2004: Facebook expands from Harvard University, a man named Tom became everybody’s friend on Myspace and Yelp began its take down of the trusty yellow pages. Social media wasn’t a job worthy skill and the main way to keep in contact with old peers was through Friends Reunited.
Just 12 years on, social media has become a vital daily ritual for personal lives and businesses. We rejoice when we get to 10 retweets and can even see when someone has read our message but doesn’t want to reply (I’m looking at you, mum). Such is the rapid expansion of technology that most schools have traded in notebooks for iPads in the classroom; numerous resources, instant feedback, and no more ‘forgetting’ homework. It’s a no-brainer really.
But is it all good or is there a downside to the extent to which technology has taken over our day-to-day lives?
The cynical among us could claim that social media is ruining our lives and stops people having face-to-face interactions, something especially vital for children and teenagers as they grow up. It is also all too easy to get lost in the negative blitz of coverage that warns us how all this tech is detrimental to our health. Barely a week goes by when we don’t see headlines such as “mobile phones are causing incurable disease” and “using computers for longer than five hours a day gives higher risk of death.” Us guys in the office are in trouble then.
Regardless of the negatives, social media is an essential part of communication in 2016 and it’s not going anywhere. What’s more, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Skype makes long distance relationships that little bit easier. A Facebook update can show your family what you’re up to on holiday. LinkedIn enables you to get references from past work friends for future employers to peruse. Twitter gives you the chance to tell your friends about your #hobbies.
That’s not all, there are tonnes of niche social media apps, specifically for families to keep in touch. Life360’s location settings lets parents see where their kids are at any point, kind of like a ‘Find my iPhone’ for your children. Cozi has a built-in family organiser, so you know whose turn it is to buy the milk. SquareHub is a private network exclusively for relatives, so you can upload personal photos that you don’t want broadcast on Facebook.
Handwritten letters may be nice keep-sakes and traditional, but if you’re relying on post to get RSVP’s, you won’t get as speedy a reply as a simple accepted invitation on Facebook. Sure, if you’re spending ten hours a day refreshing your notifications, you should probably consider cutting down on the socials. But in moderation, social media can truly enhance our lives making moving away from home a little bit less daunting and helping us keep in touch with friends and family across the world.