Social media began in the early 2000’s, and began to blow up in the late 2000s and early 2010s with Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Now in 2024, Instagram and YouTube are still popular, and apps like TikTok and BeReal are taking over the social media scene. For a long time, people used social media to keep in touch with what was happening in one another’s lives. This required posting one’s life updates, whether these life updates are significant like weddings and graduations, or as simple as what coffee shop one ate at this morning.
In the recent years of social media, particularly with the rise in popularity of short-form video media content, scrolling through social media for hours without posting or actually interacting with others has become a more prevalent phenomenon. This may also be influenced by the time during the pandemic when people had little going on in their lives to post about, and the term “doom scrolling” was coined.
How do Vanguard students today use social media? For creating content to share with friends, or for consuming content created by strangers? Is social media still social, or is it now the Gen Z equivalent of watching TV? When asked how often she posts on social media, Vanguard junior Alexandra Reyes said, “Per day, uh…I probably spend the most time on TikTok. I’d say like, four hours a day probably on TikTok throughout the day? And then on Instagram, I’d say like two, three hours. I’m on it a lot.” Then, when asked how often she posts on social media, she said “I probably make a post like three or four times a year. And that’s only on Instagram. I mean, on Snapchat, I post pretty regularly since it’s only 24 hours and it’s just little memories, but other than that…[that’s it].”
Overall, Reyes stated that she spent more time viewing posts on social media than creating her own. When asked if social media is still social for the average user, i.e. how her friends on social media, she explained, “I think it depends on the social media. Like for TikTok, I feel like it’s more for scrolling than creating, but like on Instagram and Snapchat, I feel like my friends use it more for posting stories and memories. They’re a lot more active on it. They still scroll, though…they would probably spend more time viewing than posting, like probably for the average couple hours a day.”
It is true that some people post more frequently on social media than others, especially social media influencers who make a living from creating content for social media. It is also true that some people scroll on social media less often than others do. However, it seems that on average, young social media users generally spend more of their time consuming social media than creating it, especially while scrolling through videos. While the evolving purpose of social media is may not be an entirely negative phenomenon, it is worth some self reflection on how and why we use social media, rather than unconsciously scrolling our free time away.