Gemma Styles: Are We Ruining Social Media?

Remember the glory days when our biggest social media drama was which picture to have on your MySpace profile?Photo by Matilda Hill-Jenkins

Gemma Styles: Are We Ruining Social Media?

by Gemma Styles |
Published on

Remember when social media was essentially just MySpace and the most important decision to make was which song you’d have on your profile? Those were the glory days. Whiling away the hours learning some cursory html (thanks for encouraging a generation of amateur coders, MySpace Tom), the most drama seemed to be based upon who made it into your top friends… or what order they went in.

These days, social media is a lot more complicated to navigate, in both your close personal relationships and with the general public who are swimming around in cyber space with you. Our public persona is judged a lot more widely thanks to sites like Twitter, and it’s almost impossible to completely erase an indiscretion thanks to the joy of screenshots. You will need reflexes quicker than Spiderman to remove something before anyone sees it. Living in this culture, which requires perfection, using social media can actually become very stressful.

This has never been more apparent than in recent times, where political turmoil in particular has been saturating our feeds and bringing a serious shadow across the meadows of likes and friend requests in which we used to frolic. Brexit divided the nation, and this was played out as much in our Facebook timelines as IRL. And newspapers responded with increasingly hysterical (and unhelpful) click-bait headlines as they jostled for our attention on the platform.

Fast forward to now and it’s the US presidential election that has us up in arms. I can barely scroll through any kind of social platform now without gritting my teeth in terrified exasperation at the thought of Trump winning – a butthole in a wig, who has a tendency to throw temper tantrums, is not the person who should have access to the big red launch buttons. It used to be that you’d go online to see what your friends had been up to, perusing pictures of other people’s nights out and finding out who from your high school had become unlikely couples since you left. Now, you’re more likely to find out what they think about policy reforms than which Spice Girl they would be based on their answer to five simple questions!

The benefit is obvious. Forewarned is forearmed, and generally speaking, the more informed we are, the better. But who decides what information is the right information? Who’s checking the facts? And how do we filter it out when we just want to like pictures of our friend’s cats? Because sometimes that’s all we want to do at 10AM on a Saturday morning, and that’s ok too.

Social media is a hugely powerful phenomenon that has embedded in society to the point that it punctuates our everyday lives without us even noticing. I maintain that voicing opinions and sharing information is an important part of this. We, as people, are more than the sum of our selfie likes – sharing our thoughts on things that matter to us is how we communicate. It’s just… it’s getting kind of exhausting.

There are huge, momentous problems in the world right now, and we all know that. But that doesn’t mean the tiny, inconsequential things that happen in your life or those of your friends don’t deserve some headspace too.

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Follow Gemma on Twitter @GemmaAnneStyles

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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