I remember visiting my cousin in London roughly ten years ago and her telling me there was this new social media site that I apparently ‘needed’ to get.
Being the ignorant fool I was, I ignored her and thought my whole adolescent life would only ever revolve around Myspace. You could attach a song to your page, download code so that you had a psychedelic background and generally personalise it so that it reflected everything that was ‘important’ to you - what could go wrong? But slowly and surely, more and more of my friends at school started getting Facebook, so not wanting to be out of the loop, I begrudgingly set up an account and the rest is history.
When comparing the two sites, Myspace users hit a peak in December 2008 with 75.9 million users*, when comparing that to Facebook’s 1.5 billion users* it really does pale in comparison. But what is so different?
The main differences between the two sites are that the latter is more accessible and many would agree with me when I say that it is more ‘grown up’. It offers users a chance to add their grandma or their friends who live thousands of miles away and still talk to them daily. We as users can feel as though important people, who have moved never left, and yet, does the fact that we sit behind a computer screen being ‘sociable’ remove the social intentions of the site?
Sixty-five per cent of Facebook users are on the site daily but with an average number of three hundred friends*, are we really using it for the sake of staying connected, or are we just showing off? I still have people on my Facebook, whom I have not spoken to in maybe five - six years, so why am I still ‘friends’ with them? There is not an alternative category for Facebook acquaintances so would you really call these people your friends?
As stated before, do you know where these people work? Facebook does.
Another huge part of the social media world was launched in 2006 but only really achieved notoriety in 2009; the relative ‘new kid on the block’ as Mark Wahlberg might put it, Twitter jostles for popularity amongst social media moguls. With 100 million daily tweets* this platform serves as a means to hassle our favourite celebrities and becomes less about us and more about being nosey.
It is fascinating to know that our idols have just ‘eaten a banana’ or ‘been to the toilet’, but who really cares? When one gets a retweet or a reply from a celebrity, there is a moment of elation, but at the end of the day, they are not your friends, they don’t know you; so just get on with your life.
The main sticking point for me regarding social media and technology in general is when you go to a music gig and there are hundreds of people recording their favourite bands live. They then proceed to upload a very poor quality video onto their profile and subject everyone else to their shoddy camerawork. When will you ever re-watch those videos? Probably never.
There are many pros and cons to every advancement in social media and technology, the age-old argument being; it’s supposed to be SOCIAL media, so why do we sit behind a computer or phone screen for so much of our lives? Seems like a bit of a paradox to me. Progressing far from the Stone, Bronze and Iron ages, we are well and truly in the digital age, so where do we go from here?
* Figures taken from expandedramblings.com
Explore these themes further by visiting our current exhibition Follow, open until Sunday 21 February.