Define: “Social Media, Redux”

Redux – noun. Recycling a topic because I wrote a slightly relevant column for it in Feature Writing. Wouldn’t you?

I’m a big fan of social media. Judging by how much of my day I spend checking Facebook or Instagram for the latest scoop on just what my friends are doing, I could even be considered an addict. Snapchat is also a driving force behind my social media consumption. Who doesn’t want to endlessly spam their friends with pointless photos of your lunch, shoes or even study you’re desperately trying to avoid by roping some poor shmuck into a Snapchat conversation that spans hours? Maybe even posting a witty or widely appealing status on Facebook to watch the likes and gratifying comments roll in? Just me? Okay then.

As it turns out, the prevailing attitude regarding the recent phenomenon that is social media isn’t all that pleasant. Granted I get this general impression from a quick Google search where I literally searched “social media is making us less social.” This is an entirely different story on its own, with research pointing toward the fact that we remember and learn things entirely different because of the ease of access that comes with the advent of Google and other search engines. I digress though, if you want to learn more about it, you should Google it.

An article by the website elitedaily.com was the first result in my Google search (which took no more than 0.25 seconds), and their stance on the subject of social media is a negative one. Paul Hudson over at Elite Daily seems to think that the miasmic effect that social media has on social behaviour doesn’t come from the technology itself, but from the need for constant stimulation and relief from boredom desired by humanity as a whole. In fact, in the time I’ve been writing this article I’ve checked Facebook no less than three times. Make that four.

The constant checking my phone for news on the activities of my friends can be attributed to one of the countless mantras of the social media generation which was brutally cut down to an acronym, FOMO. FOMO stands for Fear Of Missing Out. If you’re scared of heights, you’d avoid ledges. If you’re scared of spiders, you squash them (or run away screaming, but I don’t judge). To squash the proverbial spider of FOMO, sufferers keep their three-to-five-inch screens inches away from their faces as frequently as possible.

A website who I thought would be more favourable toward the use of social media, socialmediatoday.com, posted an article last year asking the same question I am, “is social media is making us less social?” While the author, Stephen Dale, set out a few good arguments and statistics, he eventually took the “social media is indeed making us less social, wake up sheeple” approach (NB: I may be paraphrasing here). If anything, I think my social media-driven FOMO makes me more social. But that’s just me.

Going back to a point I made earlier, for some people Facebook (and similarly, Twitter and Instagram) can be a fantastic source of gratification. Comedian Marc Maron articulated this really well on his podcast, WTF with Marc Maron. Maron likens the obsession of the world at large with social media to a seven-year-old child crying out for acknowledgement. A webcomic called Zen Pencils took Maron’s words on the subject and visually represented the phenomenon as similar to the way a heroin user gets a hit.

Despite all this, I’ll remain a faithful user of social media. It keeps my FOMO pressed down and keeps me in touch with people I wouldn’t generally be social with. It makes me more social, but I’ve never been one to check my phone at the dinner table.

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