Where does one even begin when describing their personal experience with social media? Do I start with my decked out custom layout Myspace profile, my too embarrassing to reveal AIM screen name, the angsty Facebook statuses of a young high school freshman boy? The cringeworthy evidence still exists, aimlessly floating somewhere among the interwebs. As I’m scrolling through old photos of me on Facebook, wincing at my fashion choices from 2009, I can’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia overwhelm me. It’s an intimate snapshot of my life, what I wore, who my friends were, what I liked, how I spoke, what I believed in; it’s strange how many things about myself I forgot. Soon, years go by with a quick scroll and I have witnessed the evolution of myself: who I was then, and who I am now. It’s quite strange to think about, but in a sense, it has become an extension of ourselves. In today’s cultural landscape, to not have a Facebook or social media presence is the equivalent of not existing. Of course, that’s a knowingly narrow-minded rationale, but if I can’t instantly find information about where you live, what school you attend, who your friends are, what you look like, or a multitude of other personal information, we assume that something’s off. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter so intimately paints a portrait of an individual, collecting years of information and data to form arguably perhaps the greatest form of continual self-expression in the modern age.
Facebook is the essential social platform of modern times, a foundational piece in the mammoth we call social media. On Facebook you can upload photos, write statuses, share funny videos, and much more. The ability to constantly stay in touch with friends and family through multiple touch points is the platform’s greatest strength. Studying Facebook as a public forum for discussion and debate is also intriguing. On a timeline you can expect to regularly come across issues such as politics, race, gender, and more. Divided stances on hot issues arising in pop culture also makes large waves across Facebook, (think Kanye West v. Taylor Swift, or Colin Kaepernick and the National Anthem). When engaging with such discussions or topics, you often align yourself with one side or the other. Thus, your friends on Facebook are exposed to a greater understanding of your thoughts, views, and personality. Over time, these small glimpses into your personality form to create an overall image of who you are and what you represent or embody, whether intentional or not.
Popularizing the #hashtag, Twitter is the platform for quick quips in under 140 characters. A community to share your thoughts, shortly and concisely, without the extra fuss, has made Twitter one of the most powerful and influential social media platforms. The quick nature of Twitter makes it a prime location to get live updates on events happening which makes it ideal during sporting events, awards shows, concerts, or new television episodes. One of the greatest things about Twitter is it’s ability to build movements, fostering discussion and live updates through hashtags. Though some may disagree, in many cases hashtag activism has actually made a significant impact or change. Movement such as #blacklivesmatter, #bringbackourgirls, #yesallwomen, are just some examples to originate from Twitter.
For the more visually-inclined (like myself), you can’t get much better than Instagram. The mobile photo-sharing platform was introduced in 2010 and continues to rapidly grow and expand with a constant array of new features being regularly introduced, and millions of new users acquired each year. Instagram acts almost as a photo diary of your life, whether that is snapping a new selfie, carefully arranging your weekend brunch, or waking up early to catch the morning sun rise. While those traits may describe one type of user, a variety of other types of Instagrammers exists; like perhaps those focused on fitness & nutrition, traveling, cooking, gaming, humor, art, and the list goes on. For many, their Instagram accounts may be a combination of all of these varieties. For all, their Instagram accounts are a form of a visual self expression. I personally fall within the category of carefully and meticulously edited photos of coffee shops, cafes, and other aesthetically pleasing looking foods and places.
Social Media and Business
With this plethora of information freely available on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it was not surprising that businesses and advertisers would soon eventually nudge and find their way into these spaces. I’m interested in learning more about target marketing and how companies are able to use the massive amount of information gathered from these sites, whether from page likes, hashtags, or follows, to strategically grow their businesses using social media in a manner that is non-intrusive and more organic, rather than forced, annoying, and sometimes inappropriate.