By Serena Lin
In order to better build the reading experience, the writer suggests listening to “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s while reading.
As I scroll down Facebook or Instagram, I feel a sense of comfort that I cannot seem to let go of. In just a few minutes, I can see the emotional distress of many of my classmates, the new profile pictures that have been posted to garner a few extra likes in this extra-traffic season and memes interspersed, discussing everything from politics to dogs.
When I think about it a little more, social media does not actually seem very distant from actual socializing. Many of the same elements remain there, but this time much of it can be done alone or with less effort. This can be both a pro and a con, with most of the effects being a double-edged sword.
For instance, I love being able to explore a new friend’s interest or keep up with my old friends by simply browsing their profiles. I get to peek into their life and laugh at the memes they’ve laughed at, cry at the videos they’ve cried at and think about the articles they’ve also found intriguing. This allows me to connect with them even when they’re not available. On the other hand, it sometimes makes me lazy about actually messaging them to keep up with their lives.
In many ways, social media also reminds me of the appeal of gossiping. Everyone seems to always be curious about what other people are up to. Social media makes it a lot more straightforward by expediting the flow of information. This allows people to offer evidence by posting pictures of what they’re actually doing or thinking rather than relying on word of mouth that can often distort the truth. However, it also opens up that quickness to judge because of how accessible everything is. Some people might say the information is selective, but oftentimes when people share about themselves anyway, the information has already been extensively filtered.
This also lets me get to know the people in the lives of those important to me. When my best friend and I got to college, we wanted to integrate each other into our lives at school. One of the quickest ways was to add our closest friends at our respective schools. This way, we got to see pictures of each other and see what we were up to while also understanding whom they were immersing themselves with. Even more, it often allows people to connect over shared interests they never would have discovered, allowing friends to develop through the love of gaming, specific YouTube channels and different blog posts.
However, social media also allows us to not take responsibility for our actions. This can make it a dangerous tool, leading to hours of stalking a crush, trying to figure out whether or not they’ve dated anyone in the past year. In the past, this would not have been accessible, but this new open door should be regarded carefully.
I am still figuring out exactly how I feel towards it, but I know I am grateful to be able to connect and stay in my friends’ lives much more easily. In the past few years, I have also become more mindful of the amount of time I spend online. Although it sometimes feels easy to be building a relationship and keeping up with my friends, the anonymity also means that they don’t necessarily know what’s going on. As a result, I can often feel like I have an idea of what has been going in their life, and yet they do not achieve this mutual feeling.
I have also encountered that moment where I know about a person through his or her profile, similar to hearing about a person through a mutual friend. For me, it has been equally weird knowing a lot about someone when I have never even met them. In many instances, I almost wish I had been able to meet them and explore who they were on my own without the aid of another person and/or social media. It’s similar to choosing to read a synopsis and then see the movie as opposed to walking in with no expectations.
Social media seems to be sticking around, so figuring out how to navigate it to achieve one’s social goals will be key. The three p’s should be kept in mind: picking what’s on your own profile, pondering about how much time you want to spend on it and personalize your experience with it, so social pressure does not get the best of you.
Contact Serena Lin at serenal ‘at’ stanford.edu.