I’ve always been a bit behind on the social media bandwagon. My parents didn’t let me use AIM when I was younger (no chatting with iluvpuppiesandrainbows52343 for me). I didn’t even get texting as a part of my cell phone plan until junior year of high school. “Why don’t people just call each other?” I used to wonder. MySpace? Nope! It was sketchy, I deemed (plus it’s not like my parents would have let me create an account anyway).
I thought Snapchat was dumb for the longest time (why would you want the photos to disappear?) – it probably took me at least a year and a half after it became popular to finally give in and see what the fuss was all about. It even took me a few months to start using Instagram – at first I thought it was pointless since everybody uploaded all of their photos onto Facebook anyway.
But social media has this way of pulling you in. It feels like all of your friends are using it and you don’t want to be that one friend who’s not. Eventually, I started texting. I signed up for Facebook, and Messenger cut down on the need to even text in the first place. I use Snapchat and I post stories, and I also love using Instagram (although I’m not quite on board with the Instagram stories yet. And don’t get me started on Snapchat Memories).
It’s kind of crazy how big of a role social media plays in our lives. And like with everything, there’s the good and the bad. Let’s take a look at the negative aspects: who hasn’t gotten FOMO from looking at a friend’s snap story? Or gotten a bit down about your own life after seeing the seemingly perfect life of someone who’s Instagram famous? And let’s not forget about the obsession aspect. Did you hear about the Australian swimmer who blamed overuse of Twitter for not being able to win an Olympic gold medal?
In a lot of ways, social media is pretty bad for our mental health. And, it’s also pretty bad for our social skills. Remember that episode of How I Met Your Mother where they used to debate about random topics but thanks to smartphones, they had nothing to talk about because you can just Google anything (s/o to Aditya’s post for reminding me of the episode)? And the episode where all the mystery was taken out of first dates because you could stalk the person online beforehand? But, let’s not forget about the ways in which social media has been benefiting us. And while we’re on the topic of How I Met Your Mother, we can take a look at the ways in which social media connects people. Like during the controversial series finale, when I was outraged and went to Twitter to read about how other people were also outraged.
Although social media can cause us to be constantly looking down at our phones and not talking to those around us, it can also allow us to make friends from around the world. When I was in high school, I loved to play The Sims games (clearly I was just super cool). I joined a Sims forum, made a Sims twitter account, and made some really close friends – mostly Americans but also a few Brits and one Kiwi. They were a supportive group of friends and provided an outlet away from the drama of my “real life” friends. I even met one of them once during a family trip to New York. Sure, there are probably less conversations going on amongst people in-person (which is not great), but we do get to talk to and befriend people from around the world with similar interests that we likely wouldn’t be able to meet without social media connecting people.
Probably one of the most useful uses for social media is connecting us to people we would have fallen out of touch with otherwise. Without email, text, and Facebook, many of us would have lost touch with friends from high school by now. Social media will also allow us to stay in touch with our friends from BC once we graduate and scatter across the globe. I never thought I would see the day where my parents (both immigrants from China), started using social media. But lo and behold, WeChat came out. If you haven’t already heard of it, WeChat is like the Chinese version of WhatsApp. Previously, my mom would use a prepaid international calling account to call her family in China once every few weeks. Now, she can send texts, photos, voice messages to her sister whenever she wants without having to pay. She can also call and video chat with her easily. She’s been able to reconnect with friends from back in China who she had fallen out of touch with because it was too inconvenient before.
Over the past two summers, I interned at an edtech start-up (focused on SAT/ACT prep) where I was in charge of social media (amongst other responsibilities). I planned the posts, wrote the copy, and interacted with followers by answering questions. Eventually I even trained another intern on how to take over managing our social media accounts. Social media is a HUGE part of how we got traffic to our blog and to our website. Our SEO isn’t great, but Facebook Ads gave us a large following and allowed for us to draw in most of our blog’s audience. It also showed me that social media can also easily harm a brand’s image. We had a few posts go out accidentally with a few minor grammatical errors, but people jumped on it, and claimed they couldn’t trust a company to teach their kids when we couldn’t even use proper grammar ourselves. It’s a fair point (although they didn’t seem to realize the college intern in charge of social media is not the same as the Yale grad who would be tutoring their kids)
Although I think that social media has both its negative and positive implications for us personally, it has great potential for businesses. It’s mostly just a matter of businesses being able to use social media in a smart way to draw in viewers without offending or upsetting people (Looking at you Cheerios).