Social Media. Wow, what a loaded term. From email to AIM, MySpace to Facebook, Twitter to Instagram, and everything in between, this crazy world of multimedia has changed the way we interact with one another. It seems like yesterday when some of my middle school friends would sneak their phones into class to IM each other – transfixed with these devices called “smartphones”. Now, due to this early interaction with blossoming technology, our millennial generation is obsessed with this form of communication.
While walking across campus today, I thought to myself, “Why do people my age spend so much time on these platforms living for the next comment or like?” I believe it is the instant gratification that the Internet provides. One minute we can text with our family and in seconds, we can meet a stranger halfway around the world. It is simply easy. This easiness, however, is sometime too easy and has led to significant issues, including cyber bullying. Every year, our nation hears about countless teenagers getting victimized by known and unknown social media users, with some situations leading people to take their own lives. These tragic stories of Rebecca Ann Sedgwick and Kacie Palm show us how these social media platforms are misused. Unfortunately, not much has been done to stop it either (but that’s another post in itself!).
While there are many examples brought to our attention of social media creating problems in our society, like cyber bullying, anxiety, weakened communication skills, and even FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), I think social media is bringing people together in a positive way as well. Whether it be connecting family members across the US or allowing celebrities to reach out to their fans, social media is creating connections today that were impossible less than ten years ago. Speaking of cyberbullying and celebrity-fan interaction, Taylor Swift is an example of a celebrity using social media for the better. During the Christmas season, Swift sent individualized packages to her top fans to show her appreciation – cleverly named “Swiftmas”.
Today, January 21st, articles about TS defending a loyal fan, Lucy Ashton, on Tumblr emerged after a cyberbully left a comment on Ashton’s package opening reaction video stating, “Ur ugly to be completely honest…..”. Swift responded, “NO, ANONYMOUS. NO.”
Not only did Swift utilize social media positively to get to know her super fans on a personal level, but she was able to use her celebrity to prevent the effects of harmful words spread by anonymous bullies.
While this Taylor Swift example is on a much larger scale than most social interactions online, I have had a positive social media experience that has meant a lot to me and has proved that social media can produce good in smaller doses as well. Back in 2012, after my junior year of high school, I attended a service trip in the mountain barrios of Quito, Ecuador. In between building the roof of a school – which was our main project – our group was able to spend time interacting with people of the community. Over the course of the trip, a boy named Adrian and I developed a close bond. Everyday, he would come to where we stayed to say hello. On our final night, I was devastated to leave him and the community I had come to love and appreciate.
About one week later, as I aimlessly scrolled down my Facebook wall, I received a friend request. It was Adrian. Living in such a poor community of Ecuador, I had no idea that this young boy had a computer, yet alone a Facebook profile. This proves the power of social media. Even though my Spanish skills are non-existant (AKA Google Translate), I am able to maintain this bond with someone I met in a different continent who is living a totally different life than my own.
This is why I think social media is so special. Yes, there are unbelievably sad, negative situations that come from this technological sphere, but there are so many positive experiences and results as well. As the technology continues to develop, I think it is important for everyone involved to embrace the positive and minimize the negative. Correct those who make inappropriate or degrading comments. Stand up for those who don’t have a voice. Reach out to someone you’ve lost a connection with. Spread positivity. There is a reason why social media makes our world is so interconnected. Go out and use it for the better.