So I recently experienced an anniversary. There are two footnotes for that statement. The first is that I didn’t say “celebrated” because I’m not quite sure that would be an accurate word choice. The second is that this anniversary was my one year anniversary on social media.
I know it can be shocking for some to hear that it wasn’t until I was eighteen, legally an adult, and accepted into college, that I signed up for my first social media account (Instagram). It used to be my “fun fact” for awkward ice breakers that I had no social media. And with 39% of kids getting a social media account around 11 years old and 11% when they were younger than 10, trust me when I say during my high school years I was always the only one of my peers that could say that. Admittedly, I’ve been a late bloomer in a lot of categories, but when it comes to social media use, I think I was born in the wrong generation. I grew up in a very anti-social media household, therefore, precluding me from joining my friends as they invited each other to Facebook events, edited Instagram photos together, and sent Snapchats back and forth at hyper speed.
How My “Social” Life Suffered
I will argue from firsthand experience that not being on social media put me at a “social” disadvantage with my peers. I did not have the platforms that connected me to all my friends, near and far. I wasn’t a part of the instantaneous information exchange. I had to seek out my news from people the next day in school, build relationships by networking, and keep in touch with people through planned, in-person gatherings. In other words, I built the traditional social skills that generations before valued as important to maintaining a good social life. So why didn’t it feel like I was succeeding at the time?
When I hung out with friends, even though I was so eager to chat about the drama that was going on in the hallways at school, I would always have to compete with whatever was blowing up their phone that minute (hint: most times I lost). I got fewer text messages as applications like iMessage began to be viewed as too “formal” of a communication tool. It got to the point that when everyone would be on their phones, I would open mine to the home page and just stare at it to feel included in the screen viewing ritual.
Many studies argue that social media is obstructing real life socialization. This may be true, but I tend to think that social media is instead redefining the way we socialize as a community. For better or for worse, physical social gatherings now often revolve around, or are influenced by, the digital ones that are occurring 24/7 behind the screens. And one could definitely say my lack of notifications put me at odds with my peers. At the time, I didn’t appreciate how it was pushing me to work harder at relationships, think outside the box, and mold the person I am today. No, all I wanted was to be able to analyze whether or not my crush liked me by the comments he left on my Instagram posts.
Fast Forward To Present
When I finally could, I speedily created all the standard profiles my friends had had for years. What I thought would be the key to social bliss ended up leaving me with mixed emotions, something I never expected but have now learned is very common (especially for women).
I would say that social media has fueled my creativity and my interest in design, inspiring me to exercise that part of my personality to create aesthetically-pleasing and engaging content. It has kept me connected to friends and family across the globe, something that has proven to be invaluable especially in the isolating transition to college. It even helped me secure my job as a marketing intern for BC Dining, something about which I am very passionate.
However, being online has definitely added a new source of pressure to my life. What, when, and how to post are constant internal considerations I was completely oblivious to previously. I’ve found maintaining a personal image and brand can be frustrating and exhausting. My FOMO has only exponentially grown with the ability to scroll through a feed with lots of people I know having lots of fun. Not to mention the amount of time I dedicate to social media these days only contributes to an even tighter life schedule. It’s generally the first thing I check when I wake up and the last thing I see before I go to sleep. (I definitely paused from writing this blog post to check Instagram more times than I rather admit.)
So when my anniversary came to pass, I was reminded that I haven’t been living a life with social media for all that long. And there is still uncertainty as to whether I have found my life to be better with it.
One thing I am sure of is that I’m ready for this class to highlight the ways social media is becoming integrated into not only society but also the workplace. That’s the future phase I am anticipating, in which my interaction with social media will once again change. I come to this class open-minded and ready to learn about the social media that I had been longing to join for most of my adolescence. And I think it’s a pretty safe bet that next year my anniversary reflections will be dramatically different.