‘Observations’ (Ep. 6) | Social Media

There is no denying the titanic impact that social media has had on human behaviour and on society as a whole. From its early beginnings through sites such as MySpace, to its later incarnations that include the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Snapchat, social media has made a lasting impression on our everyday lives. With this being the case, I sought to investigate and examine what influences the behaviour of people when using social media and the affects that behaviour has on themselves and their relationships.

I begin by discovering the most commonly used social media platforms of the participants. “I’d say Twitter, probably”, says Lana Peroni, 23. “It’s just the most interesting, I think, even when I’m just on daily stuff. News –”, she gives as an example, “I’d see it on Twitter before I’d see it on the news. There’s just more content on Twitter, I think, than anything else”. While Damien Ware, 24, gives Instagram as his preferred form of social media, “I use Instagram more because it’s funny. It’s actually funny, you find things on there that are actually funny, whereas Facebook is shit and boring”. Both Lana and Damien agree that the continuous content that the aforementioned social media platforms provide is a key factor in their appeal, although, neither are afraid to admit the negative aspects that also stem from the use of social media. “Maybe [that] it’s the most opinionated platform, I’d say, because everyone just argues on it”, suggests Lana when discussing what she considers the worst element of Twitter. “I don’t get involved in that, but everyone just goes back and forth, everyone’s just got a different opinion on stuff, which obviously is life, but it’s just escalated over [Twitter]”.

Damian castigates Instagram for encouraging “the fake girls”, declaring, “I think the worst thing about Instagram is how gassed it has everyone. How gassed people become because of ‘likes’ ”. There’s a slight pause for thought before he restarts, “Nah, let me tell you in better words”, he says vehemently. “The thing I dislike most about that form of social network is the things people are willing to do for other people’s ‘likes’. That is it”. Unsurprisingly, Damien expresses that he’s “not bothered” by the response that his social media posts receive, and for the most part, Lana is the same, “Obviously I wouldn’t post a picture if I didn’t like it, but I don’t really care”, she claims, before implying that she knows people who pay closer attention to such things. “Some of my friends will be like, ‘Don’t post that picture because I look bad’, but if my friend posted that, I wouldn’t really care, because my followers — the people I know — will see mine. No-one looks good all the time, so obviously I’ll post what I think I look the best in, but if someone else posted the picture of me I wouldn’t be bothered”.

We then speak on the thoughts that occur prior to a social media post, with Lana revealing, “I have to check spelling and everything. I get really annoyed if I post something and it’s wrong”, she admits, which most probably stems from the ‘correction culture’ that is rife on social media. Lana adds, “I do think about who’s likely to see it. If I was posting on Facebook, for example, I probably wouldn’t swear, whereas if I was posting on Twitter, I wouldn’t worry about that. If something happens at work, or at my university, and I don’t have those people on Twitter, I’d comfortably tweet about it. Whereas if I had them looking at it, I wouldn’t necessarily”. Lana discloses that the reason for the majority of her tweets are “probably because I think other people will find it funny, or something”, but, perhaps more significantly, the reason why she tweets in this manner can be attributed to the Bandwagon Effect. “I haven’t actually really thought about [why I tweet the way I do]. I guess it’s the same, like… It’s just, sort of… If [other people] didn’t do it, then I wouldn’t see stuff and find it funny, so, it’s just doing the same. I think I’ve just got into the habit of it now, so it’s just there”.

On a similar train of thought, Damien tells that he either posts “for bants” or if he feels he can relate to particular content. With the sheer mass of social media users, there is evidence to suggest that this form of indirect social interaction creates a sense of gratification for the individual, “In a sense, but nothing life changing”, notes Damien. “If my phone was to break now, with my current Instagram, and I couldn’t find my password and login [details], I would not lose a night of sleep over it, I would not care, so it’s something I do, but it’s not the be all and end all of life for me”. Lana says she “doesn’t really think about it” once she has posted on social media, but does concede that in years gone by she’s been guilty of certain acts that have caused her embarrassment, “I mean, I haven’t actually done this in the last few years, but I remember [doing it] when I was a bit younger; you know when you angry tweet?” she asks, slightly discomfited by the thought. “Then, I’d go back and delete them all, because I’d be embarrassed, but I don’t do that anymore because I’ve learnt that I just end up deleting them. I don’t angry tweet in the same way, I have less emotion in it now, I wouldn’t share that on social media as I probably would of when I was a bit younger”. I query why that has changed, with Lana replying, “I just think that people don’t really need to know that. I see [social media] more as a funny, sort of, informative thing, [and this] is my personal life. When I was younger, it was a bit blurred between that, whereas now, I know the distinction”.

It’s a very interesting point that Lana makes when mentioning the distinction between her actual life and the “life” she leads on social media. She alludes to maturity being a crucial factor in realising the distinction, and that is something that Damien expands on, remarking on the generational differences. “These people — like, people who are fourteen now — they’ve grown up in a society where this is what they do. Posting shit for ‘likes’, that’s their game, that’s their PlayStation when if first came out for them”. Further support of this idea is given through an example from Lana, who reveals, “I’ve noticed my younger cousin — she’s posting pictures that she doesn’t really need to, then she’ll delete them later and post them again. I think it’s more the way you look and stuff, there’s more expectations created through social media for that. I think it definitely affects the younger generation more because I personally wouldn’t be bothered — and I couldn’t see any of me friends being bothered — if [a post] didn’t get a lot of likes. It’s not that big a deal”.

Irrespective of the some of the aforementioned negative aspects of social media, both Lana and Damien approve that the positive far outweighs them. Damien explains what he regards as the most progressive part of social media, “The fact that people are getting rich off of it”, he states. “The fact that ordinary people are making businesses from it — that is the key word — ordinary. Regular people can make money from this thing and turn it into a million pound idea”. Whereas Lana considers the effects that social media platforms have had on mainstream media, observing, “The media generally manipulates a lot of stuff and I think, for me, it’s the most interesting when you see news that’s not reported on TV or in the newspapers and you see it online and there’s people that know more about it. From what I see, it actually gives me a lot of insight into stuff that I wouldn’t have necessarily seen before”.

It seems we have arrived at a place where social media is going to play a key part in society for the foreseeable future, but it is how we utilise these channels that will decide whether these landscape-altering platforms are really worth our time.