Long gone are the days where social media wasn’t well and truly in our lives. I remember joining Facebook in 2007. I wasn’t really sure what it was or what you used it for. I only knew that it was the “in thing” and I wanted to see what it was all about. Within a few minutes of creating my profile, I was signed up and little had I realised that my life had changed forever.
Here I am, 12 years later, checking my social media accounts when I wake, mid-morning, lunch time, mid-afternoon, before I go to bed and probably at other times too. Yes, it’s sad. Pathetic even. It’s a terrible habit that I can’t seem to fully break.
So why is Social media such an intrusion on my life? How did it get to this point? Is it a natural course of events or an unruly and unstoppable virus?
When I look back over the course of these 12 years to consider how and why I have used social media, it isn’t hard to see how it’s got to this point.
Originally, being on social media enabled me to connect with friends in a way like never before. Having profiles to snoop at and pictures to view allows us to have a different understanding of our friends. I’m not saying a better understanding, merely a different one. A friend wouldn’t necessarily text you what they are watching on tv, text you a joke that they find funny or send you a ton of pictures on text or email of their holiday whilst they are on it. With social media, whether we want it or not, that’s exactly what we get. And given we use it in this manner more than ever, it seems now more than ever, that we’re obviously interested in understanding our friends in this way. We like getting to know them better.
Or do we?
Is it not true that actually we care very little about what our friend finds funny, or what they’ve had for tea, or what they are watching on tv? It seems to me that there are 2 reasons as to why social media thrives so much.
Personal instant gratification and nosey-ness. That’s it.
We post to get instant gratification. We want to feel good about ourselves. After all, who wouldn’t feel good about themselves with a post that has a lot of likes? Whether we are watching the new raved about tv series, meet a new partner, buy a home, have a baby, get a new job, travel, we want to tell the world about it. By sharing our news on social media we know that we get likes, comments and perhaps even messages. Instant gratification in volume. Something that just wasn’t possible before social media.
For the cynics of you who are thinking “no, I love social media and seeing what my friends are up to”. Ok, I’m not denying that there is some truth in this. However, I also think it is true that we, as humans, are very curious to the point of being unhealthily nosey. We like to see what they are watching and then we either laugh or put it on our watchlist. We like to share what they find funny so we too, can be seen to be funny. We like to look at their travel snaps to get ideas of where to go, even though it can create jealousy in us. We like to compare our lives; where friends live, holiday, what they eat, what they do on a weekend. It either puts us down in the dumps about our own lives, or makes us feel pretty good about ourselves. And we love it, we thrive on it.
At the end of the day, we use social media for selfish reasons.
Including sharing pictures of babies and children. Yes, your child may be the most utterly adorable thing in the world. To you. Quite rightly so, you love your child, their mannerisms, the faces they pull, the new skills they learn. But again, all this is shared on social media for selfish reasons. We want that personal and instant gratification of sharing adorable pictures of adorable children, and to know that other people like them too.
Ultimately, what I post and share on social media is my choice. I choose what photos to put online, whether to tell the world my location, where I’ve travelled, whether to share my anger, my frustrations, my happy moments. A child does not have this choice. When you share something online of your child, whether it be about them, or of them, you are sharing an everlasting and unchangeable timestamp in history of your child, with the world. Regardless if your post is only seen or accessible by select people, it is still out there. Forever. Should a person not have a say as to whether their own life should be documented in such a way? I cringe when I see what I put online even 5 years ago, let alone 12 years ago. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if people I’d known my whole life had shared mine online. Perhaps pictures online of me in the bath as a toddler or of food around my face, or how I had a cold, or that I was “being a little shit” that day. Try to imagine, your whole life documented. There are arguable upsides to this, such as seeing pictures of ourselves with perhaps people who are no longer around, but isn’t that what a photo album is for? Do we really want to trade convenience for sharing our lives publicly?
If you are thinking that this is no biggie then I would ask you to think again. Ok, so you only have close friends and family on your social media, what’s the big deal right? Wrong!
It is no secret that what I see online is different to what you see. My social media sites has adverts plastered all over it based upon my profile, things I like, things I comment on, things I search for. Now then, what about targeted advertising towards individuals who I share something online with or about? Perhaps I share a photo at a sports stadium, me and five other people. Now these 5 other people get targeted at in specific advertising* related to sports and the like. Do you want your child, who hasn’t yet learnt their own mind, to already have their online world so predetermined for them based on your online activity? Or more so, what about the activity of others, such as family and friends, and how that affects your child in the future? Everything documented about your child online, directly or indirectly, will have an impact on their life.
Don’t get me wrong, social media does have benefits. Being the other side of the world to my family, I personally find it amazing to stay “connected” to them so easily. However, the drawbacks are still undeniable.
Insurance companies have tried to use social media in respect of using the information to provide quotes, or check the validity of a claim. Interviewers’ have checked out online profiles to see if we are the right fit for the company. The more information we post and share on social media, the more there is about us to be used in a way that will affect our lives. That fire will keep going if we keep adding fuel to it. An unprecedented amount about us is already online and having an impact on us every single day. Maybe it’s too late for us, maybe not. But it’s not too late to not document and affect the life of another without their will or consent.
* OK, so I don’t know if targeted advertising is happening in this way or not, but if it isn’t, it won’t be long until it does. Does anyone know?