In the last year, many have relied upon social media as a means to escape from or cope with what seems like the world going up in flames. All within 365 days, we have lived through two pandemics: the coronavirus and systemic racism, both of which are still ongoing.
We watched our smartphones and other devices became our new best friends and for others their worst enemies. While there is a multitude of benefits to using social media during a pandemic, there are also numerous issues to take into account.
Because many people are still working and learning from home, it is no surprise that there has been an uptick in social media use.
For some, posting on social media is a way to vent their feelings and express themselves. Social media gives users the power to create the narrative that they want others to see.
It is hard enough trying to maintain relationships with friends and family, but attempting to platonically or romantically meet new people is in a league of its own.
However, because it is harder to meet new people, more single individuals are using dating apps making it less taboo. The pandemic has somewhat evened the playing field for those looking for love by promoting online dating.
Other platforms that prioritize communication between users like Discord have also seen a spike in users. This platform is most notable for creating some semblance of having group hangouts with friends. Another favorite app for communication is Snapchat due to its casual and low-stakes nature. The one thing both of these apps have in common is that neither of them makes users mindlessly scroll through content.
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Tiktok are some of the most addicting platforms because they are designed to suck users in and keep them coming back. It starts with just setting aside a few minutes between classes to see what is going on in the outside world, but it can quickly transform into an unhealthy obsession. These apps pump their users full of stress and anxiety all in the name of social and political awareness. Likewise, they offer a way to live vicariously through celebrity you want, but in turn, inevitably make users feel insecure.
The more positive side of using these apps is that they can be used as a tool of observation of others and introspection of your own behavior on social media. We are now able to gain much greater insight into people that we thought we knew in real life based on their online behavior.
Moreover, apps like Instagram have become slightly more casual in what everyday users are posting. A more raw and authentic photo instead of a professional allows for users to better relate and feel more comfortable being themselves online.
This past summer social media allowed anyone with access to a smartphone to take part in a civil rights movement.
The majority of those that partook in digital advocacy were well-intentioned and would attend in-person protests if they could, but there are a handful of users that viewed the Black Lives Matter movement as a trend. Those engaging in performative activism and riding on the coattails of those that actually care are a disgrace to the movement. Advocating for a cause is not something to check off your list. It is imperative that users understand an infographic before resharing it and take the time to recognize any content as misinformation before posting it.
This past year has changed social media behaviors in a myriad of ways. Users are more conscious of what they post and how it impacts others.
Social media has become a means to bridge the disconnect between ourselves and the outside world. Although it has its misgivings, without it we would most likely feel even more alone during these unprecedented times.