How social is social media, really?

It’s easy to blow off the impact that social media has on our lives. In the past, I’ve found myself thinking that I’m not addicted, or that I could not look if I didn’t want to. I could quit social media altogether, but for practical reasons I can’t because there are so many organizations that I am a part of that rely on social media to communicate. This is the easy thing to do: to rationalize my usage. So, is social media really a necessary part of my life?

The answer is no, probably not. If someone really needed to contact me, they could reach me through e-mail, text or a good old fashioned phone call. This campus isn’t that big either: they could also just look for me in person, or drop a letter in my mailbox. Social media isn’t a necessity, but is a luxury of convenience and entertainment. After coming to this conclusion, I thought about how social media is impacting my life.

I have to say, I don’t always have the best self-control when it comes to social media. If I see a recipe on Facebook, I’ll probably share it, even though chances are more than likely that I will never even attempt to make it. Late night tweeting of song lyrics? Yup, I do that too. I Instagram too much, Snapchat things of my life that no one probably cares about, etc. Things that we’re all probably guilty of doing at some point. But besides this overzealous oversharing, I think the bigger impact on me is made by what I’m looking at. I scroll through the feeds and see other people’s lives and immediately feel inadequate. Sure, I’m happy for everyone that seems happy! But there’s also that part of me, that feels lesser about my own life and my own posts when I see how much shinier and brighter everyone else’s seem to be. And that shouldn’t be the case.

Social media is a showcase of the highlights of your life, the moments that you want everyone to see. I don’t Instagram videos of me stumbling still half-asleep on Friday mornings to class in my leggings and jean jacket, yet again. And I don’t post Facebook statuses of the days I feel insecure, insignificant or just plain exhausted. We want people to see our best sides, not the times that we’re struggling. And even with this knowledge, I still find myself feeling that familiar sensation of envy and insecurity.

This brings me to my final point: the dissolution of sincere and authentic relationships. Now, I’m not saying that social media is directly responsible for break-ups or the ending of friendships in our world today. However, I’m definitely beginning to see at least a connection between the two. Social media allows us to hold onto our pasts, and those that are in it. We see our exes and friends from years ago, and it makes us wonder how our lives would be different if they were still in them. We see other people’s relationships and lives and feel like ours could be better. Social media drives our desire for competition and to be the best. We constantly see things that we don’t have, and it makes us question the decisions we’ve made for our lives.

And then, there’s actual interaction on social media. Are these legitimate and healthy interactions? It’s so much easier to take the easy way out and talk to someone online rather than in person. We hide behind the things we say online. Flirting now is deciphered through likes and friend requests and Facebook messages. Rejection seems less scary if it’s faced behind a screen. But I also think that all of this digital interaction is making us miss out on the genuine human connection and interaction that we are all starving for. Nothing will ever replace being in the presence of another human being, and having a heartfelt conversation. Just you and another person, discussing ideas, hopes and fears, dreams for the future. Social media will only take us so far.

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