The Social Life of Social Networks
by Cailin Kelly
When I was a teenager, being called a “nerd” was a terrible insult. Kids tried to avoid the label, adjusting their tastes to suit the masses. Cut to ten years later–we learn nerds aren’t uncool. After all, nerds gave us the Internet, which in turn gave us social networking. It’s funny how those sites work, isn’t it? It’s like progressing through school – and life itself.
MySpace brought real-life into your Internet life. Remember the Top 8, those coveted spots on your page? It was like your grade-school clique, the friends you made in kindergarten, who stuck like rubber cement until junior high. MySpace was your favorite songs on a loop. It was passing “notes” with silly, glittery pictures declaring you someone’s best friend. It was too-close, too-blurry photographs of you and your friends with that first horrible digital camera you got for your birthday.
As the Internet Generation grew out of MySpace, along came Facebook, leaving fond memories of bright colors and Top 8s behind. Facebook is junior high and high school. You make friends with people you’ve never met. People you haven’t seen in years are kept up-to-date with statuses and innumerable photographs. You check in to places you visit, creating a great scrapbook when combined with the rest of your profile. Friends are lost with just a click, often over ridiculous, childish arguments. Love lives are charted and commented on–we’ve all posted that sympathetic “What happened?!” when a friend’s status changed to “single.” Most of all, Facebook can be the most embarrassing record of our lives: pictures of that horrid haircut, of that bad-idea hookup, of one too many. Thank goodness for the untagging option!
Then comes Twitter. When we’re kids, we’re taught to try not to be self-centered, to be courteous to others. Twitter is the complete opposite. The best phase of life to compare it to is when you take a year off to “find yourself.” It’s the biggest “me” place on the Internet. We document every banal moment of our lives, from the minute we wake up to the second we crash. We assume people like us enough to follow and occasionally reply to our day. It’s like carrying a diary with you and then handing it to friends at the end of the night and saying, “See what I did today? Isn’t my life interesting?”
Twitter does have its benefits for those lucky enough to hit it big and for those who admire said lucky ones. When celebrities use Twitter, it gives fans a chance to interact and to keep up with what’s new in that person’s career. Consider it the 21st century groupie–you can “follow” your favorite actor, singer, or band wherever they go…and all it’ll cost you is your usual monthly Internet or phone bill!
And finally, we have Tumblr. It’s a difficult concept to explain, but Tumblr is one of the most addictive social media sites. One webpage can hold every single aspect of you, down to its design. There are no real rules. It’s the time of your life when you learn to accept who you truly are. Whatever your passion, someone is right there with you, and if no one understands your love of something, it’s your blog. Chances are, you’ve found friends who will tease you, but at the end of the day will defend you to the death.
Some people believe social media is taking away the human aspect of social lives. In my experience, from MySpace to Tumblr, social media taught me to be myself. It has helped me make friends I hope to hold on to for the rest of my life because they’re the friends who get me…nerdiness and all.