/// How Viral Is Social Media?
I received a text message yesterday from a close friend/ex-boyfriend. He asked me if my birthday was actually tomorrow, while knowing that it was in May. I really had no clue what he was talking about and didn’t look into all that much. This morning, after waking up at 5:45, I noticed my phone was lit up with a Facebook notifications. Apparently my ex was right and I should have done more to combat the issue.
Friends from across the world did their daily Facebook duty of “happy birthday,” writing, only this time it was a mistake. The random people I friended while in Punta del Este, friends of friends from school, and even semi-close friends all seemed to think it was my birthday. The social media site would not let me change the date of my birth for some reason, so I was forced to hide the falsity so that no one else would write on my wall. A few friends commented stating that they knew it wasn’t my birthday and were a little confused.
Long story short, I was left with a growing number of posts from people wishing me a happy birthday. The list is continuing to grow even after taking everything down. People most likely saw that mutual friends wished me a happy birthday, so did the same without even verifying that it was, in fact, my birthday. Social media is nothing short of amazing, especially when things go wrong. What would have happened if I let people believe it was really my birthday? Could I have received a few of the new Facebook gifts? Instinctively, I felt as if my identity was stolen, people didn’t really know everything about me that I wanted them to. I hid the status first thing, but now looking back on it, a part of me wishes I would have left it up. Would people really have gone along with it? We have entered a world where so much of our lives are online, that when something goes wrong, it is hard to stop it and nearly impossible to stop at least a few people from finding out. Check your chat box, is there ever a point in the day where you have zero friends online? I know I am the first one to check my phone when it lights up or buzzes. The feeling I get when my phone goes off is eerily addictive. The more our lives get tweeted, posted, tagged, or liked, the more addicted we become. What started out as a fun way to catch up with friends, check the latest news, or see your friend’s travel photos has turned into a recreation of our lives altogether. We are addicted to these sites, because more of our life online and off.
This may sound a little absolutist, but at the end of the day, who is really controlling what you post online? Is that ironic music video your status because you actually enjoy it, or is it online because you want people to see how funny you are? The stuff that goes “viral” must have some genetic makeup to make it spread. It is only a matter of time before businesses figure out how to market that viral activity and push us further into a digital world. At the end of the day, I really don’t know if it is possible for someone to exist without at least one social media site. My event calendar, access to news, entertainment, and a growing portion of my family and friends’ lives are solely accessed through social media. It makes me question what I did before. This tipping point in society is something our generation has never experienced before. The transition of our lives from physical to digital is only comparable to the way the telephone changed the way people interacted. Our instant gratification-based society is doing nothing but speeding up. Will we eventually reach a point where there is nothing more that can be put online, or will we keep pushing the envelop into some ‘to-be-created” social media world? After all, everyone keeps asking what will be the new Facebook, right?
There is clearly no stopping the continued growth of “social media,” whatever that term exactly means, but we need to notice what it is doing to society. The way we access information, the way people see us, what people know about us, it’s all more available than ever. This will undoubtedly have social repercussions, not only in regards to revolts and revolutions, but within mainstream culture itself. It seems like you have to know the latest video, the latest trend, the latest Harlem Shake, but do you really? I don’t know what the future holds, but social media will certainly be a part of it. Social media is the next frontier, but the next frontier of what? As long as big business back’s it, there is little to no way something this big can fail. I just hope that society notices these changes and can address that they are happening. I could just be apprehensive about change, or it could be because these changes will lead to the end of society as we know it. All I know is that you gotta jump on board or you will soon find yourself floating on a raft toward some deserted island of nonexistence.