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Putting the ‘social’ back in social media

Whether you’re a millennial or middle-aged, you probably have a Twitter, Instagram or Facebook account. While it seems as though people can’t stop complaining about posting on social media, they continue to do it – contributing to an online landscape full of personal experiences.

The ability to post anything at anytime – Wi-Fi or mobile data permitting – gives any human with a smartphone lots of power. And, as we know, with great power comes great responsibility.

Social media became an established part of society so quickly that those using it had to learn the rules or social cues that may exist. Even now, so many years after the introduction of Snapchat or Instagram, there are many social media no-nos we engage in.

With the rise of social media, users have had to learn to adapt in all areas – including romance. In complete honesty, it’s hard to choose what’s worse: those who post cryptically or those who overshare.

It’s done time and time again, from a cryptic song lyric after a fight with a significant other or an Instagram post of a lone streetlight after a falling out with a friend, cryptic posts are everywhere.

For those who post cryptically, it’s hard not to wonder exactly why they would do such a thing, maybe it’s a means to keep nosy followers on their toes, or a message they’re trying to send to one specific person’s newsfeed.

Compare this with Snapchat video after Snapchat video of your friend hitting the beach with her boyfriend, or your feed being flooded with #mancrushmondays or #womancrushwednesdays.

How much is too much?

People are live-tweeting their Tinder dates. When does it end?

In this day and age, your emotions have an audience. This audience includes your friends, family or even someone you happened to meet just once in passing and ended up exchanging Twitter handles with.

Because of outlets like Snapchat or Instagram’s new “Moments” feature, anyone can know what you’re doing at a moment’s notice.

However just because this feature exists, doesn’t necessarily warrant an invitation to share every waking moment of your life. This includes, but isn’t limited to: what you ate for breakfast, the homework you’re doing in the library or the music you’re listening to on Spotify.

That being said, we are all guilty of taking adorable Boomerangs and posting them in hopes of garnering all the likes.

Sometimes, the mistakes don’t happen when we’re the ones posting – they also occur when we’re the ones browsing.

I don’t believe anyone who says they haven’t browsed two or three years back on someone’s account. But no reward comes with this risk, only the gut-wrenching worry that you will accidentally like a post that’s more than 300 weeks old.

If you aren’t guilty of doing such a thing, consider yourself lucky. There is nothing quite as embarrassing as knowing that a friend or potential suitor has been notified that you now know what their great-grandmother looked like at her high school graduation.

With all of the worry and stress social media gives us, why continue to use it? Besides the obvious answer – pictures of cute animals – the underlying reason we care so much what and why everyone posts is the sense of community we gain by sharing our lives with others.

Social media accounts could be thought of as an online scrapbook to save your own memories or the memories of others, or as a means to congratulate or motivate one another to hit the gym or ace the last of the classes someone needs before they graduate.

While it’s easy to criticize and pick apart the food posts that pile on one another, or judge the drunken antics of college roommates, it’s the social media moments that bring us together – the engagements, the weddings or the documentation of new lives brought into the world – that create the community that has made social media so lovable.

Find the online community you feel a part of the most. And while moments will arise where your first thought is to judge, remember that online communities, just like the physical communities cultivated through work or school, are created to build upon each other and reach toward a common goal.