So here’s the thing: I am a digital marketer by day.
And I enjoy it. A huge chunk of my role is centered around creating engaging content for online channels. It makes me happy when I see people have read my blogs, shared my posts, engaged with my questions. Likes, shares, impressions, and followers – professionally, social media is a language I speak well.
But here’s another thing…
By night – crickets be cricketing and tumbleweeds be tumbling, because my personal social media use has always been relatively limited.
It’s not that I have no interest in what makes something shareable or likeable, or what it takes to be engaging online. I have bucket loads of interest. It is part of my job to nuture the online presence of a business, so I kind of have to pay attention to that kind of thing. It’s just I don’t feel any need to constantly let people know what I’m up to, where I am or where I’m going.
Don’t get me wrong, social media has so much power for good when used effectively. It’s fundamentally good in that it brings opinion to the mainstream, and gives us the opportunity to connect with people from across the world. Provided net neutrality reigns and search engine rankings remain dependent on usefulness, then it can continue to be a force in pushing a more social capitalism.
Social media does a great job of giving a voice to the Average Joe, but it’s also home to the permanently offended and outraged. You know the people I’m talking about. The ones who will unpick everything you say and twist it into something it’s not. You can’t publish anything without their outrage bubbling at the surface. Outrage thrives on social media, because it allows you to create a vacuum of acceptable opinion. You can create a bubble of thought that matches your own and never come into contact with an opposing viewpoint. Therefore when you are confronted with someone who disagrees with you, it’s the most terrible thing in the world and they must be crushed at all costs. It’s not good to be closed away in this manner. All it does is make you see the world and its problems in black and white – when most people should know that it’s mostly different shades of grey.
Then there’s the worst of the worst…mobbing.
Mob culture is one of the worst products of the internet – and social media is rife with it. Nothing makes me more paranoid at work than when I receive a snarky comment on one of my social media posts, because it can so easily spiral into a PR nightmare if not responded to correctly. Even worse than PR blunders; if there is one thing that keeps me away from social media outside of work, it’s the mobbing of innocent people who have just made a silly mistake or insensitive comment. Honestly, it’s terrifying. People can be shit and say shit things, but we’re all human and we don’t deserve to be punished for the rest of our lives. Especially for something as inconsequential as a tweet.
Give us ya money data!
There’s also the point that social media channels are businesses at the end of the day: the objective is to gain your trust so that you behave in commercially useful ways. In other words, you give up more and more of your privacy and share more information about yourself online, and they will then use this data to help other businesses sell you stuff online. The business plans of social media organisations are to essentially push themselves as far into our lives as they can. Mainstream use means they can comfortably cross privacy boundaries with little consequence. It can be quite insidious really.
I don’t think our generation is given enough credit.
We are the first generation to have grown up with the fruits of technological advancement, but it comes at a price. Our reliance and mainstream usage of social media is quite weird and intense, if you think about it. Can older generations say they’ve livestreamed the birth of their child? Everything we do is digitally recorded these days, and that’s intense. Twenty years ago if you made a mistake you might have written it down in your diary to laugh over later. Nowadays the incident will have been uploaded to snapchat within seconds, for the whole world to see. Everything you do online contributes to your digital footprint, and your trail cannot be erased once it’s been set. Your posts are up for public consumption forever, and mistakes often published permanently. In what ways things you’ve said and done might come back to haunt you in later life I don’t like to think about.
And finally, let’s not forget the undeniable fact…
Extensive social media use makes us feel sad, lonely and inadequate. It’s a well-studied and documented fact. It feeds into feelings of insecurity and inadequacy because users can create an illusion of a perfect life. I know that, in my loneliest hours, scrolling through Facebook to see everyone else spending their nights with their friends and lovers and family made me feel like life just wasn’t worth it.
But we forget that we’re only seeing what each person wants us to see. It’s not a realistic depiction of what our lives are really like. Behind the hashtags and the timelines and the emojis – social media isn’t good for us. At all. Some of us spend so much time perfecting our online lives that we neglect our real ones – I don’t wan’t be one of them.