Time well spent?

Social media shares a curated existence

Illustration by Scott A. Ford

What is social media for? 

Really, stop and think about it. Are you on Facebook because you need a daily dose of catch-up with folks from high school? Are you on Instagram because you have an insatiable appetite for selfies and those bird’s-eye-view shots of latte art? Why are you on Snapchat? Pinterest? Twitter? 

The discussion of whether or not social media is good for us is not a new discussion. It falls within a tradition of being skeptical about new modes of communication and technological progress. There were people who fervently decried the television, the telegraph, and the printing press. Some of the brightest minds of the day even warned against the implementation of the alphabet. 

Despite the resistance, and regardless of its merits, those inventions squeaked their way into cultural prominence and have fundamentally transformed the ways we communicate. The brightest minds of our day say that social media is another step in a major communication shift. 

According to recent statistics from Pew Research Center, 90 per cent of the 18 to 29 year-old demographic use social media. 

Sources differ drastically in their approximations of how much time per day is spent on social media. Global Web Index, with one of the most modest approximations, indicates that 1.72 hours is dedicated to social media each day. If that number holds true for all 365 days a year, that means over just over 26 days of your year are spent, from start to finish, in the land of hashtags, followers, and regrams. 

But is it time well spent? 

The problem is, most people probably don’t even realize how much of their lives they’re giving over to social media. They find themselves halfway through a news feed, feeling a little disoriented, without any recollection of opening the app and beginning to scroll. They find themselves at 1:30 in the morning in an online vortex, looking at photos of their ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s sister’s Instagrammed coffee. 

It’s a way to fill time, but there’s a point where it kills time altogether, mutilating the opportunity to do something, anything else. 

Social media isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s important to put thought into how you’re using it. It’s easy to get sucked into the social media sphere, the world that’s dictated by instant gratification à la ‘likes’. 

All of a sudden, your reality shifts to this fictitious realm where everyone looks more attractive, appears more popular, and seems to be a whole hell of a lot more happy than you are. 

But that isn’t real life. It’s a completely curated version of existence. 

Social media is an incredible way to mobilize information, as any aspiring artist will tell you. It’s an excellent tool to invite people to your band’s show, to promote the play you’re starring in, to share your photo essay, or to spread the word about your new article in The Uniter. But take the time to assess how much of your life is a social media life, and whether or not that’s a chunk of time you’re comfortable with. 

Shanae’s mind is split in two about her social media presence. She also writes at www. shanaeblaq.com.

Published in Volume 70, Number 17 of The Uniter (January 28, 2016)

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