Through her eyes: A millennial girl takes on Central Florida
By Alisha Ashford
So often when we think about the effects of social media on younger generations, the first thing that comes to mind is something along the lines of “detrimental.” I think we have all seen plenty of articles and videos urging young people to get off their phones and experience the real world—I know I have seen plenty.
And while I completely agree that an unhealthy balance of social media and time in “the real world” can be harmful to a person’s mental state and social life (which is why I make sure to take breaks from social media occasionally), I have seen so many positive aspects to social media and technology that we take for granted by simply wishing we could all just go back to the good ole’ days.
As someone who considers themselves an old soul, I understand the nostalgia in wishing that things could be simple and that we didn’t feel pressured continuously to broadcast ourselves on social media. However, this should not let us forget that generations who have experienced social media and advanced technology from an early age have had some incredible opportunities to see and understand the world in a unique way.
Social media gives way for people to meet and connect in the strangest ways. Some of my closest friends to this day would not be in my life without the help of social media. It’s as simple as coming across the online profile of someone who has mutual friends and followers with you, following them, realizing through their posts that they have a lot in common with you, and the rest is history. I see how a judgment could be made toward the term “internet friends,” but when those internet friends turn into real-life friends that you get to experience life with, it makes you wonder where you would be if social media hadn’t brought you to some of your favorite people.
My favorite thing about the whole concept of socializing through the internet is that it seriously makes the world feel so much smaller. Each profile has a name, and each name has a story. The realization that we no longer are obligated to physically go to another part of the world to interact with distant people is amazing.
Another aspect of social media that has profoundly changed my life for the better is the way it spreads ideas and inspiration. During my sophomore year of high school, I heard about an exchange student program during a school presentation. As soon as I got home from school that day I went straight to Youtube to see if anyone had posted videos about their experience with this program—my goodness, there were tons.
It was because of all the people that shared their experiences online that I had a better understanding of what the program was and whether I wanted to embark on the journey myself. Watching a video on Youtube titled something like “A day in the life of an exchange student” allowed me to see this program from a real person’s perspective and hear insight from someone who went through a year abroad. Looking back on that simple Youtube video brings me so much gratitude for the way social media spreads perspective and firsthand experiences for anyone to see. Two years after seeing that video I found myself living in Spain for a year as an exchange student. I even made videos to inspire others who were considering the same.
Something I have observed about social media influencers is their willingness to share their struggles with the world for the sake of making others feel understood. So often people can feel like they are the only one in the world who is dealing with a particular struggle. It could be anything from social anxiety, to an eating disorder. Sometimes popular influencers get criticized for putting too much of their lives on social media. We should be keeping those things private, right? While I do think that everyone should be wise with what they put online, I feel uplifted to see that those struggling can see that another person in the same boat as them and feel less alone. It gives this sense of camaraderie about the internet that is so encouraging.
If technology hasn’t been a source of connection or inspiration or comfort, it has at the very least been a source of knowledge that the world has never seen. How awesome is it that we have a seemingly infinite amount of information right at our fingertips? Ideas are being spread quicker than ever before. I see it as so much more than a way to finish college research papers more quickly. With a smartphone or a laptop, we can learn anything from playing piano, to changing tires. I believe the access we have to information is already revolutionizing the way we learn and think. With that, I hope we can see the good in something that has gotten a lot of disapproval for its side effects.
We can be so quick sometimes to point out these faults without even acknowledging its worthwhile characteristics. Take with this that there is almost always some way to appreciate things that are easy to point fingers at.
Alisha Ashford is a graduate of Lake Mary High School that spent a year in Spain through a student exchange program. She is currently a journalism major at Seminole State College.