I truly believe that social media has changed how we behave as a society. ‘That’s ridiculous!’ I hear you cry. But let me explain. Over the last ten years as social media has grown to what it has become today, the way in which we interact with people has changed. And I don’t mean that we now interact online – it actually goes beyond this. Look at our offline behaviour and how the online versions of us have become our reality.
I think a perfect example that demonstrates my point is when you look at online dating. I remember a time not so long ago when admitting to having met someone online was very much taboo. If at all possible, you’d try and quickly think of an alternative story when someone asked ‘so where did you two meet?’ But now, it’s no different to meeting someone in a bar on a Friday night. It is no longer judged, but commonly accepted as part of the dating process of the 21st century.
Even greater than this is the way that social media now adds value and credibility to our offline lives. By this I mean the way in which popularity is now the number of friends/followers/connections, and the number of likes you can get on a post. Being opinionated is triggering 50 comments on a post and evoking heated debate. Cool is now being the social media hipster (check out this video of these hipsters +50 years) who shares that awesome content that you haven’t seen yet. ‘Did you see the video Lauren posted last night?’ ‘Yeah, where does she find this cool stuff?’
Social media by its very nature gives us access to people that ordinarily we may not interact with on a daily basis. It’s changed our expectations in terms of social interaction, the opinions we form of people we are yet to meet, and our perceptions of human behaviour. It has made us more informed and taken away almost all elements of surprise. Before we meet someone – either on a professional basis or a personal one – we will almost certainly have looked at their respective LinkedIn or Twitter handle. And if they don’t have one? Well, we begin to question whether we should be meeting them at all!
I wonder if sat in his college dorm room Mark Zuckerberg ever imagined he would be shaping societal behaviour? Can we go back and find the time where our online lives began to shape our offline lives? To our offline and online selves: ‘so where did you two meet’?
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