Editor’s note: It’s a little-known fact that CBM Account Coordinator Jeanie and CBM Account Executive Anaïs went to the same high school! They were actually in the same theatre class circa 2010 (shout out to Mr. Vodicka) when Jeanie was a freshman and Anaïs was a sophomore. One recent day over lunch, they got to thinking about the good old days and how social media has changed since they were a couple of awkward teens walking the path at PHS.
Let’s start with the basics.
What social media was like when we were in high school vs. nowadays:
- Anais: Oh, 2009. The year I joined both Facebook and Twitter when the platforms were in radically different places than they are now. I’m talking about the Facebook days when poking streaks climbed into the hundreds, you asked people to “text” you at the end of your status (no FB mobile app!) and random surveys like “25 Random Things You Didn’t Know About Me” took over Facebook Notes. This was a much simpler time. News hadn’t yet infiltrated our feeds, and everything was based around connecting with friends.
- Jeanie: Wow. This is really a flashback for me! I don’t want to say I didn’t take social media seriously, but it definitely was an optional, fun tool to use! I’d share very personal details about what was going on in my life via Facebook statuses and comical (sometimes leaning more inappropriate) tweets on Twitter. Because, who was really watching anyway?
Without sounding ancient, how did we access social media in high school vs. now?
- Anais: Every time I wanted to log into Facebook or Twitter (no other social platform was invented yet…) I had to do so from a desktop computer. I didn’t get an iPhone until college, and launching a social site via my beloved LG Voyager’s internet browser cost a pretty penny. It wasn’t until I got the iPhone 4 that I was able to login to my favorite platforms on the go.
- Jeanie: Everything was through computers! And when your family only owned one desktop computer, it was a fight to get your own time in front of the screen. Apple products existed, but no one had iPhones or iPads back then! It’s really fascinating to look into not only the launch of social media platforms but also when they became accessible on handheld devices. I realize as I say this I sound like too old to be a 23-year-old, but technology is advancing faster than we know it.
Okay, flashback moment over. Although we went to the same high school, at the same time, and had similar experiences with early, pivotal days of social media, we do have differing thoughts about what social has become for Generation Z.
The Digital vs. the Physical World
- Anais: Social media allows us to document (and re-live!) experiences in a hyper-visual way. While I never pine for my high school days, I must admit I enjoy looking back on old photos now and again. So many little details have slipped my mind. Imagine the wealth of not only photos but also videos and other interactive content Gen Z is going to have in a few years. Timehops are gonna be poppin’ — social media has become an external hard drive for our memz!
- Jeanie: But with documentation comes a constant need to capture moments instead of living them! People post where they are, what they’re doing, and who they’re with just to make a statement. It’s been a few years since I’ve eaten a meal where no one has whipped out their cameras and started snapping away at the same cup of coffee they’ve ordered plenty of times before. Things are starting to come off as very impersonal.
Jeanie, put your slider phone down and enjoy the moment! Also, what are you wearing…?
Mirror Mirror: Who Are You Really on Social?
- Anais: We live in an increasingly digital world, which means it’s necessary to create a twin version of yourself online that represents your personal brand. “Personal brand” is a phrase that sounds majorly contrived, but what I mean by that is an aesthetic representation of your values, interests and experiences. Gen Z is especially good at using social media to contribute to our vast digital culture. What’s so cool about social media is it gives us the tools to connect and create sophisticated content at little to no cost. We’re getting further and further away from being able to opt out of existing in cyberspace.
- Jeanie: And get caught up in the need to only put our best versions out there? There’s this stigma that filters justify beauty, captions become strategic ploys for likes, and aesthetic is everything. It’s almost a treat when someone posts a #nofilter picture! To me, if we’re supposed to be living this other life on social, why does it need to be a different version of ourselves? I’m the same tired, coffee-drinking, family-loving, city-working girl in person as I am online! To not post about that on social wouldn’t be Jeanie. I guess you could say there can be a lot of “fakeness” out their on the web.
From this photo, I’d say my personal brand was something like Pocahontas meets school teacher.
I’m Just Looking For Some #RealFriends
- Anais: Social doesn’t always have to equal fakeness, Jeanie. Sometimes you can find a community that you geographically would’ve never connected with through these platforms! High schoolers nowadays have the ability to investigate corners of the world I didn’t even know existed when I was their age. Social media offers exposure to ideas and ways of living that often differ radically from the communities we grew up in. Think of all of the people MySpace brought together across the globe. I remember having emo virtual friends in Germany who totally made me feel sane when I was the only kid listening to Bring Me The Horizon in middle school…
- Jeanie: Hmm. I did have a friend I met online from Germany, too. Maybe you do have a point about how communities come together through social media nowadays. Between networking, dating and starting movements, I guess there really is something there.
Meine Freundin von Deutschland, Lisa!
“Come Together, Right Now…” over Social Justice
- Anais: Totally. Look at the Parkland students! They continue to prove the power of social media for social change and have been able to enact some real change in a few short weeks. They’ve learned how to successfully push really important ideas (and themselves) from growing up online, which makes them the perfect adversary for the alt-right. The same social platforms that they are using to captivate the nation, we once used to captivate ourselves. The world––and capabilities of social media platforms––was different then…
- Jeanie: There’s definitely a sense of making a difference at the touch of a button. While I still believe it’s important to communicate face-to-face, there’s no denying that social media has its place. As long as this generation can prove these tools will be used for the greater good, then I know they’ll lead into a future where all voices can be heard.
#StudentsStandUp for your right to to speak, to be heard, to be safe, to Live
— Emma González (@Emma4Change) February 28, 2018
What do you think? How has social media changed since you’ve been a teenager? Let us know in the comments below!