By Graham "GSM" Matthews
This day and age, social networking isn't hard to come across. Almost everyone is on it, regardless of how young or old they may be. It wasn't always this way, however, as it was "cool" for only a certain demographic of people to be using it at one point. I remember a time back in 2003 (or roughly around then) that every teenager was on MySpace. While I wasn't using it (I was only in elementary school at the time), I knew of many people that did. MySpace was frowned upon for a number of reasons, and rightfully so. Many issues stemmed from that specific social networking service, mostly because there were little to no privacy settings and a lot of adolescents that were "young and dumb" were putting up pictures and other information that didn't need to be seen by the whole world.
Then came Facebook. Facebook was much safer than MySpace and became the new "hip" thing to use by 2007, 2008. It wasn't uncommon for a high school student to own a Facebook account, but the age at which one creates a profile lessened and lessened. I wasn't the only one who had an account on Facebook by eighth grade, but I (among others) probably should have waited until I was a bit more mature to join the site. I didn't encounter many problems with Facebook early on, but I definitely did by my sophomore year in high school. I logged in so regularly that I made sure I posted at least one status a day. It's safe to say that it was more of an addiction than it was a healthy obsession.
In the beginning, I post status updates that I thought sounded cool, but they were usually outrageously random. By 2010 and into 2011, I posted updates about other people, which got me in trouble with (former) friends on a number of occasions. That's one lesson I learned the hard way (and a lesson you should learn, too): Never post a status when you're angry. When you're not in a good mood, don't log into any social networking site. Don't even think about it. The best thing to do is to not say anything at all.
It started on Facebook, but it expanded to Twitter as well. I created my Twitter account in June 2009, but I sparingly used it until May 2011. I encountered the same issue I did with Facebook: I was talking about others and not learning my lesson. I stopped posting on Facebook all together because I found I didn't want anything to do with anyone from school and that Twitter was an escape from it all. Unfortunately, two years later, it's the exact opposite.
Everyone owns a Twitter account nowadays, and that's necessarily a bad thing. It's not about how much you use it, but simply how you use it. If you use your social networking site to meet new people and share your interests with other, that's great. If you're using it to spread the word on projects you're working on, even better. If you're using Twitter or any other social networking platform to vent or allow it to become your own personal diary, then you're only doing damage to yourself.
As you grow older, how you use social media becomes incredibly important. Potential employers will look through your social networking sites to see if you'd make for a good employee. One scathing status, tweet or picture could potentially cost you a job. I've always believed that the number one priority of social networking, above all else, is to have fun. When you stop having fun, then you stop using it. It's as simple as that. Now, you can still have fun without going overboard. Posting pictures of yourself passed out at a party may be considered "fun" to you, but it could quite possibly ruin your image and heavily impact your future.
After four years of using of Twitter, I've found that not using it is probably the best thing at the moment. Of course, it has helped me achieve a great deal of success in such a short amount of time, but the unnecessary cynicism and criticism that I see nowadays takes its toll and proves that some people simply don't how to handle themselves throughout tweeting. Since everyone essentially "left" Facebook for Twitter a few years back, I've seen it become a much better, a more friendlier place that isn't filled with immaturity.
As for the other social networking platforms, I couldn't care less about them. I don't own an Instagram, although I haven't heard much drama occurring there. Vine and Snapchat are more popular than ever, but more so on smart phones than anything else. I find those platforms to be pointless, but hey, that's merely my opinion. There's going to be negativity on every social networking site, but it's definitely more prominent in some places than in others. Always remember, though: It's all about how you use social networking to your benefit. Utilizing it the wrong way could have negative effects, which is something, I think, a lot of people fail to realize.
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