A commentary and open letter on the prevalence and shaming of social media, and why it’s a timepiece of our culture.
It’s only human nature to see something, whether it’s a commonality or a rarity, and form an opinion about it. In fact, I’m doing it right now. From those opinions, discussions are held and actions are taken, resulting in a reaction that can be either positive or negative. This cycle can be found in all that we entangle ourselves within our daily lives.
Surely you have an opinion on the driver who makes a snappy turn without using the turn signal. And same goes for the woman wearing a full face of makeup at the gym. And the twenty-something year old that uses one too many hashtags on Instagram. It’s only natural to have the inner dialogue that decides what’s—for example—weird, excessive, or even really impressive, sometimes creating a sort of envy towards that person. It’s exactly what it seems, the doings of human nature.
This morning I decided to do a little research on the hotel I’m staying at during my stay in Cabo San Lucas. The reviews were typical for an Oceanside hotel: infinity pool, friendly staff, fantastic guacamole, Instagram is blocked, beautiful—hold on. I skimmed the last sentence again to make sure I hadn’t misread it, my other thoughts suspended as a greater concern took focus. I quickly looked down the list of reviews to see if anyone else mentioned those three words. Being unable to find anything on the subject, I closed Safari and looked on to source itself—Instagram.
I immediately found several geotags of the resort and asked an Instagram user if the social media platform is blocked in the state. Putting me at ease, the kind stranger commented back, clarifying that the platform is not blocked, rather the Internet lags a little. How easily I was able to verify something through the use of a social media platform that’s used for sharing pictures and short video clips. I felt so relieved upon discovering the truth and quickly shared the knowledge with my travel companions. As they had jokingly mocked me for being so concerned about the subject—having no access to Instagram while on a restorative vacation in Mexico—I came across a question that hovered in my mind: why is caring about social media so bad? I pondered the thought, reflecting on my position among my peers who both use and neglect social media platforms. Specifically I zeroed in on my peers that use the motley of platforms, yet criticize others for caring so much about it—others like myself.
I have absolutely no problem revealing that I have a substantial presence on several social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Vine, and less actively, the anonymous forum that’s popular among undergrads, known as Yik Yak. Every morning, before going about my day, I check Facebook for news, updates from friends and family, and stories from around the world. Then I’ll check my Instagram account, my personal favorite social media platform where I follow friends, family, and numerous travel accounts, including one of my favorites, calypsostarcharters—the Instagram account of an Australian based company that specializes in Great White Shark cage diving charters (a lifelong dream of mine!). Throughout the day, I keep in touch with friends across the U.S. and Europe by sending a significant number of snaps back and forth via Snapchat (consequently draining my iPhone 5 battery, the only downside). And if I have some down time to spare, I’ll occasionally scroll through Vine for six-second videos from aspiring comedians, musicians, and actors. Sure, that’s a lot of interaction with the Internet for one day, but that’s the culture I’m growing up in.
The Generation Y culture where word of mouth echoes a million times faster through the world in 140 character messages, current events and developments are shared by Bloomberg or the Wall Street Journal on my news feed, and snapshots of a mural painted on a street corner in a busy city are double-tapped by strangers worldwide. We are in the vanguard of change, a technological era where physical means are replaced with digital pixels, promoting efficiency and accuracy. For example, just last week I had the opportunity to work with Microsoft at their headquarters in Washington. The core of their developments spurred from brilliant minds dedicated to innovation, taking leaps to tighten the bridge between the physical and digital world. What’s being created there will impact our generation, the generation where this interaction between smart-technology is inevitable. To disregard the interaction would be to take a leave from the culture, passing up on the many opportunities created and shared by this intelligence era.
What came to my realization this morning was that while we live in an era defined by the advancements in technology, more than often we’re labeled and shamed for our involvement with that very technology. More specifically, and for the purposes of my article—we’re shamed for the use of social media platforms. I’m going to lay it out plain and easy: social media shaming exists. Though you may not own up to it, it’s likely that you’ve ridiculed someone for taking too many selfies, using too many hashtags, posting too many statuses, publicizing daily activities, or having a Snapchat story that exceeds 100 seconds. Like I mentioned before, it’s human nature that formulates these opinions of others, but it’s malicious when these opinions are shared with others for the purpose of hurting someone’s feelings, however intentional or non-intentional it may be. But what’s the purpose of it all? Rather, what’s the purpose of social media shaming? Social media is created for the very purpose of sharing and communicating with others. While some people find happiness in documenting their day through Facebook statuses or Tweets, others will take to Instagram to post a picture of their adventures.
I for one am guilty of posting more than one Instagram photo in a day, also known as double-posting, though I would never apologize for it. Yes, I’ve had Snapchat stories that exceed 100 seconds, though do I regret it? Of course not. That’s fine if you tap-through my story, though chances are if it made it to my story it was something worthwhile. And that’s fine if you scroll past my Instagram post without thinking twice about it, I use my Instagram account like a digital photoboard and diary of my life, and heck, when I’m old and grey-haired, I’m going to love myself for it. But what’s not fine is social media shaming, it’s not fine in any way you can think of it. Here’s my question to the public: if you’re that bothered by someone’s constant involvement with technology, why don’t you separate yourself from it and unfollow or defriend them? Life isn’t worth wasting by being unhappy, even more so, being unhappy at the hand of others. I urge you to distance yourself from social media shaming and focus on what makes you happy, simply put—do you.
The constant development in our society is a pillar in our culture, the Generation Y culture, greatly demonstrated by the rise in social media platforms. Think of social media platforms like a sleek and advanced digital camera. In the past, cameras were bulky and more mechanical, though as time progressed and information grew, cameras became smaller, more abundant, and equipped with more capabilities. Social media is the digital camera of our culture, a tool that takes a snapshot of what it’s like to be involved in our society.
In two weeks I’ll be laying on the beach in Mexico, taking in the sun rays and admiring the beautiful color scheme of the Sea of Cortez and natural magnificence of El Arco. You can bet that I’ll Snapchat a video of the tides swooshing in, and Facebook and Instagram some pictures of the beautiful landscape, not to mention a selfie with my travel companions. I’ll admit, I love social media and I love sharing what makes me happy with others. I mean, isn’t that the purpose of it all?