The Evolution of Social Media
Living in the 21st century, a screen and keyboard have never been too far away as technology continuously inserts itself in our everyday life in the forms of phones, tablets, laptops, etc. By extension, social media has become an integral part of life as well. Our intimate relationship with social media has redefined what many of us consider to be an interpersonal connection. Forms of communication like instant messaging and FaceTime have allowed us to blur our virtual and actual realities. This ability to be connected and disconnected simultaneously, while often advantageous, is also shaping us in unprecedented ways.
Back in 2017, I decided to delete my Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, etc. because I was too consumed by it all. I thought an Internet cleanse would put my life into perspective, and though it helped me tremendously, seeing the evolution of social media and how it was impacting others was incredibly saddening. When I first downloaded Instagram in 2011, it was a fun and seemingly safe place for my classmates and I to post silly photos and make jokes. Since then, Instagram has become another dimension of social acceptance.
Social media has allowed people to stay connected in ways we never could before, but it also seems to have fueled social comparison and negative self-imagery. Fitting in goes beyond school and other in-person social events as the Internet has become yet another determination of status. What was originally meant for sharing photos and connecting with friends has grown into a contest for many as they correlate their worth by the amount of followers, likes, and comments they receive. Furthermore, seeing the highlights and picture-perfect moments of others’ lives can enhance the desire to be happy at all times and the feeling that you’re constantly falling short of something better.
What really concerns me, however, is when presented with the opportunity to be unfiltered and maintain anonymity, people do not hold back on the Internet. Whether it be children or adults, the traditional in-person manners and respect we are taught are often lost along with any signs of remorse. The blatant bullying and genuine disregard for others is horrifying and the effects are extensive.
The infinite amount of factors that influence every pro and con of social media are difficult to account for. My guess is that we are in an extreme stage, where people are indulging in the lack of regulation and consequences online. Hopefully, this behavior will lessen, but it brings up an important point: perhaps, it’s time to consider integrating social media training into the educational system.