1973: the year cellphones were invented. 1992: the year the first smartphone came out (the IBM Simon Personal Communicator). 2007: the year the Apple iPhone debuted. 2008: the debut of the first Google Android phone. 2011: the debut of Snapchat. 2010: the creation of Instagram. Social media is relatively new to human existence (based on what we know at least). This is a technological revolution. It is so new. Humans are attached. Attached to their phones as if it were a lifeline. The same thing happened with the invention of writing and reading. Who is to say this obsession to our phones will be long term? Who is to say it will be short term? Cellphones have only been around for 45 years.
It used to be you met someone in person and then found out the kind of person they are on social media. Now, it is the other way around. Why go through the trouble of getting to know someone when we can simply find everything we need to know about them online? Well, the answer is simple — experience.
Social media is so influential in modern society that it manifests human identity in real life.
Humans are social creatures. Don’t believe me? Isolate yourself from people for a week. I’ve spent 35 straight days in a hospital bed, away from society. I did, however, have my phone, with a plethora of social media apps downloaded. When I came back, I found it very hard to do simple things such as hold a conversation with someone.
With communication comes experience, the experience of conversation, the experience of emotions. Face-to-face communication is far more emotional than online communication (disregarding concepts such as FaceTime). When you speak to someone in person, a lot of communication is subconscious. There are elements such as body language and tone, eye contact and even silence that sometimes go unnoticed. When communicating online, people have the ability to think before they respond and avoid emotions endured in face-to-face communication. For example, sarcasm online is much harder to interpret than it is in person.
It is my belief that some people fail to balance out online communication with in-person communication. Nowadays, when there is silence, people turn to their phones. When you are in an elevator with someone, they pretend to be on their phone rather than being able to just stand there. (I’m not saying every person is “pretending” to be texting someone, but you can’t deny it happens.)
Social media is a reflection of who a person is, but in a virtually constructed reality. From a physical perspective, one can alter their appearance through photo editing, varying photo angles, etc., making it easier to hide their true appearance — but that is the outlier to this question. It is in the midst of the night when one is alone with nothing but themselves and their phone, lying in bed, scrolling through social media, liking and retweeting things one agrees with, emotions one can relate to and much more. What was once personal thought becomes public thought, revealing an abundance of information about one’s true self.
All humans are unique, but when it comes to social media, humans are uniformly similar. Twitter is an excellent example of this. Users follow accounts that align with themselves, creating a timeline of like-minded people who share similar thoughts, feelings and emotions. Maybe a user follows someone they know, but are saddened to find out who they really are, resulting in unfollowing them. People make behavioral changes through posts, retweets and likes based on what’s socially accepted on their timeline. Not only is social media forcing us to think the same, but users are also publicly expressing their thoughts, without a care for privacy.
Social media collectively creates the “norms” of modern day society. The meanings we have for ourselves, other people and objects are a social product formed through activities of people interacting. This is known as symbolic interactionism.
In modern society, social media users have access to a plethora of human interaction. When we are alone at night, using the restroom or maybe waiting in between sets at the weight room, we now have access to online social gatherings of people interacting — online. We all become a product of our society, and on networks such as Twitter and Facebook, meanings become pretty clear-cut.
This is the manifestation of the “mob mentality,” which is when people that collectively think similarly team up against an individual or individuals that believe in something different. From this, stems polarization: forcing people into groups that align with their thoughts. Eventually, rather than an agora of individual thought, people are in groups that align specifically with who they are, simplifying one’s true self to a specified group.
As social media gradually becomes our primary means of communication, humans center their lives on who they are on social media or through technology. Go to the gym and most people have headphones in. Getting lunch with friends has transitioned to people being together, but everyone is on their phones. Technology and social media is becoming so influential that people side with their phones rather than actual in-person communication. Humans are starting to value social media more than life itself.
We are able to use new technologies to manage others’ impressions of us through careful self-presentation. Getting to know someone in person is irrelevant when we can find all one needs to know about someone through their social media accounts. Whether users feel their social media accounts are accurate depictions of who they are or not, people are going to view them with the belief that, that is who they are. This encourages how people will act around other people, manifesting who a person is, both on and away from social media. Who one presents themselves as online will eventually manifest who they are in real life.
Social media is so influential in modern society that it manifests human identity in real life. Users must think thoroughly about what they post online because it is a reflection of who someone truly is. Social media is the public display of thought, emotion and identity. It has become easier to express one’s true self.
The checks and balances of face-to-face communication are being replaced by forums that make it easier for people to express what is on their mind. Social media is putting a burden on individual thought and categorizing users into group thought. Social media exposes who one truly is, opening a closed door to one’s privacy.
This article is not to discourage someone from using social media. It can be used for a lot of good, such as gathering new ideas, perspectives and much more. This article is to encourage people to gather balance in their life; too much of anything can be unhealthy.