“When I was abroad and didn’t have wifi for one or two days, I would miss so many Instagrams” my friend Christina mused. We sat in Hillside with our New England Classics in one hand and our phones in the other. “And then when I would finally get wifi,” she continued, her eyes bulging, “I would have to sit down for thirty minutes to fully catch up with my feed”. Though I wished my Instagram addiction wasn’t so much that I couldn’t miss a day or two of posts, I knew that I shared this FOMAP (Fear Of Missing A Post) with her. I have to check out what my friends from abroad are doing, how other BC students spent their game day, and what ridiculous Zumba class Gronk is teaching this weekend for charity. I like the brevity of the application: you get the gist of a user’s entire experience with a simple photo and a few words. Thus, catching up on Instagram shouldn’t be all that long of a process—but with most users missing 70% of their newsfeeds on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that two days without Instagram is cause for distress. I personally check Instagram at least ten times a day—and that is, without a doubt, a minimum estimate.
In professor Kane’s article One Size Does Not Fit All in Social Media, he contends that college age students utilize social media to explore and develop personal and professional identities. I would have to agree, considering that my Instagram handle is now a nickname friends routinely use to get my attention around campus. Instagram has been my favorite application since July 15, 2011, the day I shared my first photo: an overexposed and unimpressive shot of the sea with a sailboat off in the distance. Since that day, the application has become a full-blown addiction—not just for myself, but also for a whopping 500 million active users. I take my photos pretty seriously (#yesfilter), and want to make sure I get the caption and timing of the post just right. I’ve nearly gotten it down to a science—but there’s always more to learn.
A few roommates came over to sit with Christina and me. Surveying the crowd from our high top table, one waved to a friend and asked “Did you see him in the BC Snapstory today? Hilarious”. I hadn’t, as I do not follow the “@wearebc” Snapchat account. Despite this, I still manage to watch snippets of over two hundred people’s lives each day. With the use of Snapchat, constant sharing of location, experience, and social group has become expected. Like most of my classmates, I participate in this culture of oversharing. Though Instagram is undoubtedly my favorite social media platform, I have been an active user on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Vine at some point in time. Despite the seemingly frivolous nature of using so many social media forms, I found most to be useful in their own way. Each platform serves a separate purpose for communication, and caters to a specific community that I am involved in. Facebook, for example, is best for mass communication with family and friends. LinkedIn contains my professional network, and monitoring connections and companies has been helpful throughout the internship and job search processes. Twitter is partially entertainment, but it also provides opinions on recent news and global trends. Vine and Pinterest, though valuable tools for certain companies, are applications I have mostly used for mindless fun. This being true, I am approaching this class from the perspective of an avid albeit uneducated social media user with primary experience coming from the use of personal accounts.
Still mulling over our Instagram feeds in Hillside, Christina and I complained about the odd posts of high school acquaintances and pondered the consequences of unfollowing their accounts. “I’d just feel so bad. I can’t. She’s a good family friend,” Christina reasoned. I agreed. Today, our actions in the digital world are almost equally as substantial as our actions in the physical one. Unfollowing someone you know even slightly feels deeply personal, as you are quite literally expressing the sentiment “I don’t “like” you anymore”. Despite the novelty of social media platforms, I think the most interesting element of their existence is the psychological need these applications fill for users. This being true, I am excited to learn more about the human needs and social constructs that drive platform participation. Further, I am interested in exploring how organizations can mold their strategies to effectively use these communities to further their mission. Conversely, I think it is important to evaluate those companies that failed to incorporate social media and digital business into their strategies and learn from their mistakes.
If nothing else, my seemingly insignificant conversation at Hillside demonstrates the (somewhat terrifyingly) large role social media plays in our daily lives. As the semester continues, I am excited to explore this role and learn how we can best utilize its presence as future employees of the digital world. Thank you for the read—I “like” you all already!