The Social Media Age
Many may view the internet as a distraction, a way to pass the time when bored. Others may view it as useless, a complete waste of energy. But for many, it brings together people from all around the world. Social media has been a blessing upon humanity since the day it was conceived. Friends can now exist through the internet, and even bring old friends close again. As opposed to the traditional ways of making friends and maintaining contact with them via face to face and through writings and phone calls, social media grants instant access to those who wish to see or talk to each other. Between websites and apps, social media has revolutionized how people interact, from how they want to interact to how long they want to interact. Some of the main social media platforms are Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and Snapchat, and all of them bring something unique to the internet table with many options for friendship and ties for the user.
Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerberg humbly in 2004 as a means for students to interact, however it quickly changed within a few years to the Facebook known by everyone today. Anyone with an email or a phone number could sign up, and it became a social media giant. By using Facebook, millions of people could find each other. Now some may argue that the “friends” on Facebook are not considered real friends, but while friends may not be in front of each other all of the time, people can keep up with their lives. Many people will lose touch throughout the years, but Facebook will reconnect them and still let them be part of their circle. One can simply look up who they want to find and more than likely, they will have Facebook, and with the ability to message them, it can spark a new and fresh feeling from an old friendship. Of course, new friends are also able to find each other on Facebook, usually being a recommendation from one’s current friend list. Again, they can message each other and then get to know each other and become closer. If one does not want to message each other however, they can still be closer than prior to Facebook because people post about their lives all of the time, and it keeps all of their friends updated on the goings on. In a study trying to see the correlation between Facebook usage and self-esteem with college students, it was proven to be very positive, but the actual relationships between the friends were not as intense as the feeling one gets from receiving attention from said friends. However, this is not a bad thing. Friends are supposed to build each other up, and Facebook does simply that by showing support on posts. Even if the friendships on Facebook are not as intense as constant friendships that have interaction on a somewhat daily basis, they still have a significant impact on the user’s happiness.
Tumblr is another social media platform that creates an interesting space for the user to find friends. Tumblr was created in 2007 by David Karp as a website with a built in template to blog without creating an entirely new website dedicated to only one blog. Because Tumblr is a blogging website, people are not actively searching for friends, but will run into many based on what the person’s blog is about and will connect with others in specific fan bases. Tumblr is aimed more at the younger demographic unlike Facebook however, usually between the age of 13, the age when one can sign up, all the way to the mid to late 20s. Whether this will change will be up to the users, but because it is a younger audience, the need to form intimate relationships is much higher than that of Facebook’s. Blogs range from simple child-like things to more explicit content, so there is something for everyone to bond over. Tumblr has a messaging system as well for bloggers to talk to each other or ask questions. This was implemented fairly recently however, but has made it much easier for users to interact with each other and form meaningful relationships, platonic or otherwise. Tumblr only continues to grow in size every day, and more relationships between users also grow in strength and number, helping the younger generations interact with people who have similar interests.
Instagram is yet another giant in the social media game. Created in 2010 by Kevin Systrom, its content consists of posting pictures and videos and only those. Instagram creates an environment filled with filters and aesthetically pleasing content to the user’s eye. Although it might not be the most intimate of social media, it does have the features to make it so. Instagram is connected with Facebook, so the friends one may have on Facebook can carry over towards Instagram, so the user can now follow their friends they know in real life or online. Since it is photo based media, there is much less to be shared whereas Facebook can have long written posts, but Instagram does have the ability to private message just like Facebook, so the level of intimacy can still be reached. Instagram also lets the user post short videos and post photos that will disappear after a 24 hour time period. The features on Instagram are supposed to give a small glimpse into the people the user follows lives, and whether or not the user wants to pursue greater friendship or more is up to them. It is one of the more selfish of the most popular forms of social media, but has all of the potential to become a greater way to be close with friends, especially since the younger generations use it more than Facebook (usually.)
Snapchat, one of the more recent forms of social media created in 2012 by Evan Spiegel, has also become one of the most popular apps for younger generations. Snapchat has revolutionized the “living in the moment” culture, letting friends send each other small snippets of their life that disappear after a few seconds. One can also post a “snap” to their story, which lasts 24 hours and is then deleted. Instagram actually was inspired by this when developing their new features because of how popular it was and is on Snapchat. It strengthens the bonds of friendship even more by giving a more intimate look into people’s personal lives. It can even be compared to being with the person who sends the snap because they are usually every day moments which leads to a deeper connection. Snapchat also has a messaging system if one doesn’t want to send pictures or videos, which also disappear. With more privacy yet more personal stories and snaps being exchanged between people, the friendships can be intensified and therefore only be a positive aspect for youth culture.
People may argue that the use of these fantastic apps and websites causes more harm than good. With the ever growing internet, privacy is less present than in the past, but that was always a hazard from the beginning. Before social media was even created the internet would ask for email addresses and photos could be uploaded, social media just made it easier to find the people who provided that information. The internet stores everything that was ever conceived on it, so yes if something is on the internet is most likely there forever, but if one is careful about what they put online there should be no reason to worry about it in the first place. Besides that, privacy settings can at least help the user block people, delete messages that are unwarranted, and let pages only be available to certain users. Social media is the least on the internet’s issues if one wants to view it as black and white, as there is a whole sublayer called the deep or dark web where the real horrors of lack of privacy lay, so arguing that social media is the problem is a very ignorant statement to say the least.
These forms of social media have effectively brought people closer together and brought positive change on the internet. People will always argue that these luxuries are harming society with eyes glued to screens, but it is always going to be more than that. What someone does on that screen will make all of the difference. Technology is not bad and neither is social media. It helps those with social anxiety create friends without being face to face, it helps long distance friends and partners stay close despite being far away, and it lets people who lose touch still be in each other’s lives, even if they are only silently following each other. The millennial generation has grown up with these platforms the most so they will obviously be the most comfortable with it, but that does not mean older generations should not join in on the fun and see why everyone is so attached to their screen. Just because a habit is frequent does not mean it is harmful, and until that is recognized, social media will be demonized despite all of the good it does for hundreds of millions of users every single day.