Social Media Life

Social Media Life

By Cristina Sandoval

Do you remember passing notes in class to your crush in middle school? It usually went something like this:
“DO YOU LIKE ME?”,  followed by two boxes, one labeled yes, one labeled no, with the directions to, “CHECK ONE.”
Maybe you’d get caught by the teacher, or your crush would check no and break your heart. Maybe you never grew out of that phase, either—not now that you’ve got Facebook.
    If you think about it, all social media is the perpetual note that gets passed through cyber space. Only this time you won’t get caught, and if your crush says no, at least you won’t have to look them in the face.
Almost all social media sites allow you to allot love, or “likes.” This makes it possible to get a constant dosage of approval. All those boxes checked yes! It’s both tempting and addicting. As a human race, we are built to be social creatures. From the days in caves, huddled around the fire, grunting our approval of the meat roasting on the flame, to now, when we gossip in barber shops and the like, we are built for social interaction. That’s all perfectly fine, but what happens when the face-to-face aspect is ripped away? Things get a lot…easier. Too easy.
Now we don’t have to be self-conscious about how bad our hair looks that day, or our bad breath, or have to really, and I mean truly engage actively in conversation. You might send a text, and once your friend has thought of just the right thing to say, they’ll text back. There is time for meditation with almost no pressure. You don’t have the other person in front of you, waiting for the response, which takes away any awkward silences. The pressures of the immediate nature of conversation are stripped away, and any anxieties of interaction are gone.
Not only that, but you don’t have to go out of your way to Facebook, chat, or to text someone. It’s pretty easy to leave a message online or text a quick, “Hi!” Calling on the phone or showing up at the doorstep is an awful lot of effort, and can be nerve wracking if you can’t do it just right. Why not keep it simple and easy?
It’s almost as though people are losing touch with people. What’s more, they are losing touch with themselves, which is ironic because a large portion of the Twitter or Facebook addict’s days are spent talking about themselves.
“I just ate.”
“My cat farted lol”
“I’m here and I’m doing this with that person.”
More and more people aren’t taking the time to reflect or truly engage in something. Instead we sit like zombies, taking in all this rapid and never ending useless bits of information, half here, half there. Several tabs stay open, along with our favorite playlists, and maybe a photo album or two.  Focus is being lost. There is simply too much of nothing going on.
This could be detrimental if our children grow up knowing only this way of life. It’s daunting thinking of how different someone born in 1990 is from someone born in 1994. Four years of difference, but their social lives may have panned out early on drastically different. The younger generations have had texting and Facebook longer. Even younger than that, well that’s scary to think about. But it’s real, and it’s happening: children are losing themselves to the façade of a social media social life.

Internet Fame
A curious side effect of social media is the illusion of fame. With all the recognition, likes and loves that they get, a lot of people are declared internet famous. Maybe you took a really neat photo of a field of flowers and tacked on a thoughtful quote—font, of course, Helvetica. Maybe you’re super clever and leave witty bits of repartee as your status every day, or maybe you’re really photogenic and post well thought out mirror self portraits to your blog. Maybe you’re an artist or a musician or have some other talent you display online. And BAM! Just like that, people will find you and you’re recognized with a multitude of notes and thumbs ups and likes, or what have you, and it all just makes you feel so…loved. Like you have fans.
What about those that built real, worldwide fame with the help of social media? Look at Lady Gaga. Her fame was built on being seen, and being present and connected to everyone on the net. Before her fame truly hit, paparazzi continually shot her in her latest crazy outfit, maybe stumbling out of a club, drunk, after a night of partying. People saw and shared on social media sites, maybe adding a caption like, “Check this out, bitch is crazy!” But she knew perfectly well what she was doing. If people talked, that’s good. Maybe then they would pay attention long enough to be interested in her music, and even buy a CD or go to her show. She was allotting fans through word of mouth, or rather, word of blog post after blog post.  If they didn’t talk, then it was time to promote herself some more.
Now through Twitter, she stays connected to her fans, regularly keeping her fans posted on the things in her life, her career, etc. It seems the fame she sought was found, but what was truly appealing about the fame was the love. The approval of thousands, the world checking the yes box.
But now, lead by her example, and by the lot of modern day celebrities who have done the same—look under Kim Kardashian, or any celebrity heading out from their multiple daily visits to Starbucks—there are those who want to be seen and approved of too. Except they’re not being shot by paparazzi, they’re taking pictures of themselves at parties, or taking pictures of themselves in their outfit of the day, always fashion-forward, or filming a video of themselves, maybe posting a drawing. Either way, they are being seen, and they’re there for the world to see. Maybe they want the world to see and leave love; a comment or two, a thumbs up, unconditional approval. The world is watching even if they can’t watch back. Anyone can be a pseudo celebrity with the right camera angle or place to share themselves. Everyone can show themselves off. Anyone can connect to everyone.
And are we not creatures built for connection? All social media is, is a talk around the fire or gossip at the dinner table. Except now it’s not a moment of looking into the other person’s eyes and bursting into laughter, it’s the glow of a computer screen and a quickly typed, “LOL.”
All things considered, social media in its essence is not a bad thing. Social media is here to connect us, and that’s beautiful. Someone could have an aunt in another country that they can keep in touch with online. And there is technology that allows face-to-face chat, so you can look in Mom’s eyes when you announce your long coveted promotion.
And not all symptoms of the evils of a social media social life aforementioned are true for everyone. Many of us use social media when needed, without obsessing or abusing. A lot of us don’t even use it. The world is not going down the virtual shitter, because despite all the bad things that may happen as a result of social media—lack of social skills, isolation, etc.—those bad things are not present everywhere. In fact, social media has the ability to connect us like never before. Just look at the live stream that was held online of the march in New York, held in the name of Trayvon Martin that would have not been covered otherwise, or the famous social revolution that was happening in the Middle East a few years ago that was kept up to date to the world through Twitter.
As with all technology, there are the pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages. Let’s hope future generations take note of all the potential good there is in social media.  And if there are still those who wish to update us on what their cat has on their head now, or who continue to take the same shot of themselves making a duck face and posting it for the world to see, well, that’s unavoidable. Nothing and no one in this world is perfect. And we all enjoy a good lol-cat video every now and then, don’t we?

Emerald contributor since March 2012


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