Social media, if anything, is a telescope. It’s a way of seeing friends, family, and even complete strangers from however far away with or without them knowing you are watching. However, that in and of itself has a euphoric feeling to it. Some people feed off the attention and knowing that others are watching and seeing all that is happening in their lives. For example, Selena Gomez has the most followers on all of Instagram with 74.1 million followers and counting (“Instagram”, 2016). Does she gain this kind of following simply for the attention? Maybe. Maybe not. This is one of the larger ways I see people using social media is for the satisfaction of the attention.
The way I use social media would be a bit different. I attend many concerts and sporting events, and socially this gives me something to converse about with friends and coworkers. For those who do not also attend these events, I am asked to post pictures or videos on Facebook or Instagram so that others can see what I was able to enjoy in person. In a way, I do agree that I use it partially for the attention. Although, I would say I use social media more to bond with the people I connect with. Through sharing these pictures and videos, it gives the people I’m connected with a connection to a time in which they too were at a similar event, and we are able then to share these stories and deepen our friendships and relationships.
I’ve seen it change dramatically through Facebook especially, using the new “On This Day” feature. I have had my Facebook account for seven years, and using this feature allows the user to look back on whatever was posted on that given day on the calendar throughout the history of the user’s account. For example, on this day, April 10, in 2009, I was talking about how Spring Break of my 8th grade year went by far too fast. In 2012, my junior year of high school, I posted about how it was two days until the Nickelback concert (fun fact: I’m a huge Nickelback fan). Last year, I was swimming at the Holland Aquatic Center with my girlfriend and her family. Yet, over time it was the focus of topics and grammar that changed for me. I went from posting at least once a day about every single thing that was happening in my life, to topics that I had a passionate opinion on, to events that I feel have significantly changed my life.
Where I find social media to be most beneficial is the way to personally connect to those who one may not always be able to communicate with in person. For each generation there is much variation. The teenage generation uses it often to find and connect to people they may know through mutual friends. In fact, it was reported that at least 57% of teens have become friends with someone they met online (Lenhart, 2015). For my generation, I see it most useful for friends that have already established their relationship to communicate and stay in touch as they physically drift to other parts of the world. For the generation older than myself, it comes off as a way to connect to family and coworkers mostly, as well as reconnect with long lost friends from high school and earlier in life.
Likewise, social media is extremely detrimental. On average, 28% of all online activity is spent on social media platforms (Bennett, 2015). This 28% equals out to 1.72 hours per day for the average user. Almost a full two hours a day strictly on social media? Does this not sound ridiculous? This is the world that we are surrounding ourselves with. It becomes harder and harder to make face to face contact and easier to be behind a keyboard or phone screen. This is making both social and non-social aspects more difficult for the younger generations. Parents are using social media to distract themselves from their children, and vice-versa. In my eyes, this is extremely detrimental.
Social media still seems fairly new, even though many sites have been around for as much as a decade. Now, as I sit here typing this post with my Facebook page open and my Instagram page running on my phone, I take a moment to reconsider all that I truly have put into social media pages, and whether or not all this time was honestly worth what I have missed in the world, or not.
Bennett, S. (2015). 28% of Time Spent Online is Social Networking. AdWeek. Retrieved from http://www.adweek.com/socialtimes/time-spent-online/613474
“Instagram accounts with the most followers worldwide as of March 2016 (in millions)”. (2016). Retrieved from http://www.statista.com/statistics/421169/most-followers-instagram/
Lenhart, A. (2015). Teens, Technology and Friendships. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/08/06/teens-technology-and-friendships/
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