We generate A LOT of data. A lot. Just how much? Well, according to this website, social media users tweet 500 million times per day every day. So, let’s do some (very basic) math. If the average length of a tweet is 28 characters long, that’s 14 billion characters a day! And if the average character length for a book is around 400,000 characters, that’s enough to fill about 35,000 books. 35,000 books every day!
In a world moving so fast you may not have had time to think about why we generate so much content. In social media, the obvious answer seems to be TO COMMUNICATE…duh! Human beings are social animals. Social media is an easy and effective way for us to share our lives, find similarities, make connections, find differences, have debates.
Of course, life also exists outside the Internet (though true browsers might debate this). But social media is now such a large part of many of our lives that to not post almost feels like disappearing. Like the hypothetical tree falling in the woods we question whether we really did something if we didn’t post about it? What is existence without communication, and in this day and age, what is communication without social media?
We log onto social media to stay up to date, and we seem to be posting to stay relevant. “I post, therefore, I am.” It all seems to boil down to a question of perception and identity. What we’re really doing on social media is trying to exist as individuals and develop our identity in this great, big world of so many others. What we like, don’t like, agree or disagree with. We develop a voice and then voice our opinions. We share, retweet and repost because we want to be associated with things we like, identify with or find aesthetically pleasing. We’re measuring ourselves up against others and attempting to declare who we are, even as that definition constantly changes.
Let’s be honest, the praise and instant gratification social media offers in terms of likes, comments, shares etc. can feel really nice. So many of us want to be thought well of and liked by others. Social media provides a perfect platform for achieving that. Some people even go so far as to craft images of themselves on social media that hardly reflect their real life. Some use social media to confidently live out a version of themselves truer than what they reveal in real life. Not only do we want to be liked, often we just want to be understood. Social media can be a great place to get support from those in similar situations and on similar journeys.
On the flip side, the psychological effects of technology and its impact on relationships is a sliding slope. People are less inclined to go outside and socialize because everything is at their fingertips. What this does is allow the brain to isolate itself. But we are not meant to be kept in isolation. Studies show that face – to - face interactions, especially in older adults, can reduce the risk of depression, isolation and anxiety. The internet is a remarkable tool that has shrunk the world to nothing and brought people closer together. But it also pushes people further away from what it means to be human.