Social media started taking off when I was in high school and really picked up steam during my college years. Myspace is the first social network I remember using, besides having AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) and creating websites on AngelFire! Ok, I may have just dated myself there, but that’s what I remember. That’s what I got started on. That’s how social media started for me and those my age.
Myspace and AIM
At that time, it was a fun way to share things with friends. I remember when you could post on a board thing on Myspace and your friends could see it. And you always found a way to try to get the guy you were crushing on to see it. Or maybe add him to your “top 8” but not as the first one. That spot was reserved for your best friend. Past that, I don’t remember what else we really did on myspace. AIM was where it was at. Trying to come up with the perfect away message.
With Myspace and AIM, they were there to serve as a supplement to the time we spent together in school. I wasn’t connected with people I barely knew, people I hadn’t talked to for years. These were the friends I saw day in and day out. These were the friends I spent my time with at school, and these social media networks were a way to keep in contact over the weekends and school breaks.
Facebook in College
About the time I started college was when Facebook came in to play. Most people won’t even remember, but Facebook started as a college-student-only social network. Actually, it started for only Harvard students, but when it became more widely available, it was to any higher education students. When I signed up for it, new users had to have an email address that ended with .edu to prove they were in college. Of course, it’s possible to log in to your college email address long after you graduate, so that wasn’t a perfect plan. In 2006, Facebook was open for anyone over the age of 13 to create an account.
As a college student, we often used Facebook to plan events with each other. My group of friends would post beach days and nights to play Ultimate Frisbee or meet at the sand volleyball courts. We would find out who was going to be tailgating before the football games or attending the basketball games. Facebook was our way to organize ourselves.
So at this time, Facebook was still basically a supplement for face-to-face interaction. I started to add others who I didn’t see all the time. Friends from high school who were going to different schools. Friends who had moved away throughout high school. And so started the slow spiral to being both more connected yet more lonely.
Facebook after College
As soon as we graduated college, we all started getting busier. Some of my friends started grad school, some of us got married, some moved away. No matter what the circumstances, our time to be able to hang out together got more scarce. Meaning we relied on things such as Facebook to keep in touch with each other and keep updated on our lives.
We still were able to spend some time with friends after college. We went on vacation with a few friends, had get-togethers, went to each other’s weddings. But those times got farther and farther apart.
After a while, it seemed like the only way I kept in contact with a lot of my friends was through Facebook. Everyone had so much going on, we were all so busy, that we didn’t make the time to get together. My number of friends that I saw on a consistent basis started to decline. It was a slow process, though, so it went unnoticed at the time. But more and more we relied on social media to keep informed rather than a good face-to-face or even over-the-phone conversation.
Facebook as a Mom
Becoming a mom was a game-changer in so many ways. But from a social standpoint, I lost a lot of friends when I became a mom. A couple of the friends are ones that I knew didn’t like children, so I wasn’t surprised about those ones. What did surprise me was all the other friends that seemed to drop off the radar. At first, I had quite a few friends who were supportive. A few friends who would still hang out with us. But the reality of having a small child means that social time is more limited. And we were one of the first of our friends to have a child, which didn’t help either.
Over time, my friends became Facebook friends. And it seemed like that’s all we were, Facebook friends. We kept up with what was going on in each other’s lives through social media. And we are still friends on Facebook, but that doesn’t replace having friends to actually spend time with. Friends to have a date night with. Friends to be able to talk to when needed.
I have a lot of friends on Facebook, but not so many friends in real life. It seems that the only way I end up talking to people is through social media. When we had our 10-year high school reunion last year, I felt like I knew a lot about most of the people there because of social media. We all know what is going on with each other’s lives through Facebook, that sometimes it seems to replace real contact.
Social media is wonderful for keeping in contact with those who don’t live near you, family in other states. But it shouldn’t replace real contact. It shouldn’t replace actual conversations. It shouldn’t replace a friendship.