How is it that we can spend hours on end surfing social media and never make it to the bottom of our feeds? Every time we see a notification for a new post, we’re drawn to stop whatever we’re doing and click it, which takes us right back to the top of the page for fresh content. It’s practically effortless and it’s been ingrained into our minds as the social media frenzy has spread worldwide. Whenever we feel that gnawing sense of frustration and boredom, our first instinct is to reach for our phones, tablets and computers to log onto our social media platform of choice and see what the rest of the world is up to.
Why is social media so popular? What is so exhilarating about reblogging an entertaining video on Tumblr or accepting a friend request on Facebook? Some say that over time Facebook has lost its luster but the statistics prove this rumor wrong:
- According to the Pew Research Center of Internet & Technology roughly 64% of U.S. adults are Facebook users and three-quarters of them access it every single day.
- It’s estimated that they have a monthly count of 2.2 billion active users. They have certainly come a long way since the days of Six Degrees and MySpace.
- Statista has projected that the number of social media users in 2021 will be at a colossal 3.02 billion.
Clearly, social media serves as much more than a means of sharing cute pictures and videos. Every user’s experience on the various platforms is different but the reasoning behind it is usually the same: we seek community. The Internet is a communal experience that we have constant access to. We can take a peek into each other’s lives and stay updated on the latest news without hunting down contact numbers or flipping through dozens of TV channels.
Those of us who are naturally shy or poor conversationalists are able to speak out without the need to show their face, which gives an immediate boost to their self-confidence. Many social media users feel that they’re braver online than they are in real life—myself included. As an avid writer with many interests, I have been able to share my creative endeavors with thousands of people through my blog on a daily basis. The safety of sitting outside the screen creates a sense of validation and control. The screen doesn’t judge.
Sometimes social media is the only outlet available when users are lonely or lack encouragement in their personal lives. A friend of my family has often felt stymied in his attempts to socialize thanks to his long-term job as his elderly grandparents’ caretaker. He often faces more opposition from his family than support. This isolation eventually led him to social media, where he learned that others could sympathize and that some of them even shared his interest in professional costuming. Thanks to this revelation, he decided to create a media page where they could coordinate meetups, photoshoots and fundraisers based around their passion. Social media was, in fact, how I met him.
Comfort and support from friends near and far are always available over social media during difficult times. Angie, another personal friend, discovered this when her husband was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor. Friends and family who were separated by physical distance were able to offer their thoughts and prayers through social media and new connections were made in the process as she was directed to a brain cancer support group that could educate and reassure her while raising awareness about the issue.
Not only does a social medium allow users to find the support that they need in seconds, it also allows creators to showcase what they have to offer. Tumblr, DeviantArt, and similar sites are dedicated exclusively to giving artists opportunities to display their talents. YouTube is also an increasingly popular platform for artists, performers and gamers to gain recognition and receive constructive criticism.
Seán McLoughlin, a high-profile YouTuber who recently celebrated his 19 million subscriber milestone, has said, “I love watching people create, I love watching people find a passion, using their talents, getting involved in stuff, doing projects all together, being a community and working together to build each other up…It’s amazing.”
It’s this sense of community—the ability to comfort, create and connect—that inspires more and more people to join social media platforms. This online “family of choice” is one that will confidently continue growing for decades to come. Whether you’ve limited yourself to Facebook alone or are a user of several sites, you are already a valuable part of it!