoughts of a party that is primarily English, and Westminster-centred.

Unless, of course, DUP votes are needed once again.

Right now then, it’s probably only Fermanagh’s politicians who can and should fight passionately on behalf of the people.

Surely having the government in Stormont back up and running would be a start?

If you’ve got a hungry family to feed, it shouldn’t matter whether it’s Michelle O’Neill helping to dish up the dinners, or whoever else.

Nobody gets much burning out of a flag when the oil tank is empty and there’s not enough in the bank to buy more, until payday.

It’s not a great look to have so many people facing poverty in the real world, behind the glitzy façade of social media.

Hopefully, things might change in some small way as a consequence of this paper highlighting such everyday, cross-community issues.

Paul Breen is @CharltonMen on Twitter/X.