Bu Gillian Reid, Guest Writer
Someone sits behind a computer and tells the internet how they feel about a topic. But is it really how they feel – or are they just typing what everyone else wants to hear? This is how we get to know one another now – we are sitting behind a computer and only letting the world see us how we want to be seen. Some people may write about their healthy lifestyle, while they secretly eat a bag full of Oreos by themselves. With all of the many social media outlets, it’s really hard to get to know someone for who they really are, and face-to-face time is becoming less and less valuable to the younger generations.
Before social media became a big thing, people would graduate high school and then catch up 10 years later at their high school reunion. Now, people are able to follow their classmates in everything that hey do beyond that. Here’s a question that comes to mind: how much do people really care? How much does it impact your life to know what the classmates you graduated with over 10 years ago are doing? We are all excited when everyone is doing well, and we are all excited when there is a huge new development in someone’s life.
However, I have noticed that there is an age disparity on Facebook between who shares what and how they use social media. Just because someone is in their 50s or 60s doesn’t mean that they are ‘Facebook mature,’ and just because someone is 18 doesn’t mean that they are ‘Facebook immature’. There is much reliance in both groups on social media as an outlet for people venting, or for people spilling all the details of their lives. Some people on my feed may share way too much about their lives- things I do not feel like many things are any of my business. Friends of mine have posted about “encounters” they have had with other people, and for many people, that’s private. Other people only focus on positive things that are going on, or post interesting things that they may see. Others use social media as a way to stalk someone to find out what they want to know, but not ask them directly. Often times, this is done as a way to compare your life to that of a nemesis.
A conflict that has been getting a lot of attention is cyberbullying. Many people (adults as well) will use social media as a way to call someone out for something, or to belittle someone for all the world to see. I was once the target of a Facebook message that was cruel and untrue; had I been a differnet person, it would have crushed me. However, I noticed that this person would have never said in person what they said to me on Facebook. This got me to thinking about how so many people hide behind a computer screen – and who benefits from that? Do we respect people who hide behind a computer screen and become a troll, or do people respect people more for saying things to your face? Any person that I have asked this question to have said “If they can’t say it to my face, they shouldn’t say it in writing.”
It is so easy for our generation to quickly text someone instead of calling them, or to wish congrats only online instead of saying in person. We have become attached to our phones and feel the constant need to be connected with the world. In Dr. Javidan’s class, we did an assignment where we focused on how to become a better listener. Nearly all of us said that we need to put our phones down and concentrate on the person in front of us. With so much social media, we are constantly bombarded with notifications for Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, News outlets, etc.
As Tbirds, we are held to a higher standard on social media. We are expected to use social media as a networking platform and to only post positive things that are happening in our life. We want to be seen as upbeat and positive people who are constantly traveling the world. It’s a sense of pride to check into somewhere else other than our hometown. There’s a whole group on Facebook called “Traveling birds” that we are able to connect with other Tbirds in foreign countries or cities. This is what social media was supposed to be used for: connections around the world. Not used as a platform to belittle someone.
So why is the world braver behind a computer screen? In talking with those around me, I’ve found it is because we can shut it off. When you’re face to face with someone, it’s rude to just not respond or to get up and leave abruptly. However, with social media, you can say what you feel, shut off the screen, and not have to look at the backlash if you don’t want to. Often, you’ll get the response, “don’t even bother responding because I don’t care what it is you have to say.” So, the question is: would that be said to someone’s face? Most likely not because in face-to-face contact it is hard to just end the conversation.
Another thing that people have become accustomed to saying is “it’s not official until it’s Facebook official”. My thinking is, “so if I break my leg, if I don’t put it on Facebook, my leg won’t be broken?” This is the type of mentality our generation has. We believe that the world cares about what we ate for dinner, or about how high our social status is. We think about how popular we are by how many “likes” we get on a photo or status; and if no one commented or “liked” it, we get depressed. Our generation has decided that privacy is a thing of the past, and no one needs it anymore. However, when something happens and we want privacy, no one understands. For instance, a friend of mine lost someone close to her, and although she announced it on Facebook she said, “I would really like my privacy at this time.” Instead, everyone bombarded her with messages offering to help, asking what happened, and saying how she was in their prayers. While these were very sweet messages, the last thing she wanted was more reminders that the person was gone.
As Tbirds, we need to make more of an effort to end this whole “I won’t say it to your face, but I’ll tell you through social media” phase that is going on. We need to set an example for the world, so that people around us understand why face-to-face is so important. We need to not be the ones hiding behind the computer, and instead be the ones leading the charge. And all the while, knowing everyone’s face.