Without even realizing it, technology has become an integral part of our lives; we can’t live without it. When was the last time that you went without the internet or checking your smartphone? Probably a few minutes or hours at best. Today, the apps that we use on our phone have become a powerful entity in the world just through our continuous and constant use of them. But one of the most life changing technologies are the social media that we use on a day to day basis. But is it really as much of a blessing as we make it out to be?
One of the most popular, Snapchat boasts of over 166 million daily users and its numbers are quickly growing. Snapchat has quickly changed how people, mainly teenagers, communicate with each other. The main appeal of the app for many is the ability short videos or snapshots to friends, or posting said snaps to your story, allowing others to view them as they please. Even I have the urge to constantly check friends’ stories and stay updated and I rarely even use the app.
But one of the main factors that keeps users addicted is the “streak” system that all but tracks the days that you’ve ‘talked’ with your friends. Just one day of not sending anything will end it, but to many this almost a life or death situation. However, ‘snapstreaks’ change communication into a forced decision of sorts as you don’t want to break that ‘sign of friendship’. According to Nick Vega on Business Insider: “for me, streaks quickly went from a fun, novelty feature of the app, to one that caused me stress and anxiety (relatively speaking). Streaks became what separated my “real” friends from the rest of my contacts on the app. I had to maintain snap streaks not because my friends or I wanted to, but because letting it disappear would see that physical quantification of our friendship fall back down to zero.” Soon talking to someone over Snapchat changes from a fun interaction with friends into an obligation of sorts to keep that ‘fire’ going. But then why bother talking at all if its something you don’t really want to do?
With apps like Snapchat becoming more and more popular, the way we interact with others has vastly changed. Look around, how many people in the room are on their phones? Why aren’t there more people talking with each other and having conversation? Well just look at it from their perspective. Why would you talk to someone you don’t recognize when you can always remain in contact with a friend through social media? Why bother calling or meeting up with friends when you can just check what they are up to through Instagram, Facebook, or Snapchat? But most importantly, how could you lose that streak on Snapchat you’ve had with a friend for over a year now? To my chagrin, human interaction is changing monumentally from face to face conversation to screen to screen.
One of the biggest reason for this change is the ease at which you can log onto these social media; that’s because of the smartphone. In our day and age, it’s unusual if you don’t always have your device handy on you. According to a study done by Pew Research Center in 2015, over 77% of all adults in the USA own smartphones, but only 35% back in 2011, meaning that this owning a smartphone is now commonplace. And thus when you’re feeling awkward in a room of people you don’t know, just pull out your smartphone and avoid all of that social contact. Why not? It’s not like everyone else isn’t doing the same. Real time friendships are becoming rarer as we can ‘make’ new friends over social media.
But that’s not to say that social media has only drawbacks. Social media is one of the primary sources of our daily news and information. As said by tech blogger, Mark Cuban “For the 1st time ever, more people are finding my blog from Twitter and Facebook referrals than via google”. Social media is a means to get information out in a fast and widespread manner. It is also a way to connect with friends and family who aren’t necessarily a ‘drive’ away. Thus, you can easily talk with your grandmother who lives thousands of miles away with just the click of a button.
Though most importantly, social media has also changed companies function in this capitalistic society. Companies are utilizing social media to get the word out about their companies. Just look at Facebook; how many ads do you see on the frontpage of Facebook or just scrolling down your feed? Probably quite a few. Claire Wardle of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism explained how “In just seven years, newsrooms have been completely disrupted by social media. Social media skills are no longer considered niche, and solely the responsibility of a small team in the newsroom. Instead social media affects the way the whole organization runs.” Social media, due to its vast presence, has become one of the primary ways for retail companies to advertise themselves, and social media even helps said companies. On Facebook, companies can target certain groups of people to present their advertising to based off of certain criteria; for instance, their friends, the sites they’ve recently visited, education, and background. Just with its widespread use, social media has changed the way that companies ‘get themselves out there’.
Not only that, but social media can actually determine the future of our careers. Contrary to a decade earlier, employers now have access to social media to ‘check’ on their prospective employee. This vastly changes the job system as before it was solely based off of resumes and interviews. But now, your social media profile can determine whether or not you even get an interview or not. And according to Kerry Hannon, employers are less willing to hire someone who doesn’t have a social media presence. A shocker right? So in this day and age, it’s almost required to join social media and contribute to the empire that is social media.
As I look around, I see the impact of apps and technology more and more. Human interaction becomes more and more rare as we begin to treasure what is inside the screen than what it outside. But at the same time, social media has provided several benefits to the common man, such as easy communication and news. With how much it has changed the lives of countless users and with the rate that they are growing, social media has has become one of the “Rome”s of today.