I've always had a slightly unusual relationship with social media compared to most people my age. I was often teased by my family and friends for being like an eighty-five-year-old cat lady. It's not that I don't understand how it works or I'm inept at choosing the perfect Insta caption—which I will admit is truly a daunting mission—it's just that the thought of navigating this new social landscape as a middle schooler didn't appeal to me. I mean it did on a level of fitting in and trying to be cool but in sixth grade when Instagram was becoming a thing the thought of posting ducklip selfies and facetune'd beach pics just didn't feel like me.
What affected my view on social media was the relationship I watched my older sister establish with Facebook and her new virtual "friends." She was bullied and slut-shamed for innocent kisses and hot tub pics. I watched her spiral into this robot that fed on likes and online validation. Her world became wrapped in her online presence and still to this day I judge where we're at in our relationship based off of whether or not she's blocked me recently.
What I watched in my sister showed twelve-year-old me the danger of social media and why I should avoid it. I went dark online for almost five years because after all that time I didn't feel like I needed it. Everyone I cared about knew my thoughts and received my pictures through old fashion text message. My friends always asked me, "But... don't you want to see what everyone's doing?"
As blunt as it sounds, I just don't care. I don't want to waste time online comparing myself to celebrities, or hating on girls with better bikini pics. I don't need to seek out approval and chase the likes because I don't care what anyone thinks about my pictures. That's not because I think I'm better than anyone or I look down on people who use social media because literally, everyone does. It's because I don't like the pressure I feel with social media and the personas that come along with it.
At eighteen I was happy living in an Instagram free bliss, avoiding all the pressure and anxiety that I had seen my sister fall into. When I turned eighteen, I felt like I didn't have a choice in the matter anymore. Entering the workforce was the first time I really noticed how vital social media had become and how necessary it is to be a part of society. When I became a Realtor, I was surrounded by many adults who relied on social media to make a living. You need to have your own business Facebook page to post new listings and reach out to potential clients. I spent my teen years avoiding posting about myself or trying to connect with others online, and now if I didn't, I wouldn't be profitable or competitive with other Realtors.
A couple of months later I was struggling to find a job that gave me the flexibility and opportunities I wanted, and I ended up taking a job running social media pages for a business. Which is so bizarre if you know me because I'm the biggest social media hater. I'm always ranting about how it's destroying the youth or something equally crazy. But the thing I always rejected and avoided has become the way I make money and get to do the things I love.
I realize my generation can't avoid Facebook, Instagram and the Twittering or the Tweeting or whatever it's called. Social media is surpassing the barrier between our personal and professional lives. There's a surplus of jobs that require their employees to market themselves or run social media pages for them. All the different fields I work in from real estate to marketing to writing require me to be plugged in and active online.
I think that's great and I don't blame anyone for taking advantage of the cheapest and smartest form of marketing available. As more people leave behind real social interaction and turn towards the internet for socialization, employers and businesses will follow those potential clients to this new frontier of online marketing. I just wish I had a choice in all of it. There's no anonymity now. There's this growing market of jobs that require transparency and vulnerability that we've never had before. People used to be able to just have a conversation with someone they met at a restaurant and make connections and gain clients. For me, there's such a novelty in that type of interaction because every year there are less and less jobs that operate like that.
As social media becomes more all-encompassing, it'll be harder for anyone to avoid the pull of setting up their own pages. Whether that's a good or bad thing remains to be seen but I think I'm going to embrace what comes next, (even if Facebook eventually takes over the world).
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