Thursday! The day almost ever senior looks forward to since it starts most of their weekends, and I am no exception. I wake up, roll over, grab my phone to see what updates happened overnight, and I notice a particularly shocking picture (posted below). My friend I met on exchange got engaged, and I had no idea he was even in a relationship!
I was stunned not the fact that he got engaged and had not told me, but by the fact that I hadn’t heard even hints of this event earlier on social media. While our grandparents may infrequently call their acquaintances far away to only hear big about their friends’ best memories in the past three months, our generation has become ever more interested in staying up to date with all their friends on a daily basis. It has come to a point where we want to remain in constant contact with all of our friends even though we may be separated by a 24-hour flight from Boston, USA to Lahore, Pakistan.
While other Boston College students befriend other BC students in their study abroad destinations, I can say I befriended a grand total of five Americans while I studying in Copenhagen. The rest of my friends came from all corners of the world including Vilnius, Jakarta, Perth, Vancouver, and Chengdu just to name a few cities. Facebook provides a platform for me to communicate with these friends on a daily-basis and inform them of events in my daily life. To my grandmother, it may seem strange that seven of my friends and I sit in five time zones on four continents having casual conversations, but our generation has grown to find this sort of activity normal. This past summer, these friends often listened to my daily rants about my two-hour commute 5 miles (8 km) down Boston’s antiquated T. I would also share important life news with these friends, and they were even the first friends to congratulate me on securing a full-time offer after I finished my internship. We no longer feel the need to have a physical presence to share tidbits of information to our closest friends in our social networks.
With broadened social networks, we can share more than bits of our daily lives. We now inform others, wherever they may be, of influential societal changes happening in our home countries. Previously, I used to rely solely on traditional news outlets to learn about events happening around the world. Relying on these outlets provides me with an understanding of events shaping nations around the world. However, the American or British bias in our media doesn’t allow us to view the situation objectively. The larger flaw is these news services’ lack of the human element that lets us focus on the people living in one particular society and allows us to understand events shaping their lives. Traditional news outlets’ top-down look at events gives us a broad overview but hinders our abilities to critically view the information given to us.
Social media allows us to share these moments and our perspectives to friends around the world. When the most recent protests started in Istanbul, it was not the news that taught me most about the police brutality or the government’s attempt to censor Turkish citizens. I learned most from information my Turkish friends had posted on Facebook informing the world about the events, and the daily actions students took to fight for their cause. It would be nearly impossible to hear of these first hand experiences or other small actions taken by the people to support a cause from traditional news sources. From social media, I have begun to gain a new perspective and understanding of the Turkish citizen’s situation.
At the same time, Facebook allows me to educate myself on topics unaddressed by many news outlets. If it weren’t for my Pakistani friends, I would have been ignorant of their country’s 2013 elections. I found it most shocking to learn of my friends’ strong allegiance and following of Imran Khan, the candidate for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party. Though I knew my friends came from the more liberal city of Lahore, I read about the views Khan supported for Pakistan and was surprised to learn his stances on many issues. Western media did not focus on how Khan was looking to shape a new, modern model for an Islamic democratic welfare state in Pakistan. Instead, I relied on information my friends posted to learn more about the subject. With every post, I also learned the PTI gained strong support through social media with growing support from social media networks. During the campaign season, my friends posted videos of rallies in support of the PTI and offered to reach out to help elect Khan to office. One day I even noticed my friend posted a messaged that he would be distributing PTI flags across Lahore to anyone who wanted to join and spread Khan’s message. These everyday actions posted on Facebook taught me of a changing world that I would have otherwise remained ignorant to if I had not held these connections.
Social media’s beauty lies in the ability to share any type of information with anyone we wish to hear our cause. This allows social networks to be better educated and learn of situations from the bottom up instead of seeing issues from a narrow perspective portrayed from above. In this ever-shrinking world, we should embrace these opportunities and share all sorts of information to better educate our social spheres.