Social media has its many advantages. You can keep up with friends whom you haven't spoken to in a long time, relatives who live in far away lands and you can reconnect with people whom you never thought you'd hear from again. However, social media does have its downsides. While I am a firm believer that websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have changed the world -- they have also changed how we communicate with each other and it's not always necessarily for the better. When I was in college, these things did not exist and as I set out to embark on another college speaking tour this fall, I am quickly reminded of why I am glad social media did not exist when I was in college.
1. I Wasn't As Self-Absorbed.
Granted, wasn't doesn't mean I'm not now, but not having social media in college helped me become the person that I am today. These days, everything from an accomplishment to a good hair day is sent out into the universe via social media and is always cause for praise. It has turned the younger generation (the generation in college or about to graduate) into a bunch of narcissists. No one really cares that much about what you're doing because we're most likely doing something similar, but because Facebook allows us to publicly proclaim everything that we do as amazing, it does not allow us to build a real foundation of self-confidence anymore. When hundreds of people like what you do on a weekly basis, it makes the things that matter less genuine and it doesn't allow you to build self esteem because we never fail on social media -- we only post the good -- thus making it harder to learn those difficult life lessons you attain from actually being in the real world.
2. I Couldn't Stalk My Ex.
I could. However, before social media existed, I had to physically follow or linger outside of an ex's apartment in order to find out what they were doing. In today's tech-savvy age, we never really leave our ex's. Some of us keep them as friends on Facebook or follow their every tweet, thus making it even more difficult to get over a failed relationship. Social media makes it easy to find almost anyone and if you're going through a break-up today, chances are you've lingered over your ex's most recent Instagram pictures to make sure they're not having as much fun as you. Back in my day, word of mouth or a happenstance bumping into someone was the only way to keep tabs on a former love. Now, it's out there for you to see, whenever you want to see it making it even harder to rebound after a breakup.
3. My Photos Were More Organic.
When I was in college, the photographs that we took captured an actual time of my life that really happened and wasn't Photoshopped or altered in any way. Now we have filters and thousands of apps on our phones to make ourselves look better in the pictures that we post on Facebook and Instagram. Before that we used (gasp) actual cameras and sometimes even disposables and could not alter our appearance in any way. Those pictures captured a time and a place that were organic. These days every picture runs through a process before becoming "Facebook worthy" and it almost makes all of our fun times and special moments less memorable. I'm not saying I don't appreciate a little retouching from time to time, but sometimes, I long for the days of fun nights out with friends and disposable cameras that captured a moment for real.
4. I Knew How to Actually Catch Up With Friends.
Because Facebook and Twitter allow us to post up-to-the-minute updates on everything going on in our lives, it makes it hard to catch up with friends when you already know everything that's going on. Granted, some things are left off Facebook, a fun catch up can quickly lose its luster when you already know everything that's going on in your friends lives. When I was in college, my friends and I had no choice but to actually see each other in order to find out what was going on in our respective lives. These days, all you have to do is click a button and it's just like catching up -- without the fun part of actually seeing your friends.
5. I Had Some Anonymity.
We feel the need to check in everywhere and also feel like a casual acquaintance's personal business is now our own because they've posted things on Facebook. Sometimes, especially in college, I didn't want certain people to know where I was going or what I was doing because I most likely wasn't supposed to be there doing it. Facebook also makes getting to know a new person difficult. If you're going on a date with someone, it's very easy to Facebook stalk them and debrief yourself beforehand. In college, I had some privacy -- there were certain people I simply did not want to associate with. Nowadays, everyone feels entitled to know where you are, who you are with and what you are doing at all times.
6. I Genuinely Communicated With People.
No one writes letters or even calls each other on the phone anymore. When I was in college, I wrote letters to friends back home because if you couldn't get a hold of them, there really was no way to communicate besides sending an email or a letter. A quick "Miss you buddy" over Facebook chat is so disingenuous as opposed to a hand written letter detailing what you've been up to and asking for a response in return. It has also made the "Facebook Generation" have the worst handwriting of any group of people since the Middle Ages as they have never needed to hand write anything down since the third grade.
7. I Wasn't As Opinionated.
Social media has apparently given us the right to comment on any and everything because we now have the ability to. It's ruined relationships and caused rifts in groups of friends because you can literally leave your opinion about something everywhere you go online. The thing is, very few people actually care what you think. When I was in college, we kept our nasty opinions to ourselves or left it for whenever the person you were talking about left the room. That's what I like to call: manners. Those no longer exist in social media land and quite frankly, I found it much easier to forge relationships with people when I wasn't receiving comments from the peanut gallery every other minute about how I looked or something I liked.
8. I Knew What the Word "Friend" Meant.
Just because someone is your friend on Facebook, doesn't mean they're you're friend. There are plenty of people I am "friends" with on Facebook because of mutual business contacts. These are not people I am friends with, but because we are linked virtually, we are connected with every piece of information I chose to share with the world. In college, my friends were the people I loved, cared about and wanted to spend time with it. It's unclear whether or not the "Facebook Generation" knows what the definition of the word friend means. Are the people you follow on Twitter or friend on Facebook going to be there for you when something catastrophic happens?
All good things have their disadvantages. I love social media. Hell, I wouldn't have a career if it weren't for it. But in an age where we are all constantly checking our phones instead of talking to the person right in front of us, let's take a step back and remember the old days: the early 2000's. A time where we could create real relationships with real people we knew because we liked and not because we simply clicked "accept friendship" on our computer. It really was a much more friendly time.