Much like the Millennial generation, social media gets a bad reputation. Despite the fact more than 65 percent of American adults use social networking sites (Pew Research Center, 2015), people love to complain about how “social media is ruining our society” and is morphing humanity into a bunch of self-obsessed narcissists with a social content addiction.
Listening to people complain about social media is almost as frustrating as listening to people complain about the Kardashian’s – talking about it constantly only lends it more credibility and attention. Side note, hating the Kardashian’s is so 2014 – saying they’re what’s wrong with the country is an ignorant oversimplification – but I digress.
I take exception to the claim that social media is ruining us. As someone who’s about to start a social media internship at a major corporation, I feel compelled to defend social media and illustrate a few ways in which social media is actually improving our society – a lot.
It makes you more adventurous. Sometimes the phrase “Do it for the Vine” rings true. Can you think of a time you almost passed up on an opportunity, then thought, “Actually, I could get some cool photos there.” If you’re vehemently shaking your head right now and thinking, I’d never be that lame, I’d like to invite you to ANY event I’ve ever been to – because the first hour of any social event is monopolized by people snapping pictures of one another. It’s just a fact: We do cooler things now that there’s a way to document and publicize them.
It wards off complacency. While sometimes denigrated for contributing to the unhealthy habit of comparing yourself to others, social media can serve as inspiration. You may find yourself staring at a photo of your old classmate 40 pounds lighter thinking, Wow, if she can do it, so can I. In other words, it can light a fire under your butt and encourage you to make a change you might not otherwise make.
It’s way more interactive than television or film. People (specifically the Baby Boomer generation) love to complain about how young people sit around all day idly, mindlessly consuming useless information. This used to bother me, until I realized they’re probably equating social media with the same experience as watching TV – a one-way consumption of nonsense. In reality, social media is a highly interactive experience – it’s formative and growth-inducing, because you’re confronted with news, opinions and reactions in real time. Whether you realize it or not, you’re developing your own sense of judgment and consciousness when you scroll through a newsfeed.
It’s an incredibly easy way to become a global citizen. When was the last time you learned about any major current event via another platform? Social media is a great way to keep informed and current if you’re not someone who spends much time browsing CNN or The New York Times (but if you follow them on Twitter, they’ll bring the headlines to you: win-win). You can become a self-aware, global citizen without leaving the comfort of your Facebook app.
You gain insight into how others form opinions and develop a perspective of your own. Social media is a fascinating live-stream, socioeconomic case study. It allows you to see how people from different educational backgrounds, regions and ethnicities react to the same events – all in real-time. It helps you become a well-rounded individual with a diverse perspective, if you befriend enough folks online and follow a wide variety of voices on social media.
Granted, many of these benefits get shortchanged if you purposely only follow individuals who think the same way you do, but I’d discourage that. You’ll become a much more interesting individual if you can entertain different viewpoints, and social media brings the privilege of a varied perspective to your palm.
Like it or not, social content is here to stay. Its popularity has grown nearly exponentially in the past decade, and it’s projected to permeate our lives even more deeply in decades to come (hopefully in a more seamless way). Much like the Kardashian's, its existence is ensured.