What’s so social about social media?

What's so social about social media?

At the exact moment I’m writing this, I have 4,323 followers on Instagram. That number will most likely increase by the time I’m done writing this.

Personally, I wouldn’t consider myself a savvy social media user. Undeniably, I do use it, but I never try to spend over an hour on the few social media apps I have. I much rather watch a nice film or actually get to know a person in person. I don’t think you can truly form a connection with other people on an app, yet I do acknowledge that social media has forever changed the world.

If anyone had to compile a list of the greatest innovations of the 21st century, it would be farcical not to include social media. It has forever changed how people interact with one another and view information.

Being someone who has used Instagram since the fifth grade, I try not to be phased by the variety of content on it. One second, you can be scrolling down on Instagram and getting your daily dose of avocado toast, then the next second you’re on Twitter reading up about the continual war in Afghanistan, which has been going on since before I was even born. Virtually all realms of human endeavor can be explored through social platforms.

Yet, if someone were to assemble a list of the worst innovations of the 21st century, there are solid reasons why social media should also be on that list.

According to the Pew Research Center, almost 60% of teens say they have been cyberbullied in their lifetime as of 2018, and that trend seems to be increasing as the use of social media rises. There also seems to be a surge of conspiracy theories becoming mainstream with the help of social media. According to the science news website Live Science, “at least 50% of Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory, ranging from the idea that the 9/11 attacks were fake to the belief that former President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.”

Of course, it’s important to keep in mind these things existed before social media. If it wasn’t cyberbullying in the past, it was simply bullying. And unfortunately, conspiracy theories have probably been around since the birth of civilization. 

The reason I bring it up, though, is to point out the duality apparent in using social platforms. Some people will be huge proponents of it, some will despise it, and others will have mixed feelings on it. There’s no definitive answer when it comes down to how social media should be used because everyone has a different view on it.

A question I’ve been wondering about for some time, “How social does social media make people?” It’s a question that is applicable to anyone, but definitely one more salient for the younger generation. How has social media affected how social young people are?

To my mind, it has caused a decline in how social young people are. According to the American Psychological Association “adolescents who spent the most time on social media and the least time in face-to-face social interactions reported the most loneliness.”

Research papers, namely the Digital Communication Media Use and Psychological Well-Being: A Meta-Analysis, support my aforementioned perspective. “Putting considerable time into such browsing would, at the least, be likely to produce the displacement problem: namely, the time spent browsing would replace quality interactions with significant others, thereby indirectly reducing well-being.”

It’s clear that lots of research have been conducted over the years related to the effects that social media may have. However, I am only one person, and there are others who have their own perspective on the matter.

Temidayo Famakinwa, a senior at Banneker, believes social media isn’t necessarily the most social thing, but it does highlight things that most people normally wouldn’t pay attention to.

“It can help in terms of spreading awareness of issues and reaching people from farther places,” he said.” But it’s not life.”

Beginning around the second half of this year, there has been a rise of young people who have been willing to express their viewpoints on social issues not only in America, but in the world. It’s not too hard to find yourself on Instagram being confronted with an innumerable amount of petitions and articles related to any issue young people feel is the most important of that week. To a lot of young people like Famakinwa, spreading awareness about issues is more rewarding than “promoting egos.”

But then again, maybe social media can still be social. Banneker sophomore Ailani Diaz said she is convinced that “introverts are more comfortable behind a screen” since it allows them to still get to know people while also avoiding any social phobia. In a world getting more virtual by the day, that brings some comfort to people.

Social media has come a long way, and it will most likely continue being part of the lives of the countless souls who use it. Similarly to virtually anyone, I don’t really know the definitive direction for it in the future, but I do know that it will continue changing the way people view information and interact with one another. As of now, it does seem that social media has undermined traditional forms of media and interaction. But, it will be left to the individual to decide if such an effect will define them socially.

Five more people have followed me on Instagram making my follower count 4,328. Neither am I cheerful, nor do I despise this. I am simply unconcerned about the whole thing. What difference does it really make?