Social Media in an Age of Awareness

“Why use Social Media? Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.” – Seth Godin

Karen* (name changed), sat at her computer scrolling through her Facebook feed and watching Netflix when she started to see a similarity between the pixelated world of her favourite TV Show, and the pixelated world of her Facebook feed. She began to question how real social media is, and how much of it is a self-directed version of our own TV shows.  When talking with Karen, she says:

“I first started using Facebook in 2010. I remember this very specifically because it was the first time my mother told me that she thought I was responsible enough to handle myself with social media. I was thrilled, of course, because it meant sharing and connecting with friends. We used Facebook as a sort of photo hub, posting pictures of our daily shenanigans and tagging one another. I came to use Facebook as an interactive photo album. This, of course, and the games. Now that I’m in university, Facebook remained an important tool to help me communicate with my old high school friends. I now live far from home, so the possibility of communication that Facebook offered was very important for me. However, over time I realized that Facebook was becoming less and less about photo sharing and playing games with friends. As I grew older, I like to think that I gained more perspective and maturity. I no longer had the time to partake in games like Farmville. I noticed something problematic from the get go, specifically with the games.”

“The majority of online and mobile games are now heavily time-based, requiring you to wait extended periods of time before you can make your next move. But of course, there are ways around this. You can pay money to buy turns. As a fifteen year old in 2010, I didn’t exactly have much to spend on these games and quickly became disinterested. That was one aspect of Facebook that quickly turned me off. I’ve noticed that my Facebook feed as progressively become littered with advertisements. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Facebook is just another business that relies on ad revenue in order to generate profit. But in my opinion, it only ads to the clutter, to the noise of social media. I see more advertisements and click bait links than I do of the latest happenings of my friends. And what I’ve noticed is that even contributions from my friends are ill thought out and only adds to the clutter. Facebook, in my opinion, is just a messy stream of consciousness that I’m drowning in. From people telling me to click on a link because it will somehow save animals to the latest Buzzfeed survey on which Disney princess I am, Facebook has become a hub of uneducated, ill researched, and quite frankly unimportant content. People change their profile picture selfies frequently, desperately fishing for more likes, for more online validation. People post more pictures of themselves partying, in what I have noticed has become a repetitive stencil of duck lips, hands on hips, “laughing” at each other candidly as the picture is taken.”

“These kinds of pictures eventually become duplicates of one another, nothing to contribute, lacking substance and meaning. They become another “look at me and how happy I am with my life.” A boast. But what I wonder is if these are truly genuine feelings. I have to admit, though, that these images of partying lifestyles and all smiles had me questioning my own confidence and place in life. Why were all my friends so happy? All the time? Wearing new clothing that I could never afford, with time that I never seemed to have. One of the reasons I stepped away from Facebook was because it started to have a negative impact on my life. I started comparing myself against everyone else, increasingly getting frustrated with what little I had in comparison to what they flaunted. I found that Facebook was becoming toxic. I began to unfollow many people, feeling that they did not contribute to conversations and reflection. In the end, I just had to leave. I didn’t want to be a part of a network that made me feel like I wasn’t aspiring to be my best.”

“Now, perhaps this was on me. My confidence issues are clearly my own, people would say. I shouldn’t blame others for how I feel. But it’s hard to feel good about yourself when people openly flaunt their excess on social media. I put off leaving from Facebook because I thought, “What if somebody needs to contact me?” I realized that if people really did care, they’d call or text me. I didn’t need to give the occasional like to photos to remind people that I was alive. And that was when I realized that Facebook was no longer the social media that I had once believed it to be. There was nothing social about it anymore. My decision to leave Facebook lasted almost a year, and I’m glad I took the time away. It gave me time to reflect on what I truly wanted without comparing my success to somebody else’s. Taking the time away helped me recognize truly who my friends were, and those who didn’t even notice my absence.”

Perhaps leaving was for the best. We are a generation that is engaging with social media and the implications of dealing with it, for the first time in history. Only time will tell how to changes our self perceptions, and the way that we perceive others.

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I think of all the social platforms that have grown in popularity in recent years, Facebook in particular has begun to lose sight of it’s original intention, and has given way to be just about money.

Looking at my feed, it’s actually kind of rare that I see an actual written status from a human being. Almost everything is an image of some sort – a meme, an advert, or something similar. I totally get what you mean by a “messy stream of consciousness”. Not all are as bad – I rather like LinkedIn for business at least.