Xanga, MySpace, Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Reddit, Discord. You name it and I’ve most likely used it or heard of it before. All of these aforementioned social media communities may have unique features but are centralized upon the common theme of connecting networks of people. It’s only been around for a little over a decade but has every generation hooked. In fact, we spend an average of 6 hours a week on social media. Are we spending so much time on social media because it is an addiction? Is it a mean of coping with our shortened attention span? Or does it fulfill a human need?
My Social Media Experience
When I first started using social media religiously in high school, I was a very avid producer of content. On Facebook, I was always on top of having a relevant profile picture update every month, analyzing my news feed to learn about all of the latest trends and memes and using that information to create witty status updates to generate a lot of likes and comments. Since my high school graduating class had 1200 people, it was almost obligatory to do this to be “edgy and cool”. This level of social media usage was further amplified in college when I discovered GroupMe and Instagram. It got to a point where I had an exam in five hours but would still be on GroupMe catching up on the 300+ message notifications that were mostly irrelevant to me.
Post college, I realized how distractive social media was in my earlier life and gave myself an intervention. I deactivated my Facebook for a short period and stopped using Snapchat to break the mindless habit of scrolling through content on my feed. I stopped uploading stuff on my Instagram. My role on social media became limited to content absorption. The only platforms that I was still active on were group chat based platforms.
During my internship this summer, I had to revisit social media as a content producer – this time in a business setting. I had the privilege to experiment with Facebook Ads and manage multiple Facebook brand pages and Instagram brand accounts. Since I was disconnected from producing content for some time, it was especially hard for me to transition into social media content creation in a business aspect. As a result, my level of success was mixed.
Reflection & Thoughts About Social Media
Upon recapping my journey throughout the years, I noticed that while I was able to trade off certain aspects of social media to allocate time to other activities, I never chose to block it out completely. I believe this is because amidst all the memes and attempts at going viral, there is a legitimate network that allows people with similar interest to form a low cost, convenient connection through groups or social games. For instance, Farmville was a huge hit on Facebook and connected many 40-something women mutually interested in managing a virtual farm. For me, I ultimately returned to the big social media platforms because the act of consuming content from those in my network allowed me to form some emotional connection and a talking point when I catch up with the person in real life.
Social media also enables us to do outreach that would be impossible or socially unacceptable in person-to-person interaction. LinkedIn has most likely allowed many of us to bypass the traditional gatekeepers. When I was interviewing for Riot Games, I was able to leverage my network to schedule an informational with the Associate Director of International Operations because we were both from BC. If I had tried to pull off this stunt in person, I would’ve been lucky to make it past HR.
With over 2.01 billion active users on Facebook, businesses that aren’t digitally mature need to reevaluate their business strategy because this is a HUGE opportunity – social media isn’t just for leisure! Since these platforms offer so much customizability and options to deliver content, I believe that it is a staple for any company looking to build a brand. Although many users don’t expect to be sold things from their news feed, the trends in digital business surely seem to be moving in that direction, especially with the number of viral marketing stunts so far this year.
With everything in life, there are also drawbacks to social media use. The number of hours spent on social media has been steadily going up over the years but the day is fixed at 24 hours. As a result, people are mixing social media use into their daily routine, constantly staring at their phone screens, tablets or computers. Social media also has kept us more connected yet more disconnected than ever before. Since more and more communication is happening digitally, it has become harder to detect emotional context in dialogue. This habit also directly affects our traditional interpersonal skills to the point where even in an open office environment, my team members would prefer to use Slack to communicate. We cannot afford to become zombies to the technology, especially with the increasing progress in AI.
I hope this class provides the insights and knowledge that I need to “stay woke” about the technological changes and leverage this knowledge in my personal life and career.