My first brush with social media were the old Yahoo! and MSN groups, along with a few forums (which aren’t usually classed as social media but they are at this point). I don’t remember it being too bad, though I was banned in one case for using large fonts (I think I’ve posted about that before). Of course, there wasn’t 24/7 access to the internet back then. It wasn’t all that fast and most kids my age didn’t have a personal computer let alone a mobile phone or tablet.
That changed as I was growing up. I remember being one of the few people in my class who had access to internet before slowly but surely, the internet grew until the point where we all had it. MSN Messenger was quite popular back then and while not as vicious as certain platforms today, it had it’s downsides. Was that person offline or just ‘invisible’? Why wasn’t so-and-so responding to various nudges.
Myspace came along soon, brushing aside sites like Bebo and Hi-5. And then there was Facebook, which I still remember from it’s original days where someone (usually from your school) had to confirm that you were who you say you are. When I first joined Facebook, I just clicked on any old school and eventually I was banned. To this day they won’t let me use the email address I signed up with. That’s ironic because I used my real identity to sign up but these days I can literally pretend to be anybody on there.
When I was around 17/18 or so I was essentially I spent every day on Facebook talking to a friend of mine and just messing around. It was essentially an addiction of sorts coupled with what would eventually turn into an ongoing insomnia issue. Eventually, I signed up to Twitter and it got worse. Not only was I on it all of the time, but I was just putting stuff on there that I would never post today. I’m fortunate that I realised early on that my real name and picture had no place being attached to my account because I was very naive and stupid on there. That didn’t really sink in until I had an argument with someone who I had divulged certain things with and didn’t really consider a close friend. They used what I’d said against me and I was kind of taken aback.
Fast forward to today and we now live in a world of screenshots and long memories. While I don’t necessarily have anything against taking evidence of online stupidity, it’s dangerous and can ruin people’s social and employment standing. Every other day there’s some story about someone who’s lost their job due to a social media post. Stupid Twitter and Instagram feuds now make the headlines. People spend a ridiculous amount of time creating content that loses its value after a few hours or so. All so a company can generate some revenue – social media might have been created for people to communicate but what it is now is one huge smorgasbord of promotion. Be it self-promotion or promotion of celebrities, musicians etc. In a way, regular people were essentially used as guinea pigs to test social media. We’re not the ones who really monetize the site. Nope, that’s down to worthier people.
There’s not necessarily an issue with that. People can do what they want. However, the rate at which all of this happens is exhausting. One minute we’re outraged over so-and-so’s tweet and the next, someone else has ‘won the internet’. In the middle of all of this, real, actual news falls to the wayside. People would much rather post their charming workout selfies than actually take interest in what’s happening around them. They’d rather brag about what they have or complain about what they want instead of being aware that some people barely have a roof over their heads. People would rather follow celebrities obsessively than focus on things that matter.
We seem to be living in a time where self-obsession is styled as ‘appreciating your beauty’, talking shit on the internet is us ‘having a dialogue instead of a monologue’ and obsessively stalking celebrities is ‘fans connecting with artists’. I don’t know, that all sounds like bullshit to me. The little I see of it is enough to make me lie low on the internet and lurk. Even on this blog I find myself deleting random shit that no else needs to know but me.
Admittedly, I do have Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and probably various others. I guess even this blog is a form of social media. However, I don’t use them much. I haven’t used Instagram in years. I barely log into Facebook (who think they’re slick with the impossible to find log out option. I see you, Facebook. I see you) and I am never on Tumblr. I use Twitter to keep up with sports news and a few friends but at this point, I could delete it and I wouldn’t miss it.
The one thing that frustrates me is that occasionally I feel like I’m missing out on certain things, but I always resolve that if it isn’t important enough to make the news (and sites that I do visit) or for people to tell me – I don’t need to know about it.