I’ve always thought about how different the world would be without social media. It’s hard to fathom the fact that if I was born just a generation prior, none of my teenage years would have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, or YouTube. The proliferation of social media is so recent. Yet, it seems like a world without social media is not possible. I’ve tried to think a bit about how the next generation is going to adopt these social media platforms. I still remember creating my Facebook account in middle school, getting on Twitter as a new source for reading the news, and being completely peer pressured into downloading Snapchat. However, as technology becomes cheaper to adopt and younger generations start owning it (my first cell phone was in the 8th grade – I now see 4th graders walking around with iPhones, usually a generation in front of my iPhone 5), how will demographics for these social media platforms change?
Obviously, there is immense power of social media platforms. Facebook has become our source for getting news, Twitter is our source to find out what’s trending, and social media as a whole has become a way to expose users to a wide array of opinions, many of which are much more different from our own (great stats on this article).
However, there is a much darker side to social media, one that does not get talked about nearly enough. Let’s go back to my initial question: how will a change towards younger generations getting onto social media platforms potentially change their life? We all remember those embarrassing pictures we posted in the 8th grade, how we naively used language we look back at and cringe, and made some of the worst status updates in the world. This has become a lot more apparent to me through Facebook’s recent memories feature, where users are allowed to see what they posted on 2,3,4,5 years ago on this date. I look back and want to delete so much of what I’ve posted – not necessarily because it’s inherently bad, but more because I may now disagree with what I said when I was a middle schooler. It’s become even more important to teach younger generations that making a post online means it’s there forever. A simple text post, YouTube video, or a controversial picture could have tremendous unintended consequences. I’m interested to learn if there are new companies that come up that can help “clean up” social media channels. I think that could potentially be a very lucrative field, knowing how many people don’t want their future employers seeing things they don’t want.
Another piece of social media is productivity. According to Inc., the average American spends about a quarter of their workday browsing social media for non-work related tasks. Even if we assume people spend 20% of their workday on social media, this means that a typical, Monday to Friday job can become a Monday to Thursday job. By no means am I advocating people not take breaks, but the addictive quality of being on social media (especially for younger generations) has reduced overall productivity. I personally believe that this increase in consumption of data will eventually plateau – there is only so much time individuals will be able to spend on “unproductive” things like social media. I hope to take this class to learn more about how people continue to take in data, as well as how social media and digital technology continue to create new outlets for how people connect with the world around them.
Another very important piece to social media is the idea that anything you put out there is a piece of data about yourself. Each website search, each post, each click can all be analyzed by companies. It’s scary how much companies can use. Not only are hackers able to access so much more information about yourself, but companies can start to cloud your judgement by advertising to you in such a targeted manner. Information has become so much easier to access, whether that be who our significant other is all the way up to what the net worth of an individual is based on how much their house costs, how much they make, and other assets they own. Data security will definitely continue to be a trend in the future, and I hope to learn more about how companies train their employees to take data privacy more seriously.
Although I believe that there are a lot of potential threats from social media, all forms are a part of our lives now. By no means am I saying that I do not use social media (trust me, like everyone else, I’m everywhere), but I hope to learn more about how I can be better with how I use social media this semester. I also want to take a business lens with this course and learn more about how businesses are taking all of these threats into account and continuing to evolve their practice. Lastly, I want to see what new businesses come about as a result of the increase in social media. I look forward to what this semester, and beyond, has to offer.