How Influenced By Twitter/Facebook/Snapchat/Insta Are We?


How well do I know the “technology” that has become the backbone of my existence? Are the programs that are the object(s) of my constant attention, primary tools of expressing myself, and preferred ways of communicating with friends and family structuring me in ways I’ve never realized?

I sat back and took a long hard look at this possibility, and the only way I could attempt to dissect it was to try and imagine how I’d behave without this “technology”. The issue is I’ve been heavily reliant on social media since 2004 (15 years old). I tried to remember how I expressed myself and communicated with friends before MySpace, as well as the way I used MySpace when I first joined.

Before MySpace, I met and built friendships with many people but when life separated us (ex. Changing schools, moving across town), we lost contact and I forgot about them. I wasn’t upset about loosing touch with these people, but I would think about them from time to time. However, I had no desire to keep tabs on every person I’d ever met for the rest of our lives regardless of our relationship.

Upon joining MySpace I was amazed to see profiles of old friends and neighbors I hadn’t seen in years. Aside from getting real time pictures and updates on their lives, I could also see what their siblings and parents were up to as well as their new friends. I began searching for and befriending these old friends and acquaintances to personally reconnect, and to snoop on their personal lives.

This completely evolved when Facebook became popular and people were constantly updating their statuses. I strategically designed my page to present myself in the most impressive fashion possible in sort of a pathetic attempt for people who hadn’t seen me in a while to think my life was better than theirs. I spent hours capturing the perfect pictures, and spent days piecing together clever statuses that supported the image I was promoting.

During the Facebook status update phase, I would scroll through my newsfeed looking for my “friends’” dirty laundry. I’d see couples getting married at 18 and 19 and get so jealous of the beautiful ceremonies and diamond rings. I’d later giggle and text my friends when they changed their relationship statuses to “It’s Complicated” and post long status updates about their marital issues.

Before privacy was a big deal, I even found my favorite C list actor and followed his move from Hawaii to California, his engagement to 3 porn stars, first marriage/divorce, and (more recently) second wife and 2 children. I even told him happy birthday on his real birthday and had a brief conversation with him. I also Facebook stalked his first wife where I learned about his male stripping career, and mistress he met on the job (who he’s married to now).

When my parent’s generation joined Facebook, I began to learn much more than I wanted about their personal lives and personalities. I saw my aunt’s ex-boyfriends, drunken pictures at “Old School” cookouts, and had them reporting my Facebook activity to my grandmother. For this reason, I stopped using Facebook as much and moved on to Instagram and Snapchat.

I mostly use Instagram and Snapchat to showcase how “awesome” my life is as terrible as that sounds. I only post videos and images that make me look interesting, attractive and outgoing while I search for the opposite on my friend’s/acquaintance’s pages. I use these sites to snoop and judge their lives for gossip with mutual friends. We justify our nosiness with “If they didn’t want anybody to know/see, they shouldn’t have posted it”.

As terrible as this is, social media has structured my life and personality. It has made me a nosey, judgmental, and vain person who looks to exploit other’s faults for my own validation. I can relate this to the Enquirer and tabloids of the early 2000’s harassment of  Brittany Spears. I also realize that I am not the only one, most people in my age group use these sites for the same reasons.

I recently remember reading that paparazzi make much less for celebrity photos because social media is a direct channel into their lives the same as everyone else. They make snooping and judging so convenient, effortless and common that people don’t even get paid for it the way they did before.

So to answer my question… Yes. Social media has structured my life, personality, and morals similarly to the rest of its long-term users. I am not proud of the habits I’ve developed, but realizing and accepting them is the only way to change. For the first time ever, I understand my grandmother’s condemnation of social media as a trashy “gossip column” that I shouldn’t be on.

Posted on October 4, 2015, in Digital, mobile, Social Media, Society. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Well, at least you can try to change your habits now that you know about them. 🙂 Maybe once you have a family and kids you will use social media differently and instead post photos of your kids and family to provide your family with lovely updates. But, yes, you are not the only one who does this, according to the many articles on people creating different lives social media and the number of suicides social media has caused because of those who feel like they cannot live up to the great lives everyone else is showing off on social media. If nothing else, maybe the last sentence will make you think twice? (I am only trying to be helpful as I have had two friends commit suicide).

