By Molly Freeman
Photos courtesy of CollegeDegrees360.
In 2014, there are so many social media sites that the average person would be hard-pressed to name every single one. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google Plus, Vine, Tumblr, Instagram, Foursquare (and its offshoot, Swarm), would likely initially come to mind as the most popular, but there are hundreds more out there in the wide world of the internet.
As such, social media sites have become an almost-integral part of so many lives–so integral in fact that the way so many have become wary of how social media, especially in its mobile form on smartphones, is impacting the day to day interactions of those who are “wired in”.
As someone who grew up with the rise of social media (my Myspace page still exists somewhere out there, but thankfully, my Xanga has been archived), I had a front row seat for the slow progression from no social media to being inundated with social networking websites and apps. However, while social media has its downsides, I believe it has, largely, improved social interaction for many people in three big ways.
Keeping in Touch
Although the pervasive idea may be that most people use social media as a way to substitute real world interactions, I have found that social media can be a helpful tool in maintaining relationships in which it would be otherwise impossible to communicate.
For instance, I’m not always available to talk on the phone or go visit my family, but we can keep up on each others’ lives through Facebook updates and messages. Although it isn’t direct communication, it allows me to keep up with a family member of friend’s life even if I’m too busy to talk.
Additionally, I can keep in touch with friends from high school and college much easier through Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr because we can keep up a conversation for an extended period of time. It’s much simpler to talk via social media than play phone tag or try to find a free hour in our busy schedules in which we can Skype.
Though social media allows me to keep in touch with people I already know, it can also be a great way to meet new people with shared or similar interests. Many social media sites offer an endless number of communities to join in which anyone can talk and learn about something their interests.
As an example, Tumblr is well-known for having many communities that exist within the site. There are “fandoms” for television shows, movies, books, comic books, and any other kind of media. Tumblr users can participate in these fandoms to any extent they wish–you could create an entire circle of friends through the social media site or you could simply read others’ blogs about your interests.
Every person can use social media differently and choose the way in which they wish to interact with other users. Social media simply provides the platform.
Since, in this day and age, almost everyone is on social media, it allows anyone to peer into the life of someone else. This means that many can follow their favorite celebrities—be it an actress, a writer, a movie director, an athlete, or a fashion designer–and learn even more about someone they respect.
Social media can also be used as a way to see behind the curtain of a particular industry. One trend on Twitter that began in recent years is for the writing team of a television series to have their own Twitter accounts (some shows also have an account for its directors). For the fans who want to learn more about how their favorite series is created, it provides extra insight.
While all three of these reasons to love social media have their downsides, social media has become a part of our lives, whether we like it or not. However, how much we use social media–how much we post and how much we share–is up to us. If you choose to Instagram every meal and update Twitter on your daily commute, or if you never post at all, that’s your prerogative–and that’s the greatest part aspect social media sites: they can be used however you want to use them.