What the hell is social media?

Lenita Marie Johnson, Staff Writer

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For some people, learning social media is like studying a foreign language: it’s confusing, complicated and, at times, frustrating.

In particular, older students have a harder time learning this new language. This is because we come from a time when verbal and written communication were the only methods of staying informed.

Simply saying “hello” now is more complicated than it was before.

Tweeting, liking, reblogging and direct messaging are only a fraction of the mediums in which we say “hello” today, and that’s only the beginning to the social media universe.

We didn’t have the technology we do now to aid our daily lives when I was younger (and no I am not going to give up my age). While social media was created to bridge the gap in communication, I feel it’s only furthered the disconnect.

Once upon a time your social life centered around your ability to talk to someone face-to-face, as opposed to on a cell phone, laptop or social media platform. In fact, the better you could hold a conversation, the more “hip” you were thought to be.

There was also a time when we wrote letters to one another while traveling with family or friends. I remember when writing cursive in a foreign land nearly made you famous with the locals and caused people to absorb every word you wrote.

Why? Because it meant you were smart and cooler than a cucumber. There was no “social media,” when I grew up, just social interaction.

Now I see so many younger college students with their heads buried in their phones, virtually ignoring the people they are walking with. This is partially because they grew up in this new tech-savvy universe.

In my journalism class, it seems nearly everyone has a presence on every social media platform in existence.

I remember when typewriting was a requirement in school. I had used my mom’s typewriter when I was in elementary school and could only type a few keys a minute, but still wrote letters and all kinds of notes.

Now my typing speed is nearly 150 words per minute, and I have a more profound appreciation for the art form; even if it’s a dying mode of communication.

Communication now is often reduced to hashtags, ampersands and run-on sentences in a new language void of punctuation. Even the accompanying photos, memes and GIFs aren’t always clear or easy to understand.

Yet the language of social media is expanding at warp speed.

Not only do you have to keep up, there’s an expectation that you must post every aspect of your life onto social media or you get left behind.

It seems unfair to anyone who doesn’t have command of computers, let alone the ability to navigate the internet. Or simply to those who took the time to learn cursive or type on a typewriter.

Take me for instance. I actually know a little about this expansive world of social media — and I emphasize “a little.” I’m able to navigate Facebook occasionally; yet, I don’t know Twitter, Instagram or any of the other multitude of sites. I’m clearly not an internet expert, but I can send an email or Gmail.

I often operate at a snail’s pace. This is because I was introduced to social media simply as another medium of writing.

As an older college student, I find it exasperating. I ask myself, “What am I really learning, and what’s the point anyway?”

Yet, let’s keep it real: it’s here to stay.

Today, students need to commit to learning social media for our education and careers. In my world, I’m determined to learn more social media platforms, one day at a time.

In fact, I call my path “Mission Possible,” because I can and will be fluent in this new language.

I’ve learned new languages before, and social media is no different. Hard work and practice will pay off in the long run.

How do I know this? Because I took a social media class last semester. While tumultuous, I passed. Basically, if I can learn social media, anyone can.

Although I’m learning the universe of social media, I’ll continue to live my life face-to-face.

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