I was a freshman in college when The Facebook was first launched. It was so new that it was not unlikely to ask a friend at another university for their page only to learn The Facebook was not available on their campus yet. Of course this was when a college email address was mandatory to open an account and the pages were extremely basic. I can remember when photos were introduced and it was a whole new ball game, previously profile pictures were the only pictures on the site. The day that high school students started popping up on the site foreshadowed what was to come to the site and social media in general. All of the college students were outraged, we did not want these kids (they were a whole year younger than me) sharing our cool zone and we were all committed to terminating our accounts to the site if they did not reverse the new changes. That was when we all learned we were addicted to Facebook (if we didn’t already know), unable to stick to our commitments.
Like most people I fought Twitter when it was announced, claiming it was just like updating my Facebook status over and over. I didn’t want everyone knowing what I was doing or where I was going all of the time. Fast-forward a year after the hype and I was telling my 1,000 followers all of the thoughts usually reserved for myself. When I was hungry, tired, overworked, underpaid, drunk even hung-over. My followers knew where I was going on vacation, who I was going with and what I was wearing. Afraid that my words would not suffice I usually included Twitpics to prove and brag about my locations and outfits. Twitpic was the photo application of Twitter, allowing you to share photos as opposed to the standard 140-character message. Whenever I became bored, uncomfortable, lonely or idle I would launch my twitter feed, sometimes reloading every other minute. I would be out with friends and we would all be verbally silent, while tweeting away our thoughts. I’d even tweeted about how boring a guy was while I was on a date with him (classy, I know). Then came the new kid on the block: Instagram. Credit: MorgueFile Stock PhotoInstagram took the Twitpic feature of Twitter and honed it on its popularity. No longer did you need to tell your followers what you were doing or where you were going, now you could show them. Instagram wasn’t about how witty or funny you could be, it was more about how sexy and attractive you were. When my beautiful pictures of the sunset in Los Angeles received less likes than my selfies at work I started my break up with Instagram. I know I’m cute, but have you ever seen the sunset in Los Angeles? It is amazing. Instagram was the enemy of all girlfriends, especially since you can actually see which pictures your boyfriend likes. Insecurity much?
Luckily for me it was around this time that I fell in love with my childhood best friend. He, unlike most of my peers, was not on any social networks, he barely texted. He was old school, if you wanted to contact him you had to actually call him and use your voice. I quickly realized how disconnected with the real world I had been after being around him nonstop for weeks. When it got quiet and the time started rapidly ticking into the time frame determined ‘awkward silence’ he would do something very strange the moment before I reached for my phone. He would talk. It wasn’t always something uniquely profound, he just said what was on his mind, to me instead of his followers. And I returned the intimate favor. By the time we decided to get married I had cancelled all of my accounts, never missing the lack of companionship or pretend friendships they offered.
I quickly came to accept how social networks ruined my social life for several years after being away from them for a long period. However, nothing makes it clearer than conversations with my single friends about their love lives. For starters, most of them meet their significant others on these social networks if not a dating site, which is very similar. I have never been on a dating site, but as a writer I would like to think I could make myself sound very appealing through words, leaving out the things about me you only get to know in person. I’m afraid for my friends every time they go to meet up with one of these men, demanding the itinerary in case he turns out to be a psycho. Once they actually decide to start dating one of their online friends exclusively, social networks continue to haunt their relationship. I have had friends get into arguments with their boyfriends because of a picture they’ve liked or a comment they wrote. I’ve witnessed the desperate desire to take couple selfies for social media, which really just needs to stop. Seriously, if there’s no one else present to take a picture for you, maybe a picture just wasn’t meant to happen. The moment I knew social networks were ruining my friends’ relationships was when a friend told me about getting stood up “only to log-in and see he was online”. All of these networks cannot be in your relationship. Log off! Get to know someone, not their avatar. Date a person, not a profile. Stop letting social networks ruin your relationships.
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