Social media is changing our culture


Justin Cross/The Cougar

I arrive to class 10 minutes early, sit in the seat that I have laid claim to all semester and pull out my phone.

Immediately, I scroll through posts across various social media platforms from friends, family and people I haven’t seen since high school. As my mindless scrolling comes to an end I look up and realize something: everyone else in the lecture hall is doing the exact same thing.

Far too often I find myself opening my plethora of social media apps to simply fill the uncomfortable void that comes with silence. I start with Twitter, move through Instagram, check Facebook and then return to Twitter to catch up on what I missed in the five minutes.

My thumb has memorized the routine.

I can’t help but wonder what this class would look like if we could rewind 20 years. Would we be having actual conversations, perhaps?

Over the last decade, social media use has skyrocketed. Now, we not only have to maintain our real lives, but our virtual ones, too. We rely on these sights in an unimaginable way, but I wonder if our reliance is actually necessary.

CNN Money reported last week that social media giant Twitter lost 2 million users in the last quarter of 2015, and stock shares plummeted to 12 percent.

Apparently, a small fraction of people are gravitating away from Twitter and maybe even from social media in general.

“It’s important to put these numbers in perspective,” news and social media professor Cyrus Saatsaz said. “They still have over 300 million users, which is close to the size of the United States.”

Although the situation does not look promising for the stockholders of Twitter, the drop in users is minuscule in comparison to the total amount of active users.

Social media has revolutionized the way we get news, track cultural change and keep up with old friends. It allows us to stay up to date with what is happening in the world and our community like never before.

“Instagram (is my favorite) because a picture says a thousand words, and it’s really easy to stay up to date with people’s lives by just a glance at a picture,” public relations freshman Elise Tobias said. “The biggest con would be that it’s more observation than communication.”

Physical photo albums are a thing of the past. Without sites like Instagram, many people would have no way to revisit some of their favorite memories. One day we may sit down with our children and show them our Instagram account just as our parents pestered us with photo albums from their college years.

“Social media is here to stay,” Saatsaz said. “There could be a ‘next big thing’ in terms of innovation, technological advancement, but in terms of individuals having an online presence to engage with others and absorb knowledge, that’s never going to go away.”

Although “social” by name, that these sites are actually making us far more anti-social. In attempts to one-up each other, we use social media to show our friends what we are doing and what they are not. What started as social networks has turned into machines of comparison.

I fear that we are so consumed by our virtual life that we are missing the real life that may be wasting away right in front of our eyes. It would be a shame to get to the end of our time on earth only to realize we spent years of it staring at a little screen.

My hope is that moving forward we will become more conscious of the time we are spending on social media and that we will learn to truly appreciate the people around us.

Opinion columnist Reagan Earnst is a print journalism junior and may be reached at [email protected]

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