Social Media: The good, the bad and the ugly

Social media has changed a huge amount in the 20 or so years it’s been in our world.   It’s used for around the world and can be good, bad and downright ugly.

I suppose the first social networking site I used was Friends Reunited where you could find your old schools and colleges, add yourself to the list of students from the year you were there and write a bit about how amazing your life is now.  If I remember rightly you could then pay to talk directly with other class mates.  The thing was that I didn’t particularly like school.  I wasn’t unpopular and I wasn’t in the ‘cool gang’. I had a handful of friends and sort of floated through school life being average at everything, possibly without many people even realising I was there at all.  I can’t imagine I made a big impact on anyone so, although it was fun at first to find out what everyone went on to do after leaving school, it wasn’t overly exciting.

Then it all changed

Along came MySpace!  The all singing all dancing new world where you could customise everything, add a splash of personality, images, videos, songs and loads of things as well as have conversations with old friends – all for free!  (by the way – have you seen MySpace recently?  I just visited and it now looks completely different – that threw me!) Now everywhere you look there is a new form of Social Media popping up.  Everyone wants to be in on the action.  There’s always a new way for people to brag about how great their lives are keep in touch with friends and share interesting, educational, funny, political and heart-warming content.  There’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, YouTube and so much more.  It’s almost impossible to keep up and it all just means that we’re spending minutes, hours, days and weeks of our lives with our faces in our phones rather than picking up the phone or getting out and spending time with the people around us.

I hold my hands up.  I’m guilty of this too.  It’s easy to get lost in this social media world, but are we actually being social?  I suppose there are arguments from all sides.  One of the first things I do in the morning (after I’ve snoozed my alarm countless times) is grab my phone and check all my social media accounts.  Then I check my work email.  All before I shower and dress. Why the hell do I do that?  Every morning, on one of these platforms I visit, I will always see something which irritates me.  Yes, I do see the funny things too and it’s nice to see updates from my closest friends (although usually, I wake up to a stream of WhatsApp messages from them) but why on earth do I feel the need to start my day this way?

 

Social media is a funny thing

We use it when watching TV and doing other things because it’s so accessible through our phones.

It’s put my back in touch with people I’d lost contact with.  I’m a nosy bugger and I love having a poke around like I do when I walk past a house with the lights on and curtains open.  I might as well just walk into people’s houses and sit down with them for dinner I gleg that much – but Facebook and the other channels allow you to ‘walk’ into people’s lives much easier.  It can be a dangerous place when you open yourself up to the world and I don’t think a lot of people consider that.  Every day there are adverts from companies wanting you to buy stuff or sign up to things.  They get your personal details and re-market to you.  They can target you directly because you once looked at a certain pair of trainers or liked a particular page.

That said, I’ve learnt a lot from things I’ve seen through social media and I’ve laughed at silly stuff.  I’ve donated to charity to support friends and they’ve donated to my causes.  I’ve found recipes and discovered events that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.  I attended a huge reunion and caught up with some very good old friends which had been organised online.  None of this would have been possible without social media.  However, it’s also caused upset and stress.

I’ve thought about having a complete social media detox in the past.  Deleting all the apps and escaping from it all.  However, I run all social media channels for 3 organisations as part of my day job so I can’t ever completely escape.  And do I want to?  I’m not honestly sure.  The nature of my work can be quite emotive and opinions are often explicitly expressed with little apparent thought and recognition of the fact that behind all these platforms, there is a person.  A human being.  Someone that works bloody hard to juggle everything.  A person who might have other stresses going on.  A human being who is having their strength, emotion and professionalism put to the test.  Someone who knows that everything they write in response to negativity, they are being tripped up and judged and can’t win when some comments are made.

Social media really can be good, bad and ugly

There is a place for it all but I do wonder where it’s all going.  What will our online lives and habits be like in the next 20 years?  I wonder if social media will be so prominentt in our lives or if there will be some other trend for us to obsess over.

Writing this makes me think of the ‘Choose Life’ monologue from the new T2 Trainspotting 2 film.

So I’ll leave you now with the words from the T2 Trainspotting 2 monologue and ask you all to remember this:  Everyone is fighting a battle that you know nothing about and you never know how your words may impact others so please – always be kind.

Choose Life

“Choose life
Choose Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and hope that someone, somewhere cares
Choose looking up old flames, wishing you’d done it all differently
And choose watching history repeat itself
Choose your future
Choose reality TV, slut shaming, revenge porn
Choose a zero hour contract, a two hour journey to work
And choose the same for your kids, only worse, and smother the pain with an unknown dose of an unknown drug made in somebody’s kitchen
And then… take a deep breath
You’re an addict, so be addicted
Just be addicted to something else
Choose the ones you love
Choose your future
Choose life”
inside-wendys-world

 

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