My generation, those kids born in the late 80’s to early 90’s, have a very unique relationship with social media. Social media became a thing during some of our most formative childhood years, our teens. The majority of our adolescent years were lived free of social media, but sometime around high school there was a social media BOOM. My first experience with social media, like many people, was with Myspace. I can still remember the anxiety that set in when choosing my “Top 8” and picking my background design. Myspace offered my generation a sense of freedom that we had yet to experience and it was beautiful. You see, when I got Myspace I didn’t have a cell phone. If my friends or a boy I liked wanted to talk, they would have to call my house and risk the possibility of talking to one of my parents first (yikes, lol). So Myspace, and also AIM Messenger, gave preteens and teens in the early 2000’s the freedom to socialize with their friends without direct parent supervision. Social media during the early days was simple. There were no ads or apps to edit photos. People weren’t concerned about the number of likes or follows. Social media was exactly what the name implies: a medium in which to be social. Ah, how I miss those days.
Social media quickly evolved past Myspace. Soon Facebook and Twitter came to the scene. When Facebook started gaining popularity, I was still in high school and my brother was in college. I remember him telling me that I couldn’t get Facebook because it was meant for college kids (LOL). I got one anyways because I was a rebel like that. And soon after that, I signed up for Twitter as well. I will never forget my best friend trying to explain “hashtags” to me and a group of girls at a sleepover. She said, “A hashtag can be anything - any word or phrase with a pound sign in front of it.” We were all like “huh, what’s the point?”
From my early teens to today, social media has had a profound impact on my life both personally and professionally. Social media became a platform for self-expression and also a tool to stay connected with friends. I was able to maintain close relationships with a lot of my friends from high school in a large part because of social media. When we moved away for college, we could easily chat on Facebook messenger or show our love for each other by posting old photos on Instagram using #tbt. Social media, in a lot of ways, has also contributed to my relationship with my fiancé. We are high school sweethearts who used to flirt through Myspace messages (so funny to think back on). I can still remember what songs he had on his Myspace profile. Marcus and I were in a long distance relationship through college, living 7 hours apart, so we relied on social media to stay connected. After college, we moved away together to Indiana so Marcus could attend veterinary school at Purdue University. And once again, social media became a tool we used to stay connected with our loved ones 2,000 miles away. So personally, social media has contributed greatly to my life, serving as a means to maintain relationships with people who are important to me. Professionally, social media is woven into my career. As a communicator, a large part of my job is to think strategically about how to communicate with audiences through digital platforms.
Today, social media is more than just an aspect of my life or profession. Social media is ingrained in almost everything that I do. If I’m going try to cook a new meal, I’ll look up a recipe using Pinterest. If I’m trying to get in shape, I seek inspiration from fitness accounts on Instagram. If I want to make a career change, I’ll look to LinkedIn for connections. Some days, I miss the simpler times of my early adolescence when social media didn’t exist. But most days, I am thankful that social media allows me to nurture relationships with my friends and family from afar, lifts me up on a bad day by showing me old memories or a funny dog video, and opens doors for me professionally.