Do you ever wonder why “social media” was entitled that since it seems that some people only use it to sit in front of their computer and post diary-like entries without ever going to any of the events they are invited to or ever “liking” anyone else’s posts, pictures, or comments? On the other hand, media such as Facebook and Instagram does keep you connected with family, friends, and acquaintances. It really all depends on the type of person you are in real life and how willing you are to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.
For people who are already social, it poses no challenge to socialize with others online. There are even some people who are probably too social and would benefit from learning how to spend some time by themselves offline and not give their two cents on every single thought or opinion that pops into their mind. On the other side of the spectrum are those who are extremely shy, introverted, or are so self-absorbed that they only care about posting their own stuff and never take the time to virtually interact with others. The personalities and mentalities of human beings are overwhelmingly complex and varied, so if you do not know a person too well in real life and the majority of your interaction with them is online, it can become quite a task to decipher if someone is just an introvert, an extreme goofball, or an arrogant, self-absorbed jerk.
Even though social media is supposed to encourage socializing, it can actually foster more isolation since it doesn’t enforce any type of online etiquette and, let’s face it, if people have no manners in real life, then why would social media automatically become an enlightened tool for them to use? Just do a search for cyber bullying and you will get a sense of just how out of control some people’s ignorance and immaturity can get. But can you imagine how crazy it would be to try to create a social media etiquette class that everyone would be required to take before engaging with others online? First of all, there would be huge disagreements on the definition of “etiquette” itself and much controversy about the virtual place and time such manners should be required.
In a lot of ways, social media just magnifies deep issues we as a society have yet to truly grapple with as well as internalized oppressions we should confront about ourselves. As a modern culture so dependent on technology, social media is also forcing people to negotiate (consciously and unconsciously) what a healthy balance of sharing about our professional and personal life is, which is just as difficult as the “etiquette” issue because it comes back down to everyone having very different-sometimes conflicting- perspectives. On some level, we are all forced to deal with mainstream society, and since the 1% who control mainstream media like to pigeonhole things as black or white, it can often feel like the only choices we have are to: conform, rebel, or unapologetically thrive within our own “quirky” niches of community.
To end on a positive note, we should remind ourselves to be thankful that at least this tool of worldwide communication is available to us and- just like music- it can push us to think critically about things we might never have even thought about otherwise. The powerful thing is that once your third eye opens, no one can ever close it. Once we learn how to respectfully agree to disagree and become dedicated to self-growth, we can learn to reconcile the paradoxes that exist within ourselves and inspire the world to follow our humble lead.