Social Media: Staying in touch with everyone you’ve ever met?

A recent conversation with my Dad and Grandpa left me with a new realization about how social media has completely changed how people grow up, and stay in touch. We were talking about my cousin’s wedding, and the two of them were kind of complaining about how long her guest list was, saying it was unnecessary to invite so many of her friends (I believe it was around 250-300 people). I started thinking through my family, friends, family friends, and so on, and said “I’ll probably have that many people too, if not more.” They were both surprised and curious at my response, as I got a little defensive of my cousin. My Dad commented that when it came to friends, he only had his few closest high school friends, and 5 of his college buddies at him and my mom’s wedding, and other than that it was mostly family – which was what it should be.

But that’s when I realized – social media has completely changed how we stay in touch with people and affects these big life moments. I still know everything about all of my high school friends and acquaintances, what they’re doing and where they are living – even if I barely talk to them. I know from my high school class who’s engaged, who is sick, who has a child, and the details of all of those stories. Therefore, when it comes to an event like a wedding, totaling up my high school friends, college roommates and friends, and people I’ve met along the way through sports, clubs, or anything else – the list is long. Even if I wanted to get out of touch with someone, it would be really hardwhich is something our parents never had to deal with. Removing a friend might be the answer, but through connections and other channels, you’ll probably still see them around.

I’m not alone – 15% of adults on Facebook have more than 500 friends and the mean number of friends is 338 [1]. It is shocking how I could completely forget that someone existed until I see a post on Facebook – in the days of my Grandpa, that person would probably never come to mind again.

The wedding conversation, and the constant flow of updates from old friends I haven’t seen in years makes me sort of wish I wasn’t growing up in this media-centric world. Never will we have the 10 year reunion shock where someone comes back looking completely different, or with 4 kids, or anything that we don’t already know from their Facebook profiles. Never will we have the old fashioned movie romances where someone from your past comes back in your life (thinking When Harry Met Sally). Never will it take crazy coincidences to realize mutual friends – they show up in an instant. It is kind of sad that some of this mystery is left out for us millennials.

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However, the other side of me loves the ability to Facebook stalk someone instantaneously. If I ever need to get in contact with an old friend, a prior boss, or a long distance family member, I likely won’t have a problem. And when it comes to the six degrees of separation idea, it makes our huge world feel more connected and accessible.

While I would love to be one of those people who can say I’m not addicted to social media, or don’t rely on it for my daily life. However, I think this meme is a better description of my social media skills:

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Not only would I say I’m good at using and keeping up with social media trends, it has also been a major focus in any job I have had thus far, which says something for itself. Us millennials, especially BC grads, are expected to have the knowledge, understanding, and expertise on all things social media and digital business, and many people my age are turning to social media-based careers. Whether that be blogging, marketing, or even analytics, social media is becoming a requirement in a lot of fields.

I am excited to explore that idea, as well as challenge it – maybe we know social media for our peers, but do we know how to get in touch with Generation Z coming up after us? We have largely been known as the generation to grow up with the internet, but soon we won’t be alone in the workforce. Will this lead to competition or just more knowledge and growth of social media? This is commonly discussed at meetings for the student team of Boston College’s social media – high schoolers are downloading and using new apps and using social communication differently, and we have to watch and keep up to stay on their radar (maybe we’re the old guys now). We will have to wait and see.

As for the wedding debacle, I think I made my point pretty clear to my Dad- he sees how I still keep in touch with old friends and likes to get the gossip on our family friends through my Facebook, which amazes him sometimes. As we start to get older and generational changes continue, I think we are all going to learn a lot about each other and the way social media affects our lives.

[1]. https://www.brandwatch.com/blog/96-amazing-social-media-statistics-and-facts-for-2016/

 

4 comments

  1. Nice start! We will definitely be addressing many of these issues in greater depth in coming weeks!

  2. This was a great post, I really related to your point regarding how younger generations are utilizing social media in different ways than we are. As an older sister I frequently see my 10 year old brother and sister using apps I have never heard of and discussing internet trends I was unaware of. While this initially made me feel very old, it also helped me realize how our grandparents must feel about this whole social media world.

  3. This was such an accurate post! I really enjoyed it. And weddings are definitely becoming more expensive with all the people we “have” to invite in our days. My dad is part of the baby boomer generation, and his only friends on Facebook are my sister and I. He is slowly becoming more acquainted and engaged with social media, but also doesn’t want to accept friend requests from his friends or colleagues on Facebook, as he sees it as being too intrusive (and potentially disruptive to his business as a broker, i.e. connecting suppliers with buyers). He uses Skype for videos/messages and other forms of communication, but feels as thought Facebook is “too much for him.” On the optimistic side, being away so far from home allows him to “stalk” my own Facebook page while being in college, and as he says to me, “please continue posting pictures on Facebook, it’s the only way I can see what’s happening in your life,” which is why he became more engaged with this platform, as it enabled us to stay “very much connected.”

  4. Great post, Erin! Social media has given us great power to stay in touch, but has robbed us of some of the mystery and excitement that used to come from friends “falling away” and then sometimes “returning to us changed.” I guess the example you give of someone re-materializing on your feed after a long time not seeing anything from them is the new standard? And even if we ourselves do not use social media the way younger generations do, we must as business leaders understand the habits of our consumer base, so if this includes the younger generations we better we handy with SnapChat strategy (I’m still working on that one…). That said, I agree with your Dad. I’ve got over 700 friends on Facebook, but maybe 20 of them (who weren’t family) were close enough for me to invite to my wedding. Were they important to the development of the relationship with your spouse? Would you notice if they left social media and you didn’t hear from them? Do you still hang out in real life (#IRL as the kids say)? Would they notice and be actively hurt if you did not invite them? Having these “cut-off criteria” kept the guest list manageable (and more affordable – we still invited ~170ppl, lots of family).

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