Strathclyde Telegraph

How Has Social Media Changed Our World?

By Claire Monaghan

“Social” games. Everyone loves them, and we’re certainly not at a loss for new ideas thanks to the web. Here’s a fun one that’s been circling around – “The Phone Stacking Game”. Here’s how it goes: It starts at the beginning of a meal. Everyone stacks their phones, face down, in the middle of the table. No questions asked. Now, here’s the fun part – for the duration of the meal, no one is allowed to pick their phone up. If no one picks up their phone, the bill is split, but if someone picks up… congratulations, you’ve earned a free dinner! The bill is on them. Sound like much of a challenge? This is just one of the hard to believe “games” circling Facebook (ironically) to try and promote traditional face-to-face chat when out with others (wait, isn’t that the point of going out with them?).

It’s now been just over 10 and a half years since Facebook entered the web, our pc’s and our lives. It boasts over 1.23 billion active monthly users, and it’s pretty rare to come across someone who isn’t one of them. It goes without saying that Facebook, along with other social media giants such as Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram etc. have significantly altered our social lives forever. The big question is, how exactly have they changed us, and is it for good or for bad?

Let’s first look at the obvious. It’s now extremely easy to connect with a large number of people and retain otherwise impossible friendships all through your computer or smartphone. Ever wondered what happened to your childhood friend from summer camp? What your distant relatives in Australia are up to? If your ex from three years ago is in another relationship? With social media, it’s no longer a problem. We take for granted which would have been near enough impossible not long ago – and that isn’t the only aspect.

You’re pretty much considered a ghost on social media if you don’t share, and luckily enough there’s no shortage of that. It’s easy to share birthdays, holidays, achievements and life events to our online community, and so much so that a great deal of us can be guilty of over-sharing (you know, that same person who puts the same selfie up every day). It’s not only the positive, with people sharing everything from breakups to deaths online – not only for the help and support, but to avoid those horribly awkward “How’s so-and-so doing?”-“Oh, we broke up” conversations.

For writers in particular, social media is about the only platform that offers you the ability to instantly publish uncensored opinions. Traditionally, writers would have to go through the press, a publishing house or get space on TV to do so, and even then it wouldn’t be uncensored. There are arguments on both sides to whether this is good or bad, but there’s no denying this new freedom has certainly shaped our social lives and the way we interact with one another.

Take Chatwin for example. In addition to being a recognised travel author, he was known for his wide circle of friends and allies. In his time (60’s/70’s) it would have been especially hard to do so, and could be seen as a great achievement. Nowadays, all we need are a smartphone and wifi access to follow his lead.

Since the rise of social media, it’s much easier to form groups online with those who share your beliefs and opinions, and to exclude those who do not. This results in people being less tolerant of others opinions, and decreases the amount we are subjected to others beliefs and opinions. For example, I’m sure we all saw the uproar online over the recent referendum, and the amount of arguments and loss of friendships over people’s choice on the vote. Traditionally, without this platform, we were constantly exposed to others opinions and beliefs, and therefore had a much more open mind with what happened around us. Social media is destroying this, putting us into boxes and sticking up barriers because of what we believe in. In reality, this can never be imitated in real life, and the ability to be tolerant and respectful is something that is needed and must be practiced by all of us not only for our own good, but the good of society.} else {