KYRA LYONS ’20
Throughout history, new technology has created a barrier between the old and young. The former almost always express their disdain for the new technology, explaining how it is ruining the human experience for the latter. There are always naysayers when new technology crops up and defines a generation. Older folks in the 1950s said that rock and roll was melting the brains of the youth, and in the ‘20s the older generation just knew that the younger generations’ morals were being destroyed by jazz and swing. When radio was the main form of entertainment, parents lamented their children planted in front of the set, listening to their favorite program. Lord knows my mother rues the day SpongeBob first aired; she never lets me forget that SpongeBob was the first show that left me and my siblings glued to the screen like zombies. As I was growing up, computer games emerged as a new technology, along with iPods and new “social” media platforms.
I can clearly recall discussing MySpace profiles in 7th grade history before the bell rang. What songs my friends chose to play on their profile, how the camera on their flip phone took better pictures than their old phone, what to post next, etc. The majority of my middle school “hang outs” consisted of watching the latest Charlieissocoollike video, choreographing dances to the latest Lady Gaga music video, or being creeped out by the video series Salad Fingers on the new video platform YouTube. This online activity was done with major disapproval from my parents, who truly believed that my young mind would be ruined by the deep dark depths of the internet. If only they could have seen what was coming, the absolute takeover of social media and the smartphone.
As rock and roll was to the older generation in the ‘50s and Spongebob was to my mother in the early 2000s, social media has been deemed the crux of our generation. Everyone has experienced the social media slump where you find yourself switching between three or four social media apps, desperately searching for something new with which you can entertain yourself. In addition to entertainment, social media provides an opportunity to create a new version of yourself. Social media like Instagram allows you to curate the best moments to portray from your life. Twitter provides a platform for unfiltered thoughts and opinions. Snapchat allows you to post snapshots of your day and directly communicate with friends. Facebook lets your distant relatives know you still exist with the once-every-few-months announcements. With all these opportunities to create separate versions of yourself online, your true self can often get lost in translation… even from yourself.
It’s no secret that people use different social media platforms for different reasons and to project different versions of themselves into the world. Even Instagram can portray two different versions of a person with a “rinsta” versus a “finsta;” he perfect, adventuresome self versus the relatable, everyday self. When I got curious and created a poll on Instagram asking whether social media was good or bad, most respondents said that social media was bad (n=11, 55%). This makes it seem as though users of social media KNOW it’s bad and fosters ultimately false projections of people, and yet they still choose to scroll. Twitter, on the other hand, is more unfiltered and is a news source for many people. When I launched the same poll on Twitter, the majority of people said social media was an advantage to our generation (n=13, 72%). Perhaps this is why the debate surrounding social media is so complex, the term “social media” encompasses platforms that provide much different outcomes to people.
It’s left to us to decide, is social media worth it? Does it enhance our understanding of the world or does it simply provide a shortcut to anxiety and depression, as so many scholars say? Personally, I’ve attempted and failed several times to give up social media, but I always end up persuading myself that I am better off with it than without it. Ultimately, we get to choose whether this aspect of our lives is an advantage or a disadvantage. We can let the bad aspects of social media define our generation, or we can use it, as many already have, to create a positive change in the world.