Social media is the beast we all hate to love and love to hate, myself included; it’s great for keeping in touch with friends and family back home and for staying up to date with people I don’t get to see every day, but I also feel like I spend more time online than I should, and a lot of what I see posted is unnecessary. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, Pinterest…the list goes on for what seems like a millennia. These platforms have become soundboards for individuals to share every detail of their life with the online world, and in all honesty I don’t always care what a classmate from high school ate for lunch, what new DIY craft project my coworker wants to try next, or the funny face my friend wants to send me on Snapchat when I’m busy.
I’ll admit, I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn (although I draw the line at Vine and Snapchat for now). I mostly use my smartphone when I visit these sites because it’s mobile and always nearby, but I also use my laptop and tablet on occasion. Recently I’ve realized that I spend a lot less time on social media than I used to, but I still use it more than I actually need to. I gave it some serious thought: per week, I probably spend between one and five hours on these sites cumulatively (depending on how much homework, work, and fun I’ve got going on at the moment). Twitter and Instagram are usually the sites I check most, and I usually just check in on my phone for a few minutes multiple times throughout the day, but I can get sucked into Pinterest for a long time when I’m on my laptop…there are way too many gorgeous homes, delicious recipes, and clothes I wish were in my closet peppered on the site.
Reflecting on my social media use both past and present, I would say that for the most part I’m a participant because I use social media to stay in touch with my family in New York and my friends, since we’re now spread around the country. I can update my Facebook or post a picture to Instagram and it lets people know what I’m up to when I don’t have time to call or Skype with them. I’m a bit ashamed to say it, but I use social media to keep in contact the most because it’s so efficient – and I hate talking on the phone. I would even say to a certain extent, that I’ve become a spectator on Facebook because I go on to check my newsfeed and see what other people are doing, but I don’t post very frequently anymore.
In placing my relationship with social media under a magnifying glass, I gave some thought to my social media ethos. Overall, I would say my ethos changes from platform to platform. I use Twitter and Instagram for quick blips and updates about what I’m currently doing, whereas I use Facebook less frequently for bigger life events; I don’t believe Facebook should be used to update your friends every five minutes because there are other platforms designed for brief and frequent updates (á la Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and a million other platforms that I’m sure are out there). It seems that the lines between different platforms are becoming blurred because one can link platforms and post on multiple sites simultaneously. This interactivity seems to have created some confusion about what kinds of posts each platform is designed for; LinkedIn is for networking and job related news postings, whereas Instagram and Twitter are meant to be free flowing and in the moment, and Facebook is meant to connect your real world communities online to keep people updated.
Social media definitely has it’s benefits and it’s drawbacks, and I think it will only become a more prevalent and powerful force as time goes on, especially when users identify the right platform for their desired goal.