A Rant: 'Social Media in 2019' and The Pros and Cons of the Two Words That Changed The Way We Live
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Social Media = Sharing one's life.
Or the life they want people to think they live.
Since middle school, we'd been given quicker ways to communicate with our friends. From AIM to MySpace to Blackberry Messenger, calling someone on the phone had already started to become "old school". It was an immediate way to check in on those closest to you. You would get home from school, set down your phone (if you had one at the time) and logon to whatever you had. Checking messages, seeing whose green 'Online' icon popped up so you could tell whoever it was that ONE thing that just couldn't wait. Remember when if someone replaced you as a top friend on MySpace, it basically deleted your best friend tag? 'Top Friends' lists and posts on each other walls allowed anyone to click on a profile of someone they didn't know, check out their profile song, their favorite hobbies, movies, music, and if they would rather a dog or a cat. With the click of a button, we could see into someone else's life and find out so many personal things about them. Anything was fair game if you put it on your profile publicly.
Introductions started becoming digital. We could literally get to know 'X' amount of things about someone's personal life, before ever physically being with them. I remember people joking around on AIM saying things like: "Nice to meet you, kinda." Before these new forms of communication, you met someone in person but this was just providing a new way to do that. It became so easy to type out a thought, feeling, or question without having to be so aware of your surroundings. No outside judgement at all. Most of the time, it was just you and that person. Nobody else could see the conversation. Except for your best friend sitting next to you nudging you to say this, and say that. Sometimes it wasn't as private as we thought, I guess.
It still isn't. Over the years, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and GroupMe launched. Along with a bunch of other apps and platforms that have a list of no ending, they came through with a blunt force. A force that allowed no one to ever look back. Privacy, with the exception of the kinds we see for our devices, has basically become a nuisance. People hate seeing private Twitter and Instagram accounts, huh? Publicly sharing you and your life has become normal. A way to be up with the trends. In my generation specifically, and the ones below, we have basically been vaulted into a virtual reality of this new community. It's the "way of life" I hear people say. They're not wrong.
We have gotten to the point where children are born into a world where they know nothing about having to go and ride your bike to Jon's house to see if he's home to play basketball. Why not just text them? It relieves the disappointment of riding all the way there and being rejected by the fact that he's still sleeping at noon, I assume. (Slight knock to a good childhood friend.) I do it too now, but looking back I miss that. I miss riding around the neighborhood to see who's out on the streets on their bikes as well. No phone attached to our hands or pockets but a Coke can crushed in the back our bike's wheel to make it sound like we're riding dirt bikes. Trying to gather a bunch a kids to play man hunt at 9 p.m. on a nice summer night. Chatting on the electrical box in our front yards until the street lights came on. I remember having to get a CD out and extension cords to be able to put stereo by the driveway while we were outside.
Every time I go back to my old neighborhood where my parents still live, I honestly think about how sad it is that the amount of kids and bikes I see outside is so minimal. Pretty much non existent now. I get it though. Communication is digital. Life is so much more digital. Jimmy is inside on Twitter scrolling through videos, while Jay is upstairs on FaceTime with Kendall watching a Twitch stream of Ninja playing Fortnite. Social media and apps are the new life consumer.
And to be honest, they're dope. Plain and simple. Twitter is arguably the dopest of them all. With news, sports, entertainment, and fun circulating the entire app, any trending situation around the entire globe is at the tips of our fingers. I have to admit, when I hear someone tell me that something happened anywhere else in the world, the first thing I do a lot of the time is: 1) Open up Twitter, 2) Search whatever topic was said to me, 3) Find the best source possible to present that news article to me. It's that easy now. Then, Facebook changing the validity of relationship statuses.
"Are you guys Facebook official yet?"
Back in high school, you and bae weren't official until that status update came across every one of your friends' feed. Facebook, in a weird way, legitimized things like that without every truly trying to. Instagram is a grid view of all of our friends' favorite and memorable moments in their lives. Constantly updating with day to day activities. We learn new memes, watch highlights on ESPN's profile instead of turning the TV on and finding the channel. It's convenient! Snapchatting yourself as a girl filter to creep out your best friends, just so they can screenshot you for blackmail. There is a genuine form of entertainment on each app/site. And so many people are taking advantage of them. Just take a look at some recent statistics tackling who is on social media and mobile phones alone in January of this year:
I won't say much solely because of the rant it will put me on that will bring me off onto another branch of this topic. I will leave this photo up for your own interpretation, but that is a shit load of human beings on phones and socials. BILLIONS? Like, not with a M....but...a B. Billions.
Moving on, though.....
Athletes, celebrities, and people with high status cannot only bring you updates on their lives and careers; but they can interact with fans. They can interact with new sponsorship possibilities. People even make money solely posting and interacting on social media. A lot of them get clowned for it, but I can't knock the player when the game tends to be pretty damn good. As they say, "Get it how ya live!" There are so many opportunities that these things bring to anyone with an internet connection. When you talk about it in these aspects, they sound fun. Exciting and very intriguing. Which they are, but...
