For as long as I can remember there has always been social media around me. Big name social media platforms, such as Facebook and MySpace, were being founded when I was only a toddler. I have never lived in a world where people don’t share every aspect their lives on the Internet.
Fast forward to today. I am now half way through my teen years and deep into the age of social media. An age where it is common to find a classroom full of kids each with their own smartphone. An age where face to face interaction is limited and awkward situations are relieved by staring into the blue light of a screen. My generation is one unlike any other. We are so blind to the world yet so full of knowledge at the same time. As a generation we are extremely tech savvy and constantly have the latest news at our fingertips. However, we are blind to the sights of the naked eye. Think about it. Close your eyes and try to remember what color your mom, dad, brother, or sister was wearing today. If this was difficult for you, you should know exactly what I mean by our blindness. We are often too busy trying to capture moments for others that we forget to experience them for ourselves. I, more often than not, find myself guilty of this. People my age often feel like if we go somewhere and don’t take record of it, some how, it was like it never happened. Since that record will probably be posted on social media, we will spend our entire time at the event taking pictures and video. Out of those 100 photos and videos you took that night, your friends will only see 1 to 5 of them.
It’s incredibly ironic to me how such an open generation is so selective with how others see their lives. Out of those 5 photos shared with others 4 to 5 of them were probably edited with filters. Filters to make you appear tanner, thinner, or make your eyes pop. Or if you really want to get fancy with it, you’ll adjust the lighting, contrast, whiten your smile, and maybe tack on another filter or two. Many edit all of their photos to fit into a certain theme or aesthetic of their page and after the editing comes the captions. For some reason I’ve found kids my age to be really obsessive over that aspect. Many try to appear clever, but not too clever that they sound like a thesaurus. After you caption and tag all of your friends, you press post and wait. The wait is ultimate factor to see if your effort was worth it or just should be deleted and forgotten. I’ve noticed many times with young kids that they would wait to see how many likes a photo would get and if it did not satisfy them, they would delete it and post it again another day. I have never done this before, and I find it quite concerning when I see someone I know do it. Many kids see their only form of self validation as through the amount of likes and comments they get on a selfie or how many followers they have.
This truly frightens me. The way I personally view it is that the amount of followers does not matter. I say this for two reasons:
1. I often go on social media just to waste time. I mindlessly scroll through my feed liking just about anything and everything my “friends” post, not paying attention to the captions and sometimes not even the picture or video itself. Which means that many times, I’ll like a post without even realizing I did.
2. (If you are wildly famous you can skip this point) How many of your social media “friends” have you had an actual conversation with in the past year? Personally, I do not have an accurate answer to that question, but I can guarantee you, not as many people as I have followers. By gaining followers you aren’t gaining friends, instead you’re just gaining more mindless likes.
I guess this cycle of empty minded following and liking is the beauty of social media. You think you know so much about a person yet in reality you know nothing. Sure, you may know the name of their dog or their best friend’s mom, but do you know their hopes and dreams or their biggest fear? Probably not. Which brings me to my last point, my life in the digital age has made me an expert in knowing fantasy from reality.
People are often much different online than they are in person. Online you can basically recreate yourself. You can alter your personality through the aesthetic of your photos or the wittiness of your captions. You can make friends and comment on people’s posts who you would never talk to in real life. You can alter your body image through in depth editing and seeing your body as a photo shop canvas instead of your body. The list can go on and on and on, which goes to show the drastic difference between the world of the Internet and the actual world.
Despite all of the cons of being the primary consumers of this highly electronic age, I am glad that I have the opportunity to be a part of it. Just because you live in a digital age, does not mean that you have to be completely engulfed in it.