They say our generation is full of egotistical teenagers, who would rather focus on getting a high number of likes on their 'selfies' and growing their follower base, rather than focus on what is seen as the more important things in life; like getting a job, having a relationship, or discussing the latest news story. It's easy to get swept up in all the negatives of social media, with the rise of trolling, and online abuse. The world of social media can seem like a scary place, so why do so many young people use it?
The simple fact is, that like most things in life there are a lot of positives. The problem is people tend to focus on the bad, and don't take into consideration the benefits of social media. Which I think is a little unfair, especially when they are stereotyping an entire generation based off of their perception. The fact is, social media can be a brilliant tool, capable of reaching out and making friends, job networking, or staying in touch with long distance family members of friends.
Sure, we can send a letter, make a phone call, or talk to someone face to face. However, that requires taking more time out of your day, or in the case of a letter waiting a long time for a response. Plus, it might strengthen the relationships we already have, but what about making new ones? As someone who suffers from social anxiety, the idea of going up to complete strangers, and introducing myself, is enough to make me break out into a cold sweat. The idea is just horrifying to me. However, despite my anxiety, like most people, I enjoy and value friendships.
There's something less stressful about reaching out to people through a simple tweet or private message. I can't even begin to count the amount of good friendships I've built up through social media platforms. I find comfort in the notification ping that alerts me that someone has sent me a message, or given my latest 'selfie' a like. It may sound egotistical, but is that really so wrong? Don't we all want to feel validated and wanted, even if it is by some stranger behind a screen?
Struggling greatly with making that initial face to face conversation in order to build a friendship, I found the online world of Twitter has granted me a new lease of life almost. Social media feels like a safe haven, and for what feels like the first time in years I am finally able to more easily reach out and make new friends. These friendships have developed into me going on holiday, or on nights out with them. Real life friendships that all started with a simple tweet.
On Twitter, everyone documents both their highs, lows, and their interests. Every single tweet is a snippet of someone else's personality, a quick peek into their life. It feels like a much truer reflection of a person, rather than Facebook or Instagram, where people are less likely to discuss these issues. Over the years it has allowed me to open up and develop my confidence.
There are other reasons why social media is useful, in this fast paced and busy lifestyle that a lot of us now have, it can be hard to find time to meet or phone someone. Social media removes the element of you both having to be ready for a conversation there and then. You can fire off a quick message, and they can respond in their spare time. It's simple things like this that make social media my preferred form of communication.
I find it very comforting that social media allows me to not feel rushed into saying something back right away, I can think carefully about what I want to say, and how I want to say it, which removes more of the stress with conversing. If I can't think of something to say or I'm not ready to talk about it, I can return to the conversation at a later time or consult a friend, something which doesn't work in a phone call or face to face setting.
However social media isn't without its faults, I'm sure everyone is more than aware of the term 'catfishing' where someone uses false images and details to trick a person into thinking they're someone else. There are also the dangers of screenshots of you slagging an ex-mate, or confessing to something embarrassing suddenly being broadcast for everyone to see. However, I do believe that there are social media measures to take, to lessen the danger. Allowing them to reap the benefits of meeting new people, strengthening long distance relationships, or even just sharing that funny cat video you saw on YouTube.
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