Social media has changed how we are able to share our feelings, thoughts, and ideas. It has changed the very definition of self-expression according to Oxford. Social networking has encouraged self-expression. However, you shouldn’t limit your self-expression to only social media. And while you might feel like telling the world everything on your mind, you don’t have to tell the world about it via social media. Just remember that the actual heart of social media does not come from the number of likes, comments, retweets, but from the word “social”.
Let me explain by telling you about my first experience with social media: my Facebook account. I got it when I was a freshman in high school back in 2006. I would not have considered myself an early adopter, but I know I was one of the first people in my high school to start using Facebook before it became more popular. I didn’t get to see how many likes or comments I could get on my Facebook status (I don’t even think “likes” and “comments” were a thing back then). I got a Facebook account because this was a free form of communication that I could use to stay in touch with my friends. When Facebook allowed users to send messages to each other that were not publicly shown on their profiles, that was another form of communication that I used to stay in touch with my friends and family (before the days when texting and smartphones were more common).
Keep in mind, this form of communication that I maintain with my friends and family is not one-sided. I also choose to update those in my social network on my daily life as well. While I might not post everyday on my different social media accounts, that doesn’t mean I’m staying quiet. I’m on social media daily (Actually, hourly might be a better word. Hey it’s my job!). I’m adding my own thoughts in the form of comments to different posts, liking photos and status updates, and clicking on links to different articles to read.
Social media makes it so easy to share thoughts. All you do is type what you are feeling, what you are seeing, or what you are about to experience, and hit “post”. How I update my different social media networks about my daily life is what I consider my form of self-expression. Self-expression has always been an important part of my life, and having social media as a form of self-expression has turned into an extension of myself. I’ve always had some sort of form of self-expression in my life, ranging from art to photography to music, and even writing. With social media, I can exercise myself through writing more often.
While not everyone views themselves as a writer, with social media, we are considered writers. We write our own content. Each person has their own profile that allows them to edit what others can see, and what you want others to see. We also create content daily by posting new photos, status updates, and tweets. These forms of daily content can be about anything that we are passionate about, including family, friends, hobbies, interests, causes that we care about, and the occasional funny cat video. We can also show our appreciation for content by sharing it, liking it, and even reposting it. Even if the content is not your own, it can still come from your intent to share what you are feeling or experiencing at the time. And with our own content, we can choose which content we want to emphasize: parties, artistic hobbies, personal endeavors, or just the little things that happen in our lives.
Not only can we share these things, but by posting them online, we automatically label them as important. The things that we view as important can include our interests, our accomplishments, and even updates about our friends and families. We can tell the world not only what’s on our mind, but also who we are. Everyone views the world differently, and posting about our experiences and feelings online is one way to show the world exactly what is on our minds in a way that might not be the same for another person. What makes social media so interesting is that each of us have a different approach to how to use it, and why we want to use it. Much like ourselves in real life, we each have different and unique personalities online. And these online personalities can be another way to express our identities.
Now fast forward to 2015, nine years later, a lot has changed in my life since I first joined Facebook. I’ve also added Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest to my social media accounts, each for different reasons. How I choose to write updates and what I choose to write about on social media has drastically changed (who else remembers updating their Facebook status in the “third person”?) And even my job involves social media, which I did not think was going to be a job option back in 2006!
As social media continues to grow, there are some people who think that social media will only be used to promote narcissism, increase insecurities, or for businesses to advertise their products. But when used correctly, social media can be a powerful communication tool. You can tell the world what is on your mind at that moment, and why you feel that is important. Not only can you stay updated with the lives of your friends and family, but you can also keep them updated on your life as well. Social media is not a one-sided conversation, and while it cannot replace authentic communication, it can fill the void when authentic, face-to-face communication is not a feasible option.