Using Social Media is a Test, and Most Of Us Fail Everyday



This is an Op-Ed piece that examines the societal tests various social media platforms throw at us everyday. Why do we comment? Like? Share? How does clickbait play a factor? Do humans react too quickly online, without thinking of the possible consequences?


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Whether we’re checking messages from our friends, tweeting about the latest trending topic, or skimming our Facebook newsfeed, our senses are constantly bombarded with stimuli of all types. These sounds and images trigger various reactions from us, both ones we are conscious of, as well as some we overlook. Social media has changed the ways we communicate with each other, and these methods move so fast that only a few individuals pause to think about it.

It wasn’t too long ago that marketers looking to reach more people were forced to work incredibly hard, spent a lot of money, and invested a large chunk of their time. The media and messages from that era were only between you, and the creator, publisher, broadcaster, or original source. No commenting, no liking, no sharing, and no interacting.

If a TV show offended you, or got you excited, you might have attempted to contact the network, or even write a letter or email hoping it reaches someone who cares enough to respond or take action. Realistically, though, that was too much work, and we quickly learned to move on from things we didn’t like.

Fast forward to today, and very few people just ignore something and move on. We comment, Tweet, message, and go out of our way to remedy the issue. and That’s where we fail. Social media tests our will power and self control on a daily basis, and reacting to things is so easy now, that many of us react first, post second, and then think about our response to the situation.

Did we achieve what we wanted? Why do we feel this way? How does using social media the way we do make us feel better? Or, feel worse? We now have an unprecedented level of access to a world of friends, enemies, acquaintances, celebrities, influencers, local businesses, brands, and everyone and everything in between.

Take twitter for example. We follow people we don’t know personally. We essentially eavesdrop on conversations until something sparks enough interest in us to engage, respond, or take action. Imagine that in the offline world? It’s the modern version, in a way, to following someone on the street for a number of blocks, hearing them chat to someone, and then you suddenly jump in saying “I don’t agree with that! How dare you!”

How weird is that? This isn’t to say don’t engage people online, but rather that the decision making aspect of communication gets scaled back in many ways because we sit behind our screens from a safe distance, we’re anonymous, and it’s so easy to get our message out there. All you need is a connected device and your reason to post.

This reactionary issue isn’t just an opinion, but it’s a key marketing factor that many businesses count on for their success

As media shifted (and continues to shift) away from newspapers and magazines, digital media platforms and communities are creating content and messages that trigger that initial reflex reaction. This can get ugly if headlines are created purely for shock value, especially if they don’t represent the article, or even relate back to the story. “Clickbait” and “fishing for clicks”, if you will.

If you’re a social media user, you have the ability to connect to all corners of the world through the Internet, and that power should be handled with responsibility and care. The web is still a new frontier for many of us, and growing pains are natural, but let’s just take the few extra seconds to recognize that just because we can react to everything and everyone, it doesn’t mean we have to. Sure, it’s tempting to do this for a variety of reasons, both good and bad, but nonetheless, it’s a test of will that we, as a digitally connected society, need to work on.

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