Social media is the new “great outdoors”. America is one such country that has always been on the lookout for the new frontier; manifest destiny, as we have called it. We camped, hiked, explored, marked the land and claimed it for our own. Every step was an achievement. When in today’s world you can virtually stand on a ledge of the Grand Canyon, or walk to your friend’s house via Google Maps, the sense of thrill that once came from the natural world is now dulled. So we turn to the virtual world. Some argue social media to be a Panopticon; a vehicle of identity-formation. Some see it as a way to live vicariously through the elite of the world. For most, it is simply a way to keep informed of what is happening around us from the comfort and compactness of a screen. But social media serves an even more important role for children and adults alike; it has become our playground.
I remember memorizing the numbers of my three “best friends” in the fifth grade. I would call them on my landline on Saturday mornings and then spend Sunday in the anticipating the return of communication. I was slower than most of my friends to join the iPhone wielding, selfie-snapping world that the word “teen” came to embody in the early 2010s. I never saw the appeal. However, as the cell phone became more and more an integral part of society, I found myself sucked into the world of social-media. It was and is addictive, never dulling with age as the other forms of entertainment from my youth did. I tired of my Tamagotchi within a month. However, Twitter only became more enticing with time. There was something magical about being connected to everyone at once, playing with different people in the same place. The internet was like the playground, and the various social media sites the different places to play. Snapchat is the slide. Instagram the monkey bars. Kids today have found that social media is an even more exciting way to interact and have fun. There is simply more to do. Exploring hashtags, following celebrities, posting pictures, viewing others, tweeting, snapping, liking. Children are not the only ones who have fallen victim to the jaws of social media. How often have you checked your Facebook today?
Why has social media taken over, you ask? We have been force fed, since its inception, that the internet IS the future. Not a part of it, but THE next step in the evolution of humankind. Social media only increased this sentiment. We are all pioneers in the realm of social media. In the same way that the men and women came and claimed what we call America today, we all attempt to stake claim to our own little piece of the virtual world. And it is fun. We are able to share little parts of ourselves with every post, while watching others do the same, taking part in both the present and the future simultaneously. This is what makes social media so appealing.
With all of this looking forward, however, we rarely step back and look at how it has affected the natural world. The nostalgia of a pre-social media world will always cloud my childhood. But should I not wish for the upcoming generation to share in my real playground experiences? As much as I love my eleven-year old brother’s youtube channel, I wish he would explore our backyard once in awhile. This is the cycle of life, parents saying to their children, and then to their grandchildren, “Back in my day…”. It has come naturally for decades, accompanied by an eye roll. But the new generation lives in the “spectacular now”. Today is today. And today is all over my Twitter feed.