How would the Internet be described to someone who lived 200 years ago? We live in a world where “LOL” means something entirely different from “lol”, where words like “Snapchat” can be used as various parts of speech, and where the number of likes on an Instagram photo equates to a certain popularity standing. In 2004, when Mark Zuckerberg created one of the most popular social media platforms to date, did he realize the monster he had borne?
Before Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and even Facebook, there was AIM and MySpace. These pioneer platforms served as a space for people to interact with others. But when did this casual use of social media become an obsession? Now, to be excluded from social media and its effects is virtually impossible. Social media has unarguably influenced our culture; unsaid rules exist and when they are not heeded, the ghastly risk of unfollowers runs high. Instagram photos must be posted at a “prime time”, Snapchat stories are not complete without the use of a geotag, and Facebook album names must border ingenious creativity. Everyone falls victim to social media—yes, even Grandma, when she participated in the renowned #MannequinChallenge this past Thanksgiving.
But social media creators are not the only ones benefiting from this phenomenon. Models Alexis Ren and Jay Alvarrez, notorious for their steamy beachside Instagram photos and adventurous YouTube videos, have 7.1 million and 4.7 million followers on Instagram, respectively. Their infamous adventures to Greece and Tahiti, among other exotic locations, led to the debuts of both models in music videos, car commercials, and photoshoots. Not only did the broadcasting of their lives lead to greater opportunities, but they were also paid by airline companies to travel and publicize their exciting lifestyle. Although vacationing on the most glamourous islands and free-falling from hot air balloons with NERF guns may hardly seem like a job, some argue that there is a certain skill that they have mastered in order to achieve their vast success. Ren and Alvarrez orchestrate their pictures perfectly to center every Instagram picture around their flashy lifestyles and physical appearances, something most people are drawn to and find appealing. Is it a coincidence that these social media celebrities post photos where their “perfect” bodies are almost always exposed? Are they appealing to the public’s desire to fawn over a “#relationshipgoals” couple? Nonetheless, these stars have created an unprecedented career for themselves through social media.
Throughout this past presidential election, many argue that the only real winner in this race was the media. The media’s presence certainly added to the colossal amount of misinformation during this election. For example, Trump’s policy regarding the deportation of immigrants was highly reliant on the widely accepted theory that Mexican immigrants are stealing American jobs. However, reliable sources such as The New York Times, Forbes, The Atlantic, and the Huffington Post have published articles stating that this notion is bogus. Not only were his policies accepted by many because of this kind of misinformation, but the way in which people accepted his win as the presidential elect was also jaded by misinformation. In retrospect, many people claim that Donald Trump’s victory was not technically surprising, but was only alarming for many due to his portrayal as the laughingstock of the political sphere. As the abundance of Donald Trump memes and comedic remixes of his speeches were constantly shared on Facebook, the public viewed him as more of an antic and less as a candidate, resulting in the shock that followed his win. As social media is arguably the only way to obtain information, many people worry about the legitimacy of much of the information that is presented. One may read about Donald Trump’s latest shenanigans from the New York Times but may attain a completely different story from Fox News. The media has ascertained immense power in that they are able to skew specific details and present it to the public in a certain way. Pop stars especially suffer from this power through hyperbolic, attention-grabbing headlines. Websites like TMZ and hollywoodlife are notorious for their misleading headlines that draws the attention of the public.
So in the age of flourishing Instagram models and money deposits through Snapchat, the world around us is truly becoming a place distinctly different from that of our grandparents. Not only does social media serve as a news outlet (Twitter’s News tab), but it also creates a platform where people can connect with each other and share information. Many hate our generation’s growing dependency on social media, and technology in general, but no one can deny its immense impact on humanity. In 2010 and 2011, angry Tunisians protested against a repressive government. However, civil unrest truly broke out in December of 2010, when Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor, set himself on fire. This act was a clear expression of the despondency many Tunisians felt from the dictatorial rule of the government. As the video of Bouazizi took to Twitter and Facebook, Bouazizi’s actions inspired many and riots began to spread as a symbol of unity against the government.
Social media affects the many aspects that compose our culture and the world we live in. Instead of polaroids, there is the Snapchat camera. Instead of writing letters, there is the ability to tweet at someone. Instead of sharing CDs and records, there is Spotify, where collaborative playlists allow people to share music. In our world, virtually nothing is the same as it was 20 years ago. The social media revolution is real, and it is now.