By: Sarah Dussome
November 27, 2016
We’ve all seen them: they’re clustered around cafeteria tables, shuffling through the halls, and slouching over their homework, their eyes glued on the tiny screen clutched in their hand. Chances are we’ve all been “that” person at one time or another, as it’s often tough to look away from our ever-changing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds. In my experience, social media is a bit of a double-edged sword; it’s both a wonderful means of connecting with the world and endless rabbit holes of distractions from face-to-face conversations with friends to studying for tomorrow’s big test. It can be a great way to share your vacation photos but also allow users to resort to instant messaging in order to avoid potential consequences of an especially difficult conversation. One friend relayed to me that, while social media has helped her maintain long-distance friendships, it can be annoying when the friend you’re speaking to in-person can’t look away from their Facebook page. Another admitted that the extent of their social media use often depends on how important they perceive their current situation (ex. a lull at work, being in a public place where you don’t know anyone) to be.
According to Brandwatch.com (2016), the average Internet user has approximately 5.54 social media accounts with the number of social media users having risen by 176 million in the last year alone. In a global community that is gradually becoming more and more digitalized, social media use is becoming more common in people’s personal and professional lives, affecting our behaviour whether we realize it or not. Experts have determined a variety of social media pros and cons over the last few years; the pros range from increased levels of intercultural communication and fostering understanding of important issues while the cons consist of decreasing attention spans and unhealthy sleep patterns (Psychology Today, 2012).
Although everyone’s experiences with social media are unique, I think it’s safe to say that we all have both positive and negative stories relating to social media. However, with an increased awareness regarding its effects on our personal, social, and academic lives, we can still appreciate it while using it in moderation, keeping one foot planted in the real world at all times.