OPINION: We’re the ultimate followers

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Everyone takes advantage of social media for different reasons. Some people broadcast every thought they have, while others silently watch from the sidelines.

All in all social media platforms are not too different from everyday life, with the largely verbacious people on one side of the room and the silent wallflowers on the other side.

But how does having these two different user types impact the impressionable people down the middle of the line?

The combination of a social media addiction and the fear of missing out (FOMO) phenomenon can pressure impressionable teenagers into drinking, just like the snap stories they’re seeing, according to Meghan Neal’s Motherboard article, “Social media is getting young people drunk.”

It takes the old saying, “keeping up with the Joneses” to a whole new level. Not only do we feel like our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts need to be similar or even better than our friends, but we also feel as though our Snapchat stories should reflect the life we want to live and not the life we are living.

I believe that this concept does not just stop with teenagers or even young adults.

How many grown adults, our parents’ age, do you see sharing posts similar to, “Share if you love your children?”

Is that a type of peer pressure on some level? You bet it is. Their friends are sharing it, so they think they should too, or maybe those adults also have a FOMO issue.

Similar to the sharing frenzy, we’re constantly seeing our “friends” sharing or posting things that only media makes relevant. And to top it off, those people, who likely know little about the topic at hand, are attaching their own commentary to go along with it.

Our problem is called media, and if I were some fancy communications scholar, I would coin this new phenomenon as “Media Relevancy Theory.”

Without much research to back it and primarily personal observations, I have come to the conclusion that people are only concerned with what media tells them to be concerned with.

We see this all the time, without really noticing it.

Unlike the recent Disney alligator incident, which seemed to blow up on national news and then take to social media, the even more recent controversy surrounding Taylor Swift and the Kardashian/West posse, showed how something can start on social media and in a short time find its way to national news.

This same Swift and Kardashian/West conversation was overbearing some other more important events and conversations in this nation.

But what did social media tell us to do? It told us to create some nice hashtags like #PrayForNice and pretend like we were actually caring about what was going on, while what we really wanted to see, snap, tweet and post about was Kim Kardashian’s Snapchat story.

Heidi Stevens’ Chicago Tribune article, “Kim Kardashian/Taylor Swift dust-up: More than just a distraction,” related our need for a distraction to an overbearing social media centric populace.

“Murdered cops in Baton Rouge, slain revelers in Nice and a coup in Turkey are hardly the stuff of summer reverie,” Stevens said. “But the Kim Kardashian/Taylor Swift feud isn’t so much a departure from our nightmarish times as it is a reflection of them.”

This, the idea that we are caring more about some celebrity than the lives of many who are being lost, well … it’s utter ridiculousness and borderline acting like we are brainwashed.

Do we focus on famous people like this because we are letting social media and the media relevancy theory take over our lives, or is it because we are actually lonely behind our screens?

Well, we have always been lonely, social media is just making it worse, Christopher Lane said in his Psychology Today article, “Social media and social loneliness: Are social media increasing loneliness or merely exposing it?”

In Lane’s article, he used a 1985 survey showing 10 percent of Americans believed they had no one to discuss important matters with. That same survey showed that only 15 percent thought they only had one good friend.

Lane connected it to a different 2004 survey that showed 25 percent of people felt like they had nobody to talk to, while 20 percent only had one confidant.

What I gather from Lane’s article is that our society is getting lonelier with a larger social network, which is making us pay more attention to celebrities, thus making us lazy in our own lives.

In a roundabout way, we are the ultimate group of followers. No pun intended. With the FOMO phenomenon and our lack of ability to determine personal relevancy, we’re basically in over our heads at this point.

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