Is it all fun and games? Did it change lives in only a good way?
Short answer? Nah.
With how easy we're able to talk to people, connect with those we don't know, see so many cool places through a screen, and post whatever we're wanting to, it has become a point of emphasis to help us see the way we use these devices, apps, and means of advanced technology. It's no secret that big technology companies are aware either. Specifically, with Apple's screen time setting in the most recent iOS update, we can now monitor how long we're using our phones and even how long we're using specific apps on them. I use Instagram and Twitter, a lot. I now have a time restriction on both of those apps.
Two reasons really:
1) Because they're the two top battery squeezers on my phone.
2) The amount of time I spent on them in my free time used to be mind boggling. I can use that time for more productive activities. I write more and read a bit more now too.
I'm trying to be more aware because from my experiences over the years, I've observed other people along with myself. The way we move on a day to day basis around one another. I'd be a fool to act as if I couldn't do better. Wherever we go and whoever we pass can remind a lot of us, at least me, that we are backtracking in a lot of what used to be human beings' basic skills. Now, let me reiterate this is from my perspective. Others may differ.
- Eye contact feels forced and uncomfortable.
- Buses, Ubers, trains, and airplanes are silenced due to headphones and screen time.
- Ignoring a call only to text them right back to ask what they needed.
- Small talk seems like someone has been placed into an interview.
- Bullying multiplying though cyber ways.
Just those few bullet points are not for the majority. Like I said, it's just what I've seen in recent years with the increase of new features of what we put on our phones and how technology as a whole has been implemented into our lives. Actually, most of the people I am around know how to set it down. To be in the moment. When it comes specifically to social media, people tend to have much more confidence behind the screen or keyboard than in person. I'm pretty positive things have always been this way, just obviously never on a device. People have always said different things in private rather than what they actually say face to face. But the reason it comes up so much today, is because it is incredibly obvious given the fact everyone is in the public eye. And while being in the public eye, they're open about a lot. Bolder statements are much more easily produced through text. However, we see time and time again, actions speak louder than tweets. A new spin on a classic saying. They speak louder than Instagram posts. But not everyone thinks that way.
People are starting to even feel back and neck pain, hand pain, according to an article written in the Harvard Health Letter. The University of South Florida's Technology blog wrote about how these tiny devices and high screen times affect your eyes. The strain can lead to more pain around your head and neck, too. They suggest taking a walk. Taking. break from looking down at a phone or laptop. Taking the 20-20-20 rule into consideration. A 20 second break every 20 minutes when looking st something 20 feet away. I even wear blue light blocking glasses whenever I can day or night. Whether I am playing a video game or watching a show. Blue light have consequences for our sleep habits even. But there are easy solutions to backload the severity of the negative consequences.
The last point to be made about the cons of social media and the trends it creates is: cyber bullying. This is one that in recent years has escalated to new heights. A new height nobody ever wanted. Digging deeper into the confidence people have behind a keyboard and the fact that we rarely think about what we post because
"It's on our page."
"It's my profile."
"Unfollow me, then."
Not realizing that although someone has thousands or millions of followers, they may feel more alone than anyone else. And if they do, words on a screen hit just as hard as verbally. We don't realize that even though many of us understand that words on a screen shouldn't mean that much, others think those words mean the world. Listen, like I said, I'm no expert on these things. I write what I feel and observe. And I feel as though with a little bit more caution and thought, tragic situations like we've had can dwindle. Don't knock the hopeful mind that writes that out.
I think the advancement of social habits have been amazing, just to an extent. They have created so many opportunities and platforms for people who a decade ago would have never had. It gives people a voice. But we have to understand the power our voices have on these platforms that can uplift those voices and spread those voices to unimaginable heights. We have to understand that the little necessities we lived with before these upgrades, like communicating and connecting physically with one another, are vital. Using our actual senses instead of just the touch of our thumbs. I swear we're almost on a course where just about every sense but taste and touch will be gone, lol. Use those apps on your phone the right way. Spend time with people. Enjoy what nature brings us every day we wake up. Appreciate the little things we take for granted daily. Smile at those who walk by us on the sidewalk while asking how they are. Make eye contact when shaking someones hand. And make sure at age 26 that hand shake doesn't cause pain from holding a phone for 8 hours a day. Be in the present. It is what I work to focus on daily now. And what made me think to write this blog post in the first place.
Yeah, I know. The irony as I type this on my MacBook, behind a keyboard, with much more confidence as opposed to if I spoke out in front of a crowd.
But I hope this finds the more positive side of spreading a voice. Using these technological gifts with control and precision. With purpose. To provide not only myself, but others a sense of realization.
What are your pros and cons for social media? Or technology as a whole? Comment your answers or thoughts below!