A few months into the sixth grade, I witnessed my peers become engulfed, what felt like over night, in the world of social media. The first fad website was Myspace, and after everyone began talking about their profiles and what was being discussed on the social media site, it was not long before I began to beg my mom for my own account. She would not budge in the slightest because she warned that my information could be accessed by strangers and that it was very dangerous, especially at such a young age, to have an account. This led me to secretly make one, then delete it within a couple of minutes from overwhelming guilt (I was clearly a dare devil). Only after my mom read an article about how social media is my generation’s form of communication, and that by not allowing your child to have an account, it was basically a form of social suicide, she relented. After jumping up and down while making a username, I was startled when the website loaded. It looked foreign to me and I did not understand how to navigate it properly. After hours of practicing how to change my profile picture, converse with other Myspace users and decorate my profile, I finally acquired the new language that all of my friends were now speaking.
Looking back on that time, although I am dissatisfied that I began using social media so early (because now I am incredibly irritated by it), I have come to realize that if I had not learned about it at such a crucial time, I would have truly been alienated, which is exactly what the article pointed out to my mom. Offline conversation now contains acronyms that are used on social media, and daily conversation often includes the topic of social media as a whole, with specific references. The positive aspect of social media is that it provides a plethora of information about a variety of subjects, such as events and news that one may not be exposed to otherwise. The down side is that the more I learn about how much information can be accessed about me through the Internet, the more I realize that my mother’s initial response to not allow me to become an active social media user was absolutely respectable. It is both fascinating and frightening that it is necessary, in our society, to be an avid Internet user, which often includes having social media accounts. Yet, there is an enormous price that we pay by doing so: the loss of our privacy.
This semester, I have learned a tremendous amount about who I am as a person on the Internet, and how my Internet persona compares and contrasts with who I am offline. Two demographics, my race and sex, can be ascertained through the social media sites I use, as well as my activity and who I associate with on these sites. Being a white female, I am only exposed to what people with my same demographics stereotypically enjoy viewing. On the Internet, it is assumed that I am interested in popular music, trendy clothing, and exercising. Although I cannot argue with these assumptions, I am honestly frustrated that I am not considered to be of more value than my Internet identity. I have yet to see advertisements on my social media accounts for research programs or news apps, when these are two topics I frequently search on Google. Who I am on the Internet sadly reaffirms that our society tends to pigeon-hole women, therefore, not expect a random white girl to be interested in world affairs or anything of real value. I am obviously just data to companies that do not recognize who I am offline, and for that reason, advertisements are not successful at attracting me to their products. My Internet self is a very small part of who I really am, proving that social media can create a false perception of people.
I find myself debating, on a weekly basis, whether to delete my social media accounts for several reasons. I do not enjoy being considered a stereotypical white girl, knowing that I do not have any real privacy, and that I am only shown what other people expect me to want to see. The reason I never cut this technological cord is because I know that if I do, I will no longer be able to keep up with conversation about social media or be informed about a significant amount of information found on these sites. Above all, I refrain from deleting my accounts because I will lose the lines of communication used by most of my friends and family. I feel that I am stuck in an unfavorable position that I do not have any control over.