The Internet: An Analysis
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Society learned, society lost themselves; The Internet was born. Due to this phenomenon, society is connected like never before. News travels faster than you can say “send”; then again, why say it when you can press the button? Opinions on the Internet, specifically social media, vary farther than the modern day political spectrum, and all of them have convincing arguments to their stance.
Possibly the most obvious appeal of social media is it's connectedness. As a society, America is more connected than ever before; this is no coincidence when taken into consideration the development of websites like Facebook. Originally intended for use as a dating tool, the website transformed into what is now considered the Baby Boomer/Generation X form of communication. Adults of this decade have used Facebook to stay in touch with old school friends, family members, coworkers- anyone, really. What Facebook has come to show is that the older generations love to socialize online, specifically by sharing photos of children or grandchildren, from their first footsteps to their high school graduations- with some birthday shoutouts and athletic game documentations in the duration between.
Not only does the Internet bring America together socially, it brings us together politically and educationally. The 76 million plus students in America today bond over it and social media as an educational tool, specifically taking in mind Twitter, Blogger, YouTube, and Tumblr; just to name a few. Students can be inspired or educated by all of these incredible sources of information right at their fingertips. Due to this, finding information today essentially knows no bounds. One of the aspects of social media that makes this possible is marketing.
Marketing in social media has become a main source of clientele and broadening demographics for many companies. Influential magazines such as Time, National Geographic, and US News all spread their information throughout their respective social media accounts. Perhaps for more of a profitable benefit, material driven companies advertise their products through their own accounts. This could be through photo apps such as Instagram, video apps like Youtube, or multimedia apps like Twitter. Apple, Microsoft, Walmart, Amazon, and Johnson & Johnson are all some names on the Fortune 500 of 2017. Those names, also, are featured on Forbes' top profitable corporations of 2017. All of those businesses, coincidentally (or not), use aforementioned social media platforms.
One question that runs through America's mind is, “How much information has been left on my digital footprint?” The answer, in fact, is as easy as going to www.FindPeopleSearch.com. Sites like this and more can provide information about nearly anyone with just a few keystrokes. A recent LA Times podcast has blown up in the past few months, titled Dirty John. In the tapes, women share their story of one man, John Meehan, and how he changed their lives forever. While explaining varying crimes of Meehan, online or off, some of these women went into detail on being his victims of cyberstalking. Meehan would track women and their families to threaten them, or commit fraud by using their credit card. All of this information he found through online investigative services. While most women were compensated, Meehan left his mark- physically and mentally- on them forever.
That's another interesting facet of Internet usage; scientists have recently found that, in some way or another, it nearly always has a negative impact on individuals' mental health. The fact is, social media sites should come with a warning label; side effects including, but not limited to: depression, anxiety, and addiction. In July of 2017, The American Journal of Preventative Medicine concluded a study with this simple fact: young adults with higher social media usage tend to feel more isolated than those with a lower usage. Imagine constantly scrolling site to site, seeing your friends and strangers seemingly having the time of their life on a day to day basis. Not being included in these kind of posts these days leads individuals to believe they are being excluded from those they follow.
Images like these on social media can also lead users to believe they have to fit in with everyone they follow. Body type, hair color, daily activities, diet, and more are all examples of topics for which there have become expectations. Users scroll through Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram and see the “ideal” images of all of these. What users tend to forget, however, is that some publishers dedicate hours to Photoshopping or otherwise editing the photos or videos they publish on social media. It's not real; it's the product of hours of computer technology, portraying lives as they are not. In these ways and more, social media has essentially penetrated its way into every aspect of American life.
Adults use it to stay in touch- children use it to play mindless video games. The usual demographic connotated with social media, however, are teenagers. To be specific, teenage girls are generally the most influential and impressionable consumers of these applications. Ranging from Instagram to Snapchat to Tumblr, teenage girls have established their niche in each of these and more. Nancy Jo Sales decided to focus in on these girls when she was writing her up and coming novel, American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Life of Teenagers. One girl she interviewed, Kayla, described how she felt like social media was a job; “It's like you spend half your time managing your reputation,” she said. Tens of thousands of girls would agree; their social media profiles, not their personalities, are how they are portrayed to those around them.
Another girl Sales interviewed described her life since she had run away from home. She had been traveling for about a year at the time, going all around the western United States via foot, train, or hitchhiking. Her name was Daisy. She describes her “past life” with regret, saying how she used to wear short shorts and do her hair all nice and wear a lot of makeup- everyone was just trying to fit in, she said. After she ran away, however, she could no longer afford a phone. At the time of her interview, she hadn't watched TV or been on the Web or any sort of social media for months. “I used to define myself by the amount of likes I got on Instagram,” she said. “Now, I feel free. I stopped caring. I think everyone should experience what I am right now.” If only other Americans believed this social media freedom was an option.
So, do the pros outweigh the cons? This has been a controversial topic over the past few years, but so far America has only reached a paradox. The Internet; we can't live with it, we can't live without it.
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