Before I describe my views on the impact of social media, I have a confession to make: I don’t actually use social media. I don’t post on Facebook, share any photos on Instagram or send Snaps (which, I have learned, is the correct name for a message sent through Snapchat). I suppose I’m sort of an oddball in that regard, given that I can’t name too many other people around my age who share my behavior.
But I may yet still be of use. You could, of course, ask any of the countless numbers of students who actually do use these mediums what they think of the sizable presence of social media in our daily lives. And you would probably get a sound answer. But I think I have a different perspective, one that may allow me to talk about things that my plugged-in peers just can’t see from their point of view. Maybe, in our world of frenzied sharing, we’ve become too connected. And maybe we should be worried.
When we interact with people online, whether it be a friend request or a follow, we gain access, sometimes immediately, to a wealth of personal details. We can see who they like to be with, what places they visit and what kind of clothes they wear. Often, we may feel like we know somebody better after going through their social media profiles. But I’m not sure that we do.
Viewing someone solely through the content of his or her online presence is dangerous because the most unique component (or selling point) of virtually every social media platform is the concept of choice. You can choose what you post on Facebook. You can choose which of your favorite pictures to put on Instagram. And you can choose to tweet that controversial tweet. So it would appear, for better or for worse, that everything we do online is simply a product of our decisions.
And that is the problem: we don’t get to see the genuine person behind the mask. All we can access is whatever the subject has allowed us to have access to. Unfortunately, real life doesn’t work the same way. Becoming immersed in the stuff that someone posts online, we lose a true sense of that person. Because in the world outside of social media, we don’t get to choose what other people think of us. So it may be time to pull ourselves out of the depths of social media and focus instead on forming meaningful personal relationships with those around us. Or at the very least, stop worrying about what everyone else does on Facebook.