When it comes right down to it, there are two main categories of young social media users -- the resourceful forward-thinkers and the YOLOs. What does their future look like, and will there be a movement toward social media responsibility?
I often wonder what will become of most of the young people who flood Twitter with messages of hate, angst, anger and sexually-charged attention-seeking photos. Where will they be and what will they be doing in 10, 20 or 25 years?
Will they still be tweeting every day (all day) at age 40, or will they grow out of it at some point? Will they somehow have a light bulb moment where it's revealed that they're only helping someone else get really really rich as they potentially flush their own futures right down the toilet?
As of now, Twitter, Instagram and similar social media sites are still a social experiment. We don't know where these sites are leading our culture; particularly black culture.
I chose to focus on Twitter in this post because that is the site that seems to be the most popular for young Internet users.
There are two main types of Tweeters:
1) people who use the site as a platform to make money, raise money or draw attention to their causes and
2) those who use it as a platform to mostly spread foolishness and draw attention to themselves (they have a YOLO mentality, but unapologetic ignorance can make that one life very difficult to live)
Of course there are other types of tweeters, like people who just use it to say what's up to family members and friends, but the types listed above are the most common. And there may be one other large category all to themselves: the observers. They log onto Twitter not to tweet, but to watch foolishness play out much like watching a reality TV show.
Except most of the "Twitter reality stars" aren't getting paid (and if they are it isn't enough to justify what they're releasing into the world every day). I believe a lot of the Twitter observers are from corporations (like VH1) and other interests who are looking for ways to somehow capitalize on the train wreck that plays out online daily.
The social media giants have learned long ago that photos & videos = cash (read more about that here), which is why they are so eager to give us access to sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Facebook and other places where you can post your entire life story (for free).
Did you know that most businesses and news outlets have to pay $100 or more for royalty-free photos? Photos spark interest, get pages viewed, draw clicks and inspire purchases. When you post your photos on social media you give these sites and their advertisers permission to use them without having to pay you a dime.
The Main Two Categories of Tweeters
The first category of young Twitter users I mentioned above know that there is no such thing as "job security" in America anymore. They know that they can't rely on the govt. or any other entity to save them in the long run. They're setting up residual income streams and small companies using social media power.
The ones that push social causes are doing a service for the world and making "deposits" in a different way that might not seem to matter much now, but there's a good chance it will matter in the near to distant future. The young people in this first category spend most of their free time reading books and valuable posts that they find on social media.
And then there is the second category of Twitter, Facebook, Vine and Instagram users. They post almost every minute on the minute -- they reveal all of their intimate thoughts, feelings, photos, anger and angst to the world. What will they be doing in 10, 20 or 25 years? Do they even think about the future? Do they believe the world won't be here in 20 years?
The Main Concerns
I once knew someone who lost a very lucrative job because of a photo that was posted on Facebook. It hurt her ability to get jobs in that field so she had to delete her account and start a whole new life plan. She comes from a family with money, so she'll be alright either way, but what about the young people who don't have a wealthy family to fall back on? Here are my main concerns:
- After 20+ years of using a social media site 10+ hours a day, is it possible to have learned anything of value besides the latest lingo, dances, memes and sneaker/video game release dates?
- Will they be able to pursue a gainful career at some point -- one where they can't possibly be on Twitter for all 8 hours because they are actually doing something that they love?
- Will anyone take these young people seriously for employment or want to do business with them when they find all of their nudes, boob shots, twerking videos and continuous slander of women (bitches, hos and thots) online? Tweets don't ever disappear -- even after you delete them. In 25 years they will still be accessible through the Library of Congress the same way books are stored (it's like the book of "you" being compiled with every tweet).
- What types of businesses will they be able to start if working for someone else becomes a slim to none chance due to their Twitter and social media past? What knowledge and insight will they have to share with the world (that people will be willing to pay for) after spending years living in a vacuum of foolishness and mindless drivel instead of self-educating?
- How will their future children and grandchildren ever be able to take them seriously when they see the social media displays that their parents put on years before? If we think kids don't respect their parents now, what will it be like in 20 years?
Most of the young girls and women who post revealing pictures of themselves on Instagram don't even do it as an enterprising act -- they do it solely for fleeting attention from men (likes and comments). They're selling themselves short in the worst way possible, because those photos are most likely going to be accessible forever.
Is a Shift Possible?
I'm writing about these issues not to judge, but because I think it needs to be said by someone. No one else seems to really care. No one is really telling young people about these things, just encouraging and reinforcing the nonsense with hundreds of retweets, high fives and laughter. The media (especially black media) certainly won't say a thing because Twitter gives them great "ratchet" tales to tell the world for clicks.
There are plenty of things I wish an adult would have told me about when I was younger, but most older people prefer to just allow you to fail and see for yourself.
Grown people of this era, 30+ already have their careers and lives pretty much set -- we didn't have Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to set us back as youths. We certainly weren't angels, but we didn't have a database documenting our youthful foolishness.
I believe young people of today on social media are participating in a social experiment of sorts, and there really is no telling what the results of it will be in 10, 15 or 25 years.
Yes, a few young people from this era may slip through the slimy cracks of modern day social media and manage to set their lives on the right track, but what about the rest?
My hope is that there will be some type of cultural or societal shift as was discussed in the book The Tipping Point. Maybe a movement to educate young people about social media responsibility and how even one Tweet can have long term effects on their futures.