November 1, 2009 was the day I got a Facebook. I am fairly certain I was the last person on the planet to get a Facebook as my parents were highly against a site that would release information about myself to the internet. Quite frankly, I am grateful it took them so long to allow me to get one because at least I had a few extra months of not suffering from ghost notifications (a self diagnosed and self created symptom where I believe I have a notification on some social media channel and have to constantly update my feed to check if anything has occurred in the past 30 seconds).
The Implications of This Account
This was one small step for Facebook, just another measly user, but one giant step for Alexis. This one new account led me to Twitter, getting an iPhone (so now I wasn’t the
dreaded person in the group chat with green messages), Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and all the money I will never see again because of the constant stream of advertisements of cute bags and shoes (that I absolutely do not need) that have now cluttered my feeds. I relate this to when people get tattoos, it is hard to get just one and not another one. Once you get your first social media account, you can’t just stop at one.
So while I can complain about this so-called lost freedom, my constant tie to my phone, my always dying battery, and the countless days of my life lost to scrolling through newsfeed, I can’t thank Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg enough. Without them I would have lost touch with many friends, wouldn’t have the strength of my relationship with my family members, and wouldn’t the ability to see parts of the world that without these devices and platforms would not be possible.
My Evolutions with Platforms
Perhaps this was my last day of freedom, but this was also the first day of what has now become a critical part of my life. I won’t deny I spend an obscene amount of time on social media platforms; however it has evolved since I was first on the scene of social media. Initially I used to to publicize my conversations (I still don’t understand why we did this). I would write on my friend’s wall to say “Hey, what’s up?” because I was too lazy to pick up the phone and call them. I now use Facebook as a main source of my news by following my favorite news sites and publications so that I see them first at the top of my feed. I initially used Instagram and Snapchat to try and share “all the cool things” I was doing with my life i.e. eating avocado toast, making cookies, etc. Now I use them to share pictures of my face with weird filters and following travel bloggers to see places I may want to visit in the future. My own evolution is constantly changing in terms of how I personally interact with these accounts.
I am an Enigma
I know the way I interact with social media isn’t novel or innovative as there are millions of people using these platforms all with different motives an initiatives: some are broadcasting their opinions on politics, fashion, how their latest experiences at the 7/11 was, some are sharing pictures of their children, events they attend, trips they have taken, their news shoes on the pavement, and some are just there to watch all of this happen. I realize that everyone has a personality, or what some call, brand, on social media, and we are the only ones in control of this so-called brand. We, more than any generation before, have to be very cautious of this brand because our future employers can see that last party we attended or what we said about the latest election. This brand is also ever evolving and updating. For instance, I am now cleaning up my accounts as I enter the working world. It now becomes more appealing to be more of an enigma, flying under the radar on these platforms as to not bring much attention to myself due to potential criticism from future bosses or colleagues. It is important to stay updated with these platforms as society does not appear to be ignoring or getting rid of our relationship to social media anytime soon; however, it is important to find a balance on what is shared with the entire world.
Presence and Gratitude
So while I am aware of my constant connection and checking of social media, maintaining this so-called brand, and preserving my relationships through these platforms, it brings about a reminder that there is more to life than what is seen virtually. While I look forward to all that technically has to bring in the near future such as AI, VR, even self driving cars, I hope that society will develop a greater focus on the ability and necessity to remain present. I know we will implore how companies utilize platforms and where the future of social media is going in class; however, I hope we also discuss the limitations the future holds for us. I am the first to admit that these platforms have become somewhat of a prison as it has trapped me into taking away from special moments. Whether that is traveling and stopping to take pictures just to be posted, or enjoying myself with my friends and feeling the need to story our meal together. I have tried to put a greater focus on the importance of being present by now turning off my phone when I am with people and focusing more on the moment then on the lighting of the picture.
Additionally, social media has oddly enough made me a more grateful person. I know how toxic it can be for influential teens and young people as we are constantly being exposed to “perfect lives” and people who “have everything”. But rather than a focus on what I want/don’t have, viewing social media through a critical lens makes me grateful for what I do have. What I used to feel as FOMO when looking at pictures or snapchat stories from other people, I am constantly reminded of what brings me happiness in my life that I don’t necessarily have to share with the world. Not just through my own network by from reading posts about the world around us, it reminds me of how lucky we are to ever be focused on this “FOMO” and “perfect lives”. I look forward to discussing the beneficial and positives ways of using social media through purposes of activism, the power of the hashtag, and education on inspiring and important issues through these platforms.
My opinions are novel ones. In fact, due the internet I am sure hundreds of people have voiced these same statements on statuses, tweets, blogs, and articles. Many people can relate to one or many of the above statements as we have all interacted and have been influenced by our usage of social media by one way or another. But just because my ideas aren’t new, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t voice them. I know I am merely adding to the infinite and growing world of posts on the internet, I am also hopefully connecting and resonating with readers. It is easy to pick apart the negatives associated with our connection to the virtual world; however, we would be limited ourselves if we weren’t tapping into these resources.
We do not have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it. – Erik Qualman
There is so much to be said when it comes to social media both in terms of my personal use as well as the implications these platforms have to the whole of our society. Whether it is the criticisms surrounding our social interactions through text and not words, or our ever decreasing attention span to the positives of our shrinking world and sharing of issues we may never heard of without the internet. I look forward to the many discussions surrounding these ideas and more in class as they are becoming ever more relevant to ours and future generations.
So, while my life has never looked the same as it did before October 31, 2009, I am constantly reevaluating my interactions with social media in order to maintain my own, new, and ever evolving, sense of freedom.