Deciding we’d do something fun this weekend to celebrate my upcoming birthday (January 31st, I’ll be looking forward to everyone’s belated gifts and cards in class on Wednesday), my girlfriend Alex and I set out for Boston with a pretty tourist-y agenda. First up was a visit to the New England Aquarium, then lunch at Quincy Market, and finally a stunning view of the sunset from the Prudential Center’s Skywalk Observatory. It was a lot of fun from start to finish, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to gather a sufficient amount of photos and videos over the course of the day in order to satisfy an imaginary yet very real “social media quota.”
Over the past few years, I’ve realized that using social media doesn’t come as naturally as it does to many of my peers (sidenote: I was born in 1997, still not sure if this means I’m a Millennial or not). I often find myself having to make a conscious effort to take photos and videos of my daily antics, and even then it usually isn’t a seamless process. It took me a few attempts to shoot what I deemed to be a Snapchat-worthy video of the African penguins at the aquarium, and it took many more tries than I’d like to admit to end up with a #cute couple picture from the 50th floor of the Prudential Center. Looking back on the day, I’m left with a few questions: What’s the point? What did I gain for all my efforts? At the time of writing, the penguin video has already expired from my Snapchat, and the Skywalk photo will probably get a few dozen Facebook likes when it gets posted in a few days.
So why do I even bother? Social media is a digital rat race, and the truth is I don’t want to be left out. Whereas a decade ago it was standard fare to spend Monday morning telling friends or coworkers about your weekend exploits, things are now moving at a much faster rate; by the time Monday rolls around nobody cares about your weekend anymore, that was days ago. What I find most frustrating is that all of my friends seem to be native pros when it comes to social media. Earlier today my roommate went into Boston for a protest and now has new Facebook profile and cover photos to show for his hard work. Not only that, but he has also turned his profile into a protest coverage livefeed for the day, sharing content from other protesters and the big media outlets. I could potentially see myself attempting to do this same sort of thing if I had the time and motivation, but this was a truly effortless act for my friend. And the truth is he’s not the weird one in this situation, I am.
Facing the facts of my situation isn’t easy: I’m 20 years old (nearly), and beyond that I’m also majoring in communication . Posting on Facebook should be the most natural part of my day, but it just doesn’t work that way. I’ve found that I do use Facebook and Twitter regularly throughout most days, but only to consume media. I love reading articles, watching videos, and laughing at hilarious or ridiculous posts, but I very rarely post myself. And when I do, I’m always obsessed with metrics. If a Facebook post doesn’t do particularly well in terms of Likes, I’ll often delete it or hide the content from my timeline so that others can’t see my social media “failure.” I also manage a number of larger Facebook pages, but I approach posting differently for these accounts and will probably save my thoughts on that topic for another day.
It might sound a little unusual, but one of my New Year’s Resolutions was actually to use social media more, in terms of actually creating and sharing content from my own “personal brand.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, I haven’t been successful in changing any of my online habits. At first this doesn’t make a whole of sense because I’m a fairly outgoing person in real life, but something must get lost in translation from the physical to digital worlds. Maybe it’s because the social media platforms we use seem – to me at least – designed for businesses more so than for individuals. I understand the concept of creating and marketing one’s own “personal brand,” but I’d much rather scroll through the feed of Taco Bell or The Atlantic than that of any one of my real-life friends.
I don’t believe that social media is nasty or evil, I just know that it’s not really for me in its current form. And who knows, maybe this class will force me into truly loving each and every social app under the sun, perhaps I’ll emerge in May as a digital media guru with my own network of loyal followers and retweeters. Okay, probably not, but a boy can dream. Until then, I’ll be diligently tweeting and typing away, and I hope to learn a lot about social media and my relationship with it, as cheesy as that all sounds.
But enough about me. What do you think about social media? How does your usage compare with that of your peers? I can’t be the only one who feels a little out-of-place when it comes to creating and sharing content!