Social media have evolved exponentially in my lifetime. Through technological advancements, we are now able to send and share pictures with the people we love to help them understand our lives. Often, I use social media to share my experiences with my family back home. Through Facebook, I upload pictures of dances and adventures for my Facebook friends to see, and through snapchat I send snippets of my life to my siblings. These two things have fundamentally shaped my experience as an out-of-state student, and I would be completely different without the use of these applications. However, while these things have been beneficial to my relationships with other people, they have not had the ability to replace the human requirements of a good relationship. Whereas seeing other people through their posts on Facebook can help shape the physical image in the mind, actual human encounters are necessary to form and maintain real relationships and real images of the other person.
On Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram, many people become satisfied with how many likes and comments they get, believing that their image is shaped into a popular one. They post pictures that make them look attractive, smart, or important, and create an image of themselves through how they are marketed. Then, those who see their posts take in that representation and interpret it their own way. Through these two things, personal marketing and interpretation of that marketing, social media mimic people's natural ways in representing themselves and forming judgement. But it is not a mirror-image reflection, and in no way replaces the essential consequences from face to face experiences. Through likes and comments, we get a surge of happiness, but it soon dwindles into nothingness because it is missing something essential to relationships--the human experience.
Through face to face experience, we present ourselves how we are in reality, and our beholders judge us for the way we are. When we receive compliments from people in reality, we are able to partake in a physical experience with someone else and share in the same experience. Real experiences with other people are much harder to forget than fifth comment on your last Facebook post, and leave us with the memory of an interaction with a real human being. When notifications on the phone start replacing the "hi's" and "hellos" in daily life, we start feeling lonely and forget about other people.
Now, you might say that you like social media not because you like posting things of yourself so that your friends can somehow share in your story, but because you like participating in your friends' lives. Be careful. Through just scrolling through facebook or tapping through snapchat, we may feel like we are closer to people by knowing what they are doing. But again, this does not replace face to face experience. We merely take in information and form judgements of other people without getting the full story. And, we may get caught up in worrying about our lives in comparison to others' lives. Through seeing other people's stories on snapchat and Facebook, we remove ourselves from our duties and responsibilities to our friends by the fact that we aren't there physically with them, experiencing what they are experiencing. It is harder, then, to respond to other people's experiences because we are not physically there with them.
So, while Facebook and Snapchat have helped me stay in contact with my family, they will never be able to replace that loving embrace with my sister, or that surf session with my brother. Nor will I ever get the same amount of satisfaction from a "happy birthday" post on my wall than from a shout out from a friend in public. From keeping an eye on how much I use social media and restricting myself from certain apps during the school week, I have been able to be more intentional with my relationships with others and more productive in my responsibilities at the time.
Jessica De Gree
Jessica teaches English as a second language in Spain and plays basketball professionally there. She recently received her Bachelor's degree from Hillsdale College, one of the nation's top Liberal Arts schools in MI. At Hillsdale, she played basketball and studied English and Spanish. Some of her hobbies include reading, writing, painting, surfing, and playing the piano.