by Kristina Tauber, Public Communications/CDAE major at the University of Vermont.
Everywhere we look we see social media. From little siblings to grandmothers, everyone seems to have joined the craze of sharing your life on the internet. The coffee shop you go to asks you to ‘like’ their Facebook page, and the question of “how can I get more followers?” is pressing and present across all generations. But, what about those that do NOT use social media, those who have had brushes with the craze and choose to ignore the obsession? Vogue calls these people “renegades”, stating that these “abstainers” have found their lives to be much happier and less dependent on the validation of others (Ruiz, 2015). Thought Catalog discusses reasons that social media changes your brain, and asks the question “Do we have the kind of self-awareness and discipline to know when we’re seeking validation more than we’re just posting a fun series of pictures?”(Wiest, 2017). Other people have said they receive negative backlash from friends and family when making the decision to leave social media or avoid it all together. Are those that have dodged the social media movement brilliant or foolish?
According to statista.com, 2.46 billion people worldwide use at least one form of social media, citing the most popular social network to be Facebook (Gordon, 2017). Social media sites are used for many different reasons. Businesses take to the social web to market their products and services while people create personal accounts to stay connected with friends and family. People have made careers out of posting pictures and stories of their lives on social media and understanding how to influence a follower base. The extent to which social media has been rooted into our minds leaves many people questioning if it is doing more harm than good. The comparisons people draw between their own lives and those they see on social media can at times be agonizing and lead people to think they need to live in a certain way in order to be as happy as those they see in the pictures. On the contrary, there are people who believe you must be on social media. They believe social media enhances your life in many aspects including personally and professionally. Where many of these stories and opinions intersect is at the idea that it is important to understand what you are putting on the internet and what you are getting out of it. It is always important to personally and professionally have a purpose for existing on any social media channel. It is also important to understand how the content you are sharing will affect you and those around you. Finally, it is crucial to understand the impression being present on social media leaves on you, and if you are utilizing social media in a healthy way.
Those who do not participate in social media are in the minority. An article by Vogue states that “there are implications that not having a social media presence makes you in some way unsavory” (Ruiz, 2015). It appears that 21st century social media users want to meet other users who put their lives out there for the world to see, thinking it makes them more trustworthy. Vogue also examined those that choose to abstain from social media – asking why? Many of these people state that they prefer to have face-to-face connections with others and stay connected with friends via phone calls and texts rather than waste their time communicating with people they haven’t seen in years. Udemy.com disagrees with those opinions, saying social media use is important because “you can easily catch up with friends with their statuses, photos and videos they post. And social media is not just important for your personal life, it is also a great tool for businesses or anyone trying to develop their professional network or look for a job” (Udemy, 2017). Studies also examine how some people find the need to overshare on social media which can lead to negative effects in work and school life when and if the oversharing exposes them doing illegal or inappropriate behavior. Understanding the effect that social media has on you and your future is essential for all of us deciding to positively engage, in order for the sites to have a positive influence on individuals.