Thursday, 28 April 2016

The Importance of Social Media

I didn't grow up in the age of social media. Until I was 11 years old, the only time I roamed the internet was to look on the Blue Peter website to see how I could get my next badge, or on the website of a national museum to play this incredible Ancient Egyptian game. 

Even at age 11, the only site that is now considered social media that I went on was Youtube, to watch the likes of Shane Dawson, Britney Louise Taylor, and IJustine. I didn't get Facebook until I was 13, and for a long time that was the only social media site I had. Granted, it caused issues, but these were not the fault of the site. Just the people I was friends with. (ProTip: If they make fun of you at school, they are going to make fun of you on social media. The 'friend' label on Facebook means NOTHING.)

I slowly got more into social media, simply because everyone else was. It wasn't really a conscious choice of mine, but the need to know everything that my friends knew. After Facebook, it was another year or so before I got Twitter, and my first Tumblr account was actually for my book blog, so I got that when I was 15. I got Instagram last.

After spending time on social media, I realised that I wasn't utilising them in the best way that I could. My Facebook was personal and so not much could be done there, but I felt like every tweet on my personal Twitter was irrelevant. When I started my book blog, I got a separate Twitter for that, and I felt like I was using this one so much better that I deleted my personal account. I experimented with a couple of other accounts, my most popular being my Dan and Phil fan account, on which I became a 'popular' account and made a lot of friends in the youtube community. For some odd reason though, I deleted that account, because despite all of the followers, I wasn't feeling fulfilled. I even deleted my book blog tumblr for the same reason. I was gaining 20,000+ notes for everything I was posting, and gaining followers with every popular post, but again I wasn't feeling fulfilled. It was then that I realised that the numbers really don't matter. 

I had a few more tumblr accounts that didn't work out, but by the time all of this was happening, I had my book blog twitter, my instagram for my book blog, and made a new tumblr account for my book blog. 

See a trend emerging?

(One of my many conversations with author Holly Smale)

My personal accounts never gave me satisfaction, because no matter how many followers I had, I wasn't using the platforms well enough. That's why when a couple of years ago I gave up on all personal accounts and just stuck to my book blog accounts, I became so much happier. And now, social media is a very important platform in my life.

I can't imagine my life without it. I'm in no way addicted, because I have spent months away from Twitter before and come back like nothing had changed, but I probably wouldn't go that long without tweeting again. The friends that I have made and the connections I have with businesses are far too important to me. More important than having almost 10K followers on that Dan and Phil account without following even 300 of them back. 

University has been a very lonely time for me this year, and social media has kept me from going insane. Whenever I feel disassociated with the rest of the world, I grab my phone and type out a 140 character message, and send it out into the twitterverse. Even if I only get one like or one person sends me an emoji in response, it makes me feel less alone. 

I met one of my best friends on Twitter. I get to keep in daily contact with one of my cousins, who I usually only see once a year, but because of social media I get frequent updates on her life and get to organise fun things with her. I get to casually talk to authors and publishing houses every single day, which is something I could have only dreamed about when I was 10 years old. For me, social media is invaluable in an age where everyone has busier lives than ever, and where the competition for jobs is more intense. 

(My cousin and I, at the Troye Sivan concert 18/04/16)

On Facebook, I get to keep in contact with my friends from school over massive group chats. Without this platform, we would have all drifted away by now, because we live at all ends of the UK. I also get to keep updated with family that live on the other end of the country, and family that live in Belgium! Facebook is so important for people like me who have had anxiety for years and need to practice their social skills. By talking to people on Facebook, I can successfully strike up conversation that can be continued in person, and make my personality known to people before my insecurities have the chance to swallow me whole. 

Can social media be damaging? Of course it can, but only in certain situations, and even then it is not the platform's fault but the toxic people that use it to cause hate and pain. I could write a whole other post about my bad experiences with social media, but this is not what this post is about. Social media gets a bad wrap and this post can hopefully go towards clearing its name.

At the lowest points in my life, social media has always been there for me. When I send out a distress call, people will respond and support me until I feel better. The idea that the simple clicking of a button to 'like' someone's post will make their day better is just brilliant to me. It represents humanity at its most universal and loving point: the fact that we can talk about random stuff to each other and create friendships no matter how brief, we can take a picture of ourselves and receive encouraging comments, or that we can send memes and everyone will laugh simultaneously around the world. 

Social media is magical, and it is important. 

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