About 70% of the US population alone is on social media. It feels as though the world is online. We use technology for almost everything. We download our recipes, Skype our family, and Google our illnesses. It’s no surprise that we look to social media to fulfill our needs for approval, entertainment, and even social interaction. We not only feel connected, we are physically connected.
Most of us have our cell phones with us everywhere we go and with that, we bring every social outlet we subscribe to. About 1.7 billion people worldwide access social media from their mobile device. There are unlimited social media sites and everyone is updating, Tweeting, sharing, liking, Vining, Snapping, and posting pictures around the clock. It has become such a significant part of our lives that it is hard to remember what life was like before it. But, how did we get here and exactly how much has it changed our lives?
The Beginning of Social Media
Social media made its discreet debut into our lives at the tail end of the 90s with the first social media site SixDegrees, AOL and ICQ’s instant messaging programs, and the newfound interest in online logging driven by sites like LiveJournal. People started looking to the internet for information, free music, and as an additional social outlet. But, it didn’t really take off until around 2003 when Myspace hit the scene. People started sharing everything from their personal thoughts to their best duckface mirror selfie (which is not known to have been successfully documented prior to Myspace).
Conversations that would have previously been private were now playing out in the comment section of individual profiles. Moods and relationship statuses were revealed through carefully designed background themes, witty titles, and playlist choices. It was important to declare the significance as well as the ranking of your friends and family by displaying your choices on your “Top Friends” section of your profile. The popularity grew and so did the options.
More people joined the online world and Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Skype, Tumblr and more were born. Social media started to get addictive and it wasn’t just for teenagers and people in their early 20s. Everyone was on. One day we woke up and our eccentric aunt that we used to only see on Thanksgiving was “poking” us on Facebook and sharing recipes for Triple Layer Fudge Cake. The takeover had been officially completed with that one little poke.
Where We Are
Social media holds an all new meaning some ten to fifteen years later. It’s no longer considered a trend, instead, it plays a significant role in our lives. We have the opportunity to stay present in the day to day lives and photos of the family that we may have otherwise only interacted with once or twice a year. Sharing the most joyous and sometimes the most intimate times of our lives in a way that we never could before. We can reconnect with old friends, connect with new friends, find supporters, share ideas, and make professional connections. A message can be delivered in seconds and requires no postage.
The days of worrying about long distance charges and busy signals have been replaced with free video calls and instant snapshots that provide a glimpse into a moment of someone’s life as they are still experiencing it. There are different types of social media that cater to different demographics and interests. Businesses have benefited from the connections and advertising available with social media and find it priceless to their success. Social media has truly reinvented socialization.
For Better or Worse?
A question not easily answered. It’s easy to see how much social media has added to our day to day lives. But how much is too much? Most people scroll through one or more social media sites more times a day than they’d like to admit. But as people continue to grow their online connections many wonder if they are neglecting their physical ones. It’s commonplace to see a group of people around a table all staring at their phones instead of each other. People care more about the online reception of their selfies and witty posts than verbal recognition from loved ones. People are preoccupied with their computers and phones and seem unattached to the world around them. We watch concerts through our phone screens so that we can share them with our followers instead of simply enjoying the moment.
The online connection has introduced additional vulnerabilities and dangers. This has caused the need for privacy and security precautions that were unheard of before social media. Even so, most people would say that they couldn’t live without it. They would say that the benefit outweighs the risk. They would also agree that we are learning a lesson with social media that we have had to learn with most everything before it; moderation is key. As we learn to balance the changes and challenges that social media has introduced into our lives we are still left with questions that it has raised that may never be answered.
Who invented the duckface?
Why is there a poke button on Facebook, and what does it mean?
If you eat your food without taking a picture of it first, did you truly enjoy it?
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