When thinking through my initial thoughts on social media, I feel it’s easiest to separate it them into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Of course, we’ll start with the good.
In my opinion, the best aspect of the social media is the ease it creates to keep in contact with friends and family. Through Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook, I’m able to follow along with my friends and family’s lives to see what they’re doing and feel connected to them somehow – even if I haven’t seen or talked to them in a while. My favorite Snapchat friend hands down is my mom who, as you’ll see below, keeps me up to date on her and my dog’s day-to-day life via the app.
In addition to keeping in contact with family and friends, social media allows for me to stay up to date on the news without having to tune in to an hour long news program. I can simply scroll through my Twitter feed and find relevant news from the sources I follow. Further, I can stay up to date with influential people and celebrities I want to learn more about. Although I’m not the biggest Kardashian/Jenner fan, I find myself constantly watching Kylie Jenner’s Snapchat stories in which she features her new products for her makeup brand or highlights her relationship with her family and boyfriend. I’m not sure why exactly I’m so interested in learning more about her life – but I know I’m not alone. Kylie Jenner has the largest following on Snapchat of all celebrities, according to the company…definitely a topic I’m considering for a future blog post. Let me know in comments if you’d want to hear more about the topic in the future!
Overall, social media increases our access to news and updates from the people we choose to surround ourselves with. I think that some of us may have regretted that this past election season as we scrolled through our Facebook feeds. However, social media is an open outlet for people to voice their opinions or share highlights from their lives with those they are connected with.
With the good inevitably comes the bad. To say social media is distracting is an understatement. As seen via Twitter in the #IS6621 feed, it isn’t just our generation that is glued to our phones. As a society, we are constantly on our phones, looking through our social media and refreshing when we run out of new content. Anytime I’m waiting in line, or on an awkward elevator ride with strangers, I pull out my phone and lurk on social media. I literally have found myself being on Facebook on my laptop, and subsequently opening the app on my phone and refreshing it there, as if I’d find something new (see right).
I think the worst part about social media being so distracting and omnipresent is when we want someone’s undivided attention. I cannot stand sitting at a dinner table and having everyone staring at their phone. I definitely was one of these people for a while. I didn’t realize how rude it was until someone did it to me at a nice dinner, and have turned to leaving my phone in my purse or pocket when I sit down to eat. Believe it or not, I left my phone for an hour lunch over winter break and had sixteen texts from three different friends who were “concerned” that I wasn’t answering and wondering where I was. Think about how many people are in car accidents every year as a consequence of distracted driving. We don’t need to scroll through Snapchat stories sitting in traffic, but we do, and we put ourselves in a harmful situation.
As I’ve seen in the Twitter feed, fake news is also a prevalent issue with social media. Without getting into the more serious examples of fake news, I can attest to the fact that my seventy-something year old grandmother saw an article claiming Justin Bieber died last week and left me not one, but two voicemails making sure I had seen the “news”. With that, let’s talk about the ugly.
I find myself the most interested in the ugly aspects of social media. Something I am particularly interested in is mental illness and social media – which is definitely something you can expect to hear about from me in the future. The most obvious is that social media allows for people to hide behind a computer or a phone and say whatever they want, whenever they want. Cyber bullying and hateful comments are everywhere if you look for them, and they may have adverse effects for those who are on the receiving end. If you haven’t seen Jimmy Kimmel’s segment in which he has celebrities read mean tweets about themselves, click here. Some people have the strength and confidence to laugh at what others have to say about them, but that certainly is not true of everyone.
In addition to cyber bullying, social media has a way of making everyone’s life seem picture perfect. We choose what people can see about our lives and cast ourselves in the light we want others to view us in. Particularly, I think to the story of Madison Holleran. Madison Holleran was a freshman at U Penn when she took her own life in 2014 after a long fought battle with depression. If you google Madison’s name, you’ll find articles about how her Instagram portrayed the beautiful life she lived, and how she truly seemed to have it all based on her social media.
In a note left for her family, Madison thoughtfully wrote, “I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out, and I thought it is worse perhaps to be locked in”. Madison’s friends commented that she had talked about how her friends at other universities seemed to be having so much fun and making so many friends via social media. People have become so dependent on social media, it can become easy to equate our worth with a “like” on a photo or a “view” on a story.
Just this past week, I saw this chilling article in the Wall Street Journal.
I highly recommend reading the article linked above, and I definitely plan to discuss suicide and social media further in blog posts or in my class presentation. In response, I think Facebook has an opportunity here to react to the question on social media ethics and help normalize the conversation surrounding social media and mental illness/suicide.
Now that you understand my take on the good, the bad, and the ugly, let’s be real. While writing this post I responded to four snapchats, checked Instagram twice, and scrolled through the #IS6621 Twitter feed. Social media is an integral part of our daily lives and I’m looking forward to learning more about social media this semester.