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Unlike most of the people I know, I first logged in to Facebook at the ripe old age (in terms of social media) of 16. Pestered by friends and experiencing that dreaded feeling of “missing out” on this mysterious social space, I started my online profile. Three and a half years later, I’ve gone from resisting social media for as long as possible to Facebook becoming a part of my everyday life.
Don’t get me wrong – if I thought I could live without Facebook, I would certainly give it a go. Scrolling through endless statuses about people I barely know or people I haven’t seen for years crying out to the world about whether they’re happy / sad / angry / depressed / something in between – it dulls the brain after a while. I’ve taken to liking Doctor Who meme pages just to brighten up my day when I scroll through the news feed (and yes, I am that sad).
Yet the fact is, if I didn’t have Facebook, university would have been a completely different experience. Aside from most of the colleges’ updates about upcoming social events happening on their Facebook pages, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here writing articles as Comment Editor of SCAN. All the organisation of meetings, generating article ideas, liaising with writers and other members of the editorial team are almost exclusively done through Facebook. During term time there is barely a day go that goes by where I don’t have a message in my inbox about something to do with SCAN, or a notification that isn’t from one of the SCAN Facebook groups. I’m sure it’s the same for all other societies.
So the Global Social Media Impact Study’s suggestion that Facebook is dead and buried for older teenagers surely cannot be the case. The study looked at 16-18 year olds’ usage of Facebook in eight EU countries, coming to the conclusion that older teens are moving to social media sites such as Twitter, Snapchat, and WhatsApp as the older generations are beginning to use Facebook more and more. What the study has forgotten, however, is that university students almost have to have Facebook to participate in any social life, or at least this is the case at Lancaster. Every single society that I have come across points students to its’ Facebook page for updates about meetings, and even subject areas such as English have their own Facebook groups specifically for students to post about any issues that they might have.
It’s true that older teenagers such as ourselves may be migrating more towards to Twitter and Snapchat (though as ever, I tend to lag behind when it comes to social media and I’ve barely got to grips with Twitter, let alone trying to understand the meaning of Snapchat). The world of the selfie means that Snapchat is becoming more and more popular, a way to instantly show friends what you’re doing, who you’re with, or simply something funny that you’ve seen. What it doesn’t mean, however, is that we’ve got to the point where we’ve left Facebook in the dim and distant past; we’re simply adding more and more social media channels to our arsenal. If I were to give up Facebook now, my life would be made a hundred times harder. I’d have to rely on people checking their emails to respond to anything I might need to ask them, I’d have to send far more texts than I do already, and I’d simply feel disconnected from the world and university life in general.
The real issue at stake is that social media such as Facebook become ingrained in our lives, to the point where we can’t give them up because we can’t live without them even if we wanted to. Facebook is anything but dead and buried for university students. We may convince ourselves that we’re not dependent on it, or that, as I keep telling myself, we’ll deactivate our accounts when we leave university. The truth is though that Facebook is like a drug. Giving it up isn’t easy because of that fear that our generation has: that giving up social media like Facebook will leave us adrift and disconnected in the real world of real social lives. A significant proportion of the past three and half years of my life may have been sucked up by Facebook, but I have to be realistic and say to myself that I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this article without it. As much as it pains me to say so.