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The Impact of Social Media on Our Lives
Can you imagine what life was like before Facebook? If you're in your late twenties to early thirties like me, you probably can because it wasn't too long ago. Just ten years ago, social media didn't have the impact that it does on our lives today. Go back fifteen years ago and it wasn't even a thing. Times have surely changed because now social media is a huge part of our lives everyday if we let it. When faced with the choice whether to share our lives or maintain our privacy, what will we choose?
My first taste of social media would probably be AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). I don't know if that counts, but that's the first thing I used to communicate with my friends besides an actual phone. It was the summer after eight grade and it was the coolest thing around. We had awesome buddy icons and away messages. We could also fill out our profiles with quotes and lyrics. We also had the option to change our font and background colors so we felt like we had many choices. There was also the classic door closing and opening sound when a buddy on our list signed off or on. That was the Facebook of our time. Pretty much everybody had AIM. You logged on everyday after school and on the weekends to talk to friends. It was different from Facebook though because you didn't have a relationship status and you couldn't post photos or comment on someone else's wall. It was more private. You just chatted one on one with a friend like you would text message today. Sure you could have group chats but those were rare. It was a simpler time when it was enough to just have a few good friends to talk to. No one besides you knew how many friends were on your buddy list and it didn't really matter. It was just a fun little way to stay in touch.
Myspace was the next cool thing on the social media scene. Even though it started in 2003, I didn't get mine until 2006 when I was a junior in high school. I remember being reluctant to have a Myspace page, but my friends talked me into it. I didn't want to be out of the loop so I got one and my life was never the same again. Myspace was very similar to Facebook. You could share photos and people could write comments on your page. You also had the famous top 8 where you could rank your friends according to who was closest to you. I remember that causing a lot of issues with people in school. It's a little funny now to think back about the things we thought mattered back then. But it was high school and it seemed like the most important thing in the world.
Myspace didn't have the addicting quality of Facebook though. It was enough to just log in once a day and see if you got any messages. Myspace was also my introduction into cyber bullying. The first time I ever got cyber bullied was on Myspace so that tainted my experience. I remember deleting my Myspace account after that incident and the freedom I felt at being discounted from everyone and how wonderful that was. Of course that only lasted three weeks and afterwards I made a new Myspace account as a way to "start over" and move on. By 2009, Myspace slowly started to slip away and I eventually deleted my account completely and never looked back. It was now the age of Facebook for me.
I remember the day I got Facebook. Again, I was late to the game. Facebook had existed since 2004, but I only got on the Facebook train in 2009. I don't feel like I missed too much though. At first, I was just getting used to how everything worked. You could like and comment on someone's status and photos and they could do the same to you. People wrote their birthdays and relationships status so you could see who was single and who wasn't. There were also games you could play which I really enjoyed at the time. I didn't post much at first because I was still figuring out how things worked. I just added people I knew from work and school and that's how I got hundreds of "friends." It seemed pretty straight forward and not such a big deal at the time. I didn't really see how it was much different from its predecessor, Myspace. That would soon change.
If you're an active Facebook user at all, you know exactly how it can suck you in. Your intention may be to spend a hour just seeing what you're friends are up to but then you look up at the clock and it's been three and you don't know what happened. Facebook has that addicting drug-like quality. You can spend so much time clicking on profiles, one after the other, and not even notice where the time has gone. Suddenly, you know all types of information like who your ex-boyfriend is dating and exactly what type of dog she has. Seemingly useless information that you don't really need to know, but since it's right there you might as well just look right?
Facebook can be great for keeping in touch with friends and supporting your favorite businesses, but there's a darker side that you have to be aware of. There is such a thing as too much information. Facebook doesn't really let you go after you have a breakup with a boyfriend or husband. It doesn't let you move on. Suddenly, your relationship status has to change and everyone will know, all 500 of your friends and yes that includes your old high teacher who probably doesn't even remember you. Facebook makes you break up with your significant in front of an audience. I always notice how girls always post tons of photos of themselves after a breakup smiling and saying how much they enjoy the single life. Just trying to prove that they're okay. Well, if you were really okay you would be out there living your life instead of posting photos to prove to your ex that you're better off without him. Yes that's right now that you're not together anymore, your ex is still your friend on Facebook. What is the protocol for that? Do you just be a jerk and remove him or do you keep him as a friend and have to watch how he lives his life after you? Facebook makes moving on that much harder. And yes there's also those On This Day reminders. So you can go on a journey down memory lane and see how much fun you had with your ex on this day a year ago? Isn't social media awesome?
Are you on Facebook?
There's also the issue of safety when it comes to Facebook. People post so much personal details about their life that's it puts their family at risk. For example, posting that you will be on vacation on those specific dates just invites anyone who wants to break in and steal your stuff because they'll know you won't be around to stop them. There's tons of stories of people getting robbed while they were on vacation because they posted too much on social media. There's also parents posting photos of their children in front of their schools on the first day. Yes, that means anyone on the internet will know the exact location of your bundle of joy for the next calendar year. That includes child predators, rapists, and whoever else enjoys the company of young children for malicious reasons. Don't trust those privacy settings on Facebook either. Anyone who knows their way around a computer knows how to get around them.
Putting all other issues aside, the whole idea of sharing everything about your life with virtual strangers or so called friends is kind of weird and comical. For some reason, it's now popular to post photos of you with a group of friends when you go out to eat. Back in the way, it was enough to just go out to dinner and enjoy the company of your friends and have a good time. Now, it's essential to share it with your Facebook friends as well because they need "pics or it didn't happen." It's vitally important that they know where you went to eat and exactly who it was with. Without that knowledge, their day is just not complete. I always have a little chuckle when I get to those posts. It's like why? The people who went out to eat already know because you were there with them. Everybody else on Facebook probably doesn't care that much, yet you felt the need to show everyone where you were? Why exactly? The exception to this is if you were in a cafe in Paris overlooking the Eiffel Tower. Then I might understand your need to share it on social media because it's a rare and special occasion. But if it's the diner down the street that everyone goes to everyday, I guess I just don't see the significance. Maybe if you just want to rub it in everyone's face that you're eating at Applebee's and they're having a homecooked meal made by Mom. But really, aren't they the winner in that situation anyways?
Facebook is like that one guy that you just can't quit. You know he's bad for you but you just can't give up on him. When you're with him you know you're wasting your time but so be it. You might break up for a week, but you always find yourself pulled back in. He has that addicting quality that you just can't resist. This year I have tried quitting Facebook on multiple occasions. The first time I only lasted a couple of days. The next time it was a week so I am getting better. I am confident that one day I will quit for good and never go back, but I am just not that strong yet. For now, I have set guidelines for myself that I intend to follow. No more than an hour a day on Facebook. No checking it as soon as I wake up. I only try to log on once a day in the evening on my computer. No posting status about where I am or what I am doing. If I just have to share, I do it after I am already home. I also try to keep my relationship personal and private. I'm not going to share a photo with a significant other until I know it's serious and real. I don't need anyone keeping track of who I'm dating at any given time. I would like to remain an enigma for as long as I can and not even Facebook can change that.
Which is your favorite social media platform?
Look What You Made Me Do by Taylor Swift
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