I'm sure we've all been there. We head out for a meal or a drink with a friend and then, rather than spending the night chatting away, they're sat there playing with their phone, often having a conversation with an entirely different person. It's frustrating for sure, and pretty damn rude, but does this mean that social media is bad news?
No, of course not.
There's a lot of negativity surrounding social media. Many people, particularly people of generations that came before mine, seem to view social media as a scourge on society. While I can see where they're coming from, as demonstrated above, I personally believe that the Internet, and social media, is much more of a positive thing than a negative thing.
It makes people feel less alone
We've all seen those images right? The ones where entire buses or train carriages of people are sat staring at their phone on their way to work rather than chatting to each other? It usually comes with a comment on how tragic it is that no one talks to each other any more. Except, that's not the case is it? Our phones can quite literally connect us with anyone in the world. I use my commute to say good morning to my sisters and wish them a good day, others use it to chat with their long distant lovers or far away family. We can instantly connect with our love ones, even if they're hundreds of miles away.
We don't just use social media to connect with people we already know - it can connect us with people we previously would never have met. Great new friendships are forged over the internet. Social media can also be used to find other people experiencing similar things to you. How many times have you ever tweeted "Am I the only one who...?" I don't know about you, but social media has on many occasions made me feel like I'm not such an anomaly after all.
It keeps you informed
Pre-Twitter, I had very, very little idea what was going on in the world. I would occasionally seek out the news but I'd always choose the BBC which naturally limited my view of the world. Don't get me wrong, I love the BBC - it truly is a National Treasure - but it shouldn't be relied upon as your sole source of information. With Twitter, you are often aware of things that are happening in the world before the mass media is. Now that I regularly use social media, I feel much more connected to current events and in tune with the world. Without channels like Twitter, I feel I'd be a much more ignorant and much less tolerant and open minded person than I am today.
It's transforming the world of social media
I personally have no problem picking up the phone and ringing companies but I know that many, many people do. Now, when people want to give feedback about a company, they can do so from the comfort of their phone or laptop. Big brands everywhere are creating dedicated customer support social media accounts to respond to the changing needs of customers. If this helps people who'd rather not use the phone communicate with the companies they buy from, how can this be a bad thing?
It allows you to experiment with your personal image
Be honest, we all edit the way we come across on social media. While it is certainly possible to argue this is a bad thing, I choose to prefer to see it as a good thing, particularly for teens. You can use social media to present your best self, the self you'd truly like to be. We've all heard the phrase "fake it til you make it" and social media is a great place to try this out. It can be empowering to take selfies and share them confidently with the world and I personally love going on Timehop and seeing a highlight reel of my past, rather than a barrage of mundane or negative posts.
Social media really is what you make it
If social media leaves you feeling angry, deflated or other negative emotions, it's time to take a step back. Physical breaks from it are fantastic, but it can be hard to to stay away forever. When you do come back, take the time to re-evaluate who you follow. Unfollow and block whenever you can, but definitely make use of the mute button for when you feel obliged to stay friends with someone. We've all got a family member we love to pieces but is unbearable on social media! (It's probably me in my family...) Work out why you want to use social media and what you want to get from it and take steps to make that happen. Social media is a wonderful thing, providing those who use it treat it as such!