    I have never tried Snapchat, but I have heard a lot about it. I would have to view it from a business perspective though, as I use social media mostly for business. I do have a Facebook account for only friend and family, but that is just to post photos and updates about my family; my mom views it everyday. So I would have to behave, or I would probably hear about it from my mother. 😀

    • I see that I am unable to edit my comment, so I just want to add, just in case my earlier comment is taken the wrong way, which I apologize in case it does.

      Here is what I wanted to add/edit in:

      You are not alone on putting only the best stuff on Facebook. Putting the good stuff online is fine, as you and your grandmother are right that no one should be airing their dirty laundry in public. This is why in job-hunting newsletters and articles online that people should Google themselves to remove anything that employers could read that may be harmful to your reputation.

  2. I also admit that I have (and do) use social media in many of the ways that you described above. While not desirable, it is a habit that Facebook and other forms of social media have afforded us. Despite being able to filter the versions of ourselves that get posted, its hard to manage. While we all know in the back of our minds that the content is there to be viewed, it also perceived by others through various lenses.

    Of course we all want to “put out best foot forward” when we post things, but the questions turns into why we are posting. Are we posting for ourselves or posting for others?

  3. I personally don’t think that Facebook et al have changed our basic personalities for the worse. I would argue that humans have always been that way: presenting ourselves in the best possible light could have an evolutionary advantage in terms of breeding, and being nosy about others can offer valuable information that we can use in our own lives.Of course, it depends on how you use the information; perhaps learning that your ex got remarried might be the impetus for you to move on and improve your own life. So I wouldn’t be too hard on yourself; you’re only a human among many other like-minded humans!

  4. I am a fairly private person so I don’t change me my relationship “status” on Facebook, I don’t do check-in’s and I post very few photos of myself. Over the years, you will find very few references to anything related to my romantic life and I don’t post those “party pictures” that beg for judgement. In fact, most of my updates involve my daughter and what she is up to. If people are judging me, it is probably for being annoyingly into my little one.

    Your post really hit home with me this week. This week I did something that I wasn’t very proud of. I got nosy… really nosy. A man I have recently started dating, added me to his friends list. As I glanced through his page, I saw some pictures that were on his ex-wife’s page, but that he had been tagged in. I found myself clicking on her name.

    In my defense, my last relationship ended in a very ugly way. It was the first real relationship I had been in since my daughter was born. It also had some long-standing repercussions that caused damage to our life. So I got burned and I am feeling very cautious. Here was this new man’s ex-wife so easy to take a look into.

    I know their divorce has been messy and is still dragging through the court system. I know there are custody issues and accusations. I know there friends have been divided and each has accused the other of lies. I sat there and read every single post that she has put on her page in the last couple of years. It was not a pleasant experience.

    My sense after reading it, was that he has probably been truthful about that he has told me. Some of her posts were unsettling though. I’m sure were designed as personal PR for her friends and family. I walked away with the overwhelming feeling that I had just read something I had no business reading… I don’t think it was positive for me and I think it was a violation of him. I did confess what I had done to him. If everyone from my past chose to broadcast there feelings about me, and everyone on my Facebook could access their comments, I can only imagine the inaccurate judgments they would make. There is no one to ensure the truth behind any comments. Going forward, I know that snooping through social media just isn’t for me.

  5. Chelsea Dowling

    I kind of felt as though I might have been reading about myself in a past life and in this life I’m actually in a recovery phase and trying to avoid this type of… behavior. In all reality, I simply try to avoid Facebook. Every once in a while I will peruse the timeline. But I mainly go on to add people. I’m afraid I would become addicted to the snooping effect. I almost feel as though they would be able to tell if I had been looking at their page (like LinkedIn), which is enough for me to say no. But it is interesting to think about how people use social media in its current form and why it is so encapsulating. This type of evaluation of social media is interesting to look at as it may help us as communicators to identify the best types of communications to post.

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