This blog entry has been on my mind for quite some time. Being someone who spends a lot of time on the computer, it was interesting to look back and figure out my journey through social media. Thinking about the first instance that I used social media was daunting, but after some thought, I immediately brought back to the 5th grade. AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) was all the rage amongst the various 10 year old students back in 2005. Walking down the hallways and entering classes, I would be asked to write down my AIM screen name on various pieces of paper that seemingly everyone carried around. Unfortunately, I did not have a screen name and rejected these requests. Until one day, I decided to take the plunge and create an AIM account. I proudly declared that my screen name would be “Livinlarge” (yeah, I’m cringing too). Weirdly, this was my first experience with social media and I instantly felt like one of the coolest 10 year old kids in Boston once I created the account. Now I was the one with the piece of paper with a list of screen names on it, asking classmates to add their names to it so I could message them and engage in typical 5th grade conversations. We would discuss all important topics such as the annoying science teacher, MTV’s newest show or complain about the fact that we had to wear uniforms. Life was good; I could talk to my classmates through the internet and not have to deal with my burgeoning social anxiety.
Fast forward to 7th grade and the more common social media platforms began gaining steam. Slowly, Myspace became the new trend at my school and everyone was making their own accounts. Everyone except me. I never jumped on the Myspace train and never created an account. Facebook also began rising into prominence and a select few people were making Facebook accounts in addition to their Myspaces. They would rant about all the great features of Facebook that would get any 7th grader excited. You could poke people! You could send virtual gifts! The possibilities were endless for the mind of a 12 year old. Instead of creating a Myspace or Facebook account, I ventured into the vast world of the web as an innocent pre teen. I would use Yahoo search engine to search for my interests and would often come across message boards and forums about various topics. I did not realize it at the time, but I was an avid lurker of various forums, but eventually discovered one that I made an account for. This forum was for reality shows: you could discuss them as well as participate in “online reality games”. This was the first time that I came into contact with strangers online. I soon found out that most of the people I was chatting to were much older than me, but they still treated me well and I enjoyed talking to them. Eventually, I found a group of people similar to my age and made my first real online “friends”. It is now funny looking back at my naive 12 year old self randomly making an account on some forum and talking to a bunch of strangers, but I thought it was awesome at the time.
This phase ended and high school was now upon me. Times had changed. Myspace was now essentially obsolete and Facebook was the site that everybody was using. Coincidentally, this was also my weird paranoid of the internet phase and I refused to make an account. In my small grade of about 80 students, I was literally the only person without a Facebook account. Apparently I was missing out on the exciting prospect of seeing other people post pictures and write mundane status updates. My friends as well as random classmates that I never talked to were begging me to make a Facebook profile. I didn’t understand what all the hype was about and continued to ignore all the requests for me to make one. Soon, the end of high school approached and college applications were being sent. I realized at this point that Facebook could be useful. So, towards the very end of high school, I finally decided to make an account. This would be an easier way for to to connect with the new people in college and give me a head start on making new friends. Well, none of that really happened. I remember being underwhelmed and bored with Facebook instantly. The constant pictures and statuses highlighting people’s false sense of self importance started getting on my nerves. I was being the typical “angsty” teenager. Even now, I mainly use Facebook to talk to and message people, usually about school or homework.
Now that I am a college junior, I have become more interested in the growing social media market as well as its implications. Looking at social media in a much more general view allows me to see that its not bad and I need to probably use it and take advantage of it a bit more. There are so many apps and social media websites out there for so many different purposes. It can get overwhelming, but it is insanely addicting discovering new apps and their uses. Hearing about social media being used in the developing world really intrigues me. I have always been a huge geography nerd and continue to have interest in all things international, which is probably why I find that particular topic so interesting. Using social media to protest a corrupt government or create a discussion on a country’s internal problems by citizens of that country via Twitter or Facebook has revolutionized the meaning of community. Despite this one benefit of social media, there does exist some pitfalls that we, as a society, need to be wary of. The growing issues of cyberbullying, online security and data breaches have contributed to this sense of skepticism. However, good or bad, social media captivates me and I want to gain more knowledge on its inner workings as well as discovering new ways to interact with others via the web.