Written By. James Gappa
Since the popularity of the internet took off in the late 1990’s, the way that we interact with one another has evolved alongside technology. According to an article written by Drew Hendricks (2013), early forms of social media websites such as Six Degrees began popping up in 1997, and by 1999 blogging became a popular trend. In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched “The Facebook” as it was originally called according to an article by Sarah Phillips (2007) from The Guardian. Originally designed as website exclusively for Ivy League students to communicate, it became a worldwide sensation by 2006 when it opened up to anyone with an email address. Today, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are a significant part of people’s lives, from all age groups. However, the most popular social media sites were originally developed for College students to communicate with one another. It has been almost 15 years since the development of Facebook. How are college students using social media after all of this time?
As a young boy in middle school, I began using Facebook when its popularity was still young. Now, I am a junior in college and I still use Social Media. I am not alone either, according to an article by Riley Griffin (2015) in the Huffington Post, 98% of college students actively use social media. You don’t need percentages to understand the amount of students who log on to these websites every day. Look around, most people don’t even walk without looking at their phone nowadays. As I sit in lectures I can see students sitting in front of me sending Snapchats as the Professor teaches. Late nights in Oswego dorm halls are filled with party-ready girls and boys taking pictures with each other for Instagram. And every day I read a few tweets saying “can’t stand this professor” or “ready to drop out.” Sometimes, my opinions on the use of social media can become confusing. As someone whose future career may partially rely on the use of social media, I understand the benefits and the ways that it helps us. However, I often fear that we are too reliant on social media to provide us with the entertainment and information that we need every day.
Beyond entertainment and information, I believe people get addicted to how social media makes them feel. People become thirsty for likes, follows, or friends, and it becomes a real concern in everyday life. For example, I don’t remember the last time I went out with a bunch of friends without everyone using their phones. Often times, I’ll see tables filled with friends who aren’t even talking, they’re all staring at their screens ignoring one another. Often, I am one of those friends, sitting at that table. Staring across at my “friends” waiting for someone to make eye contact so I may break the silence. Personally, I feel as if social media has removed the significance behind small and large moments. There are 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year, and X amount of time that each of us are alive. So, often I worry that the amount of time that myself and others have used online will be regretful one day.
Before going away to college, my expectations for college life were just like many other teenagers expectations. Huge parties, making a bunch of new friends, goofing off on campus, basically the most memorable years of your life. While most of my expectations have somewhat come true, they are much less fulfilling than I had hoped. I believe this could be from the pervasiveness of social media in our interactions. One day, while sitting in an afternoon lecture for a Mass Media course, a student made a comment about college life and social media to my professor. I am unsure of the student’s name, but he had said, “Imagine how fun living here would be if we didn’t have social media at all, we would have to talk to each other.” I heard what he said, and I did imagine it.
Classic beliefs about college life don’t include how social media has affected it. Movies we grew up watching like “American Pie” didn’t have plots surrounding Facebook drama or Instagram likes. When our parents went to college, they weren’t starting new relationships by swiping left or right on Tinder. People were interacting face to face or they were hardly interacting at all. Sometimes, I wish I was able to experience this idea of inevitable face-to-face interaction. As someone who will one day need to use social media to have a fulfilling career, I recognize its own inevitability to remain in existence. However, I love nothing more than the connection and relationship human beings can have with each other, and I fear for its stability.