March 10, 2019

The Importance of Social Media Probably Varies By Age

telephone handset

It hit me the other night that people who are too young to remember what life was like before there was such a thing as social media are bound to have a very different experience of it than I do. It is easy for me to view it as optional, trivial, or something I could easily do without because I lived without it for several years before it was around. I see it as a largely unnecessary diversion. When I get sufficiently frustrated with it, I disconnect from it for a week or two.

I recognize that I sometimes have a hard time relating to how much importance some young people place on social media. Their experience with it is so different from mine that I have to remind myself that it probably doesn't seem nearly as optional to them as it does to me. It is likely a far more meaningful part of their life. Realizing this helps me avoid judging them too harshly. They've had a vastly different experience with social media, and it makes sense that this would translate into different attitudes about it. Walking away from it, even temporarily, may not seem realistic for them. Maybe this is why I see so many people rage quitting one social media platform or another only to come back a few days later as if nothing happened.

I do not have to guess at how I would have reacted at age 15 if someone had told me to spend less time on the telephone. My parents not only told me this but took away my phone privileges when I misbehaved. It sucked. The idea that I would have voluntarily cut back on the time I spend calling my friends would have struck me as absurd. This was how people communicated when they couldn't be in the same room. I have a feeling that some younger people today feel similarly about their cell phones, text messaging apps, and social media platforms.

When I see someone close to my age saying that they are going to cut back on their social media use or take a break from it, I typically encourage them to do so. I know that taking breaks from it helps me feel better and that I rarely end up missing it. I suspect the same would be the case for them. They'd probably agree with me that none of us need Facebook, Twitter, or whatever else. I'm much less sure about how to respond when I hear the same things from someone who is much younger. I sometimes find myself feeling worried about them. The idea of their quitting seems very different.