I’m 29 years old which means I didn’t grow up with social media. I (reluctantly) joined my first social medium when I was at university and it played such a different role in my life then, compared to today’s social media. I don’t mean to sound old – I have spent years studying and researching social media and I love the opportunities they provide – but they scare me a little sometimes. Here’s why.
WHY I LOVE SOCIAL MEDIA
1. Ease of use
Let’s face it: social media are so easy to use, which is why I love them. My favorite platforms are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I have a Snapchat and Tumblr account which I rarely use, only to browse other people’s accounts. I love how easy you can turn it on or off and how you can easily browse the content while you’re doing something else.
I love how easy it is to meet new people online. Social media can in fact be really social if you use them right. I have met a lot of people through like-minded Facebook groups or Instagram posts who I may have never met otherwise. I love connecting with these people, both online and offline, and social media have made that possible.
Social media provide entertainment. Just look at a random bus stop or platform at a train station: everyone is on their mobile phone. And no, I actually don’t think this is a bad thing. Before smartphones and social media I would be super annoyed when I missed the bus or had to wait for my train, but not anymore. Of course I still get mildly annoyed, but I have so many apps at my disposal to make the wait a little less boring that I don’t mind as much.
I love being able to decide what information I put online. I love editing my photos, my Instagram feed, stories and my YouTube or Facebook cover photos. I don’t do it to come across better, or more beautiful or whatever, I just like to make my feed look nice. I also like to make my home look nice, it’s not that different. It makes me feel good.
Many of us turn to social media for some form of inspiration, whether it’s a certain outfit, the décor for your living room, a recipe or an inspirational quote. I especially love Tumblr and Instagram for quotes and beautiful photos, although I also use Pinterest for that – in addition to looking up vegan recipes. Whenever I’m feeling a little low on inspiration, social media provide so many outlets to boost my inspiration. YouTube is also a favourite of mine, although I’m not sure if it qualifies as a social medium.
WHY I FEAR SOCIAL MEDIA
1. Out of touch with reality
OK, everything wonderful aside: social media do not represent reality and unfortunately many (young) people still don’t know that. They get swept up into a beautiful world, where everything is perfect, magical and without problems. I really feel some people lose their touch with reality this way. I know some online influencers who are sharing more ‘real’ content, so thankfully there is a change happening, but it is important to realize that what you see on social media is most often not a representation of real life.
I know, this is also something I love about social media, but this ability to edit everything also has many downsides. You never know if what you’re seeing is real. I know many people who upload photos of places they’ve never been, or pretend to be somewhere they’re not. I also know that people make themselves or their business look better than it actually is. This makes other people feel bad about themselves because they may not be doing so well. Just remember: all the info you get about someone from their social media accounts was put online by them and also often heavily edited by them. And who doesn’t want to make themselves look good?
3. Only positive
Online content is often only positive, which is fine, but again: not realistic. It is good to keep that in mind, because some of us may get confused (me too sometimes!). It may seem as if people online are living carefree, worry-free, stress-free lives in thin, beautiful bodies with sun kissed hair and skin, but that’s just not true. It may be true some days of the year, but we all have our worries and troubles, no matter what our social media profiles are trying to convey.
There have been many studies on how social media may influence narcissism1, 2, 3, and I don’t find it that hard to believe. Sometimes I get a little tired of seeing all these pouting selfies on Instagram – what is the purpose of that? Of course, I also like to see a pretty picture of myself, but I prefer those that aren’t staged and that were taken by someone else. People seem to be to obsessed with taking photos of themselves absolutely everywhere – the gym, the grocery store, at work, in their cars, on their bikes… Everywhere I look I see teenagers blowing kisses at their mobile phones. And these photos often turn up on social media with the caption ‘ bored’ or something similar. You’re not bored. You just spent an hour of your life taking 100 selfies.
5. Always online
Most of the content you put on social media will always be there, which I find a little worrying. I am pretty careful with what I put online and I am also aware of who might be reading it – now and in the future. But not everyone is as aware as I am. Besides that, people are also more and more online and live their lives on their phones or their computers, rather than offline with real people. Yes I know I sound really old, but it’s a little saddening to me. You need real people, real offline interactions to function as a human being. So no matter how great the online world is – it should be an extension of your offline life, not a replacement.