It is okay to admit the first thing you do when you wake up is check your social media, and it is not just those darn millennials attached to their phones, it is everybody, young and old. There is Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit and a plethora of other apps designed for you to connect and share with everybody on the planet. A little overwhelming, no? It is our modern version of thumbing through the daily newspaper, only on a much bigger scale to get all the information we need, but mostly want.
“I use social media for my own entertainment, such as keeping in touch with family and friends who I don’t see every day,” said Morgan Mesteth, a psychology major at Colorado State University. “But people post so much on social media and there’s not a whole lot you can do about other people’s posts. If you have a problem, then you’ll have to stay offline.”
Humans are active news-seekers, wiring in our brains cause a release of dopamine every time we see something new and interesting while scrolling our timelines.
“Research shows that social media affects our moods, our political outlooks, our sense of connection to others and many other important elements of our lives,” said Michael Humphrey, a Ph.D. student in Public Communication and Technology at CSU. “Those who choose to be on social media are making a choice very similar to entering a room, except it’s the weirdest room you’ve ever been in. But it’s still a place where people ‘see’ and ‘hear’ you and the way they react to you, or don’t, has real effects.”
Our lives have no doubt become increasingly more public, and a lot of people consume their time with creating a personal brand, a perfect life, through a visually pleasing social media platform, craving followers as a verification for success. Perhaps everybody would like to have a crowd of followers tracking their every move, but it should be reminded that social media can be used other than gaining Internet fame. In a time where information is ready at a click of a button, we can use this to make our timelines more meaningful times of political or social distress.
You may have noticed an increase in protests and activist events across the country, and if you were not a part of them, you could see them happening live straight from your phone. From Black Lives Matter to women’s marches and everything in between, posts and pictures from these events have gained thousands if not millions of hits.
Dr. Katie Abrams, an assistant professor of the CSU College of Liberal Arts agrees that social media tools have accelerated the pace at which people can organize such events.
“I recently read a book called ‘The Power of Habit’ and the author shared the story of how Martin Luther King Jr. helped organize the boycott of the Alabama transportation system,” Abrams said. “That effort depended a lot on the social habits of people to be successful but it also took a lot of time and slower forms of communication. Today, such a boycott could be organized in a matter of hours.”
Now it is easier than ever to gather people who share the same ideals as you to make a positive change in your community. Social media is a way to stay on top of lots of trends: memes, movies and style, and in a way impacts what we think is important. It is easy to like or share a post about something you are passionate about, but being socially active also means getting out there and turning words into action.
“I think people should invest more time and effort offline actually,” Abrams said. “If you’re passionate about something, actions speak louder than words, links and photos. Use social media to share how you’re taking actions to create the change you want to see and hopefully that will inspire others to do the same.”
Of course, there can be a downside to sharing political or controversial issues on your timeline. Information can pile up quickly and can overwhelm and confuse users, Humphrey said.
“What is accurate, who is trustworthy? For some, it’s too much to handle,” Humphrey said. “For others, it is way too easy to find the ‘facts’ that align with their particular opinion. But I would say for all of us, at some point, we have been confronted with issues that we might have never considered without social media. And that is positive.”
So whether you are sharing cute animal videos, or politically charged news articles, make sure you are staying honest to your beliefs and that your posts reflect that. Be diverse in your posts and more importantly, educate yourself before posting something that could be controversial or political. It is easy to get lost in the sea of posts, with a lot of them containing ‘alternative facts.’ Read more than just a headline, and if you think through the whole issue, you might have something better to offer others.
Collegian reporter Sarah Ehrlich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SarahEhrlich96.