If you see that I’m reviewing a fair few books on social media usage it’s because it’s my pet topic at the moment.
The Happiness Effect is a study of the attitudes of American college students towards social media. While some of it was extremely interesting, I found some was not relevant to me. Unfortunately I’m not in that young twenty-something demographic anymore, and chapters on sexting, selfies and nude photos are not really my thing. I don’t need to worry about what my future boss might think of my posts and photos as my profile is set to private and there is nothing incriminating there anyway. There was also discussion of apps that I have no idea about; I’m really only familiar with Facebook and blogging.
The main point of the book is that there seems to be no place on social media for sadness or overt seriousness, and there is great pressure to only post happy, positive things. Whether it’s pressure that friends will cut you off, or that a post will affect your future employment, people of all ages feel they must edit their lives. I’ve found this to be very true. There is pressure to post things for ‘likes’ and the thrill of acceptance and validation that gives. There is no place for vulnerability, hence some insensitive twit will use it against you. Yet, if you’re too positive, you get accused of being fake. You can’t win.
These are some of the points which really stood out to me:
- There is a real love-hate relationship between young people and their smart phones. They long to be free of them, but feel disconnected to their peers and the world without them. Nowadays, smart phone users are expected to be on-call like they were doctors or other emergency workers. There is a fear of being out of phone range if there is an emergency and they need to be reached. Yet, previous generations survived without this technology. Those who have deactivated their social media accounts have noticed they tend to get less invitations to things and it’s the fear of being left out that often makes people reactivate.
- In the past, you’d hear about a party you weren’t invited to via overhearing conversations. Now the photos are plastered all over social media to rub it in your face (often deliberately).
- Being on platforms which allow you to post or comment anonymously is freeing because you can be your authentic self. I’ve found this with blogging; I can be much more honest than I can on Facebook. However, this has led to the rise of trolling, and people showing their nasty sides.
My hunt continues….