We live in the age of social media. According to the digital marketing company Zephoria, as of two months ago, over 1.05 billion people access their Facebook (FB) accounts daily, and since May of 2014, over 4.5 billion “likes” have been generated every day. In September of 2014, the Pew Research Center reported that 40% of all people who own a mobile phone had one or more social networking applications in active use. By September of 2015, Facebook alone boasted over 1.39 billion users actively accessing the website via a mobile device at least once within a month’s timespan! According to Emarketer, approximately 30% of Facebook users are aged 25-34 (the largest reported age group), and according to the Pew Research Center 89% of persons between the ages of 18 and 29 (the millennial generation) regularly use social media websites. We are the workhorses that run social media; we are the fuel that feeds its fire.
At this point you may be wondering why it seems like I vomited a bunch of statistics and facts onto your screen, but stay with me! There’s a point to I all, I promise. News headlines are dictated by what’s trending on Twitter (the Pew Research Center reported that ~50% of social media site users draw their news information from social networking sites – that means 1 in every 2 adults in America let Facebook tell them what’s going on in the world around them). Government agencies’ statements and policies are swayed by how viral videos and topics affect public opinion (e.g, the current nationwide social movement on racial equality was started from the hashtag “#BlackLivesMatter”). YouTube “stars” boast salaries grossing in the millions (Forbes Magazine reported that 23 year old Felix Kjellberg made upwards of 12 million in pre-taxed dollars on his YouTube channel in 2015 – because apparently 40 million subscribers are entertained by him throwing expletives around while they watch him play video games). All these numbers add up to one simple idea (and the point I promised earlier): we live in an age of governed social media. Which causes me to wonder, if social media shapes tides of government and current events and so on, and if almost 9/10 people in the millennial generation regularly ascribe to social media, does that mean social media governs the millennial generation? Maybe we don’t actually run social media, maybe (just maybe) it runs us.
I have a friend who adds roughly twenty hash tags to every picture he posts to Instagram (IG), or maybe he adds fifty. I lose track. Every possible related idea or concept or word is thought of and hash-tagged away. I asked him why once, and he said he was on an IG come up and that I needed to step my ‘like game’ up. (I shrugged ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.) I have another friend whose entire life is chronicled on twitter. I never need to ask them what they’re doing, because 15 seconds after I wonder, they send out a tweet letting the world know. I have a friend who pops up on TV shows now and again, and when they do, they spend ridiculous amounts of time and energy making sure their appearances go viral. I have a friend who updates their Snapchat so often, that at the end of every day they have at least 400 seconds of snaps to get through. I almost got carpet tunnel from trying to fast-forward through them all her snaps once. Okay, I’m clearly exaggerating about that, but the point remains: we are a generation governed by social media, living in the age of social media.
You already knew this though. Something in the back of your mind gave it away when your FB profile pic’ got over 100 likes (or some arbitrary number that you’ve given yourself based on your own “average number of likes”). It gave a very small sense of accomplishment, or a very small sense of pride. It’s like you could hear Sally Field’s 1984 Oscar acceptance speech running in the back of your head saying, “You like me! …You [really] like me!” Or maybe a tweet you sent got a ridiculous amount of re-tweets, or an IG pic’ you posted got dozens and dozens (or hundreds) of “likes”. You saw that, and sat back satisfied because someone somewhere affirmed your thought (or picture or video). Someone somewhere cared about what you had to say. Someone thought you were funny, someone thought you were cute and for a very brief second, that made all the difference. You mattered. Your words, your insight, your imaged mattered. How do you know? Where’s the proof? You got a lot of “likes” – social media’s stamp of approval. So the wheels started turning on how to keep it up. What funny caption to ad, what filter to use, how much skin to show, what series of hashtags was the best combination to draw attention to your new haircut? You have a reputation to keep! A popular opinion to appeal to, and you want, or maybe you need, social media’s affirmation – more “likes”. You want someone somewhere to value what you say, what you think, what you look like and the “likes” to prove that they do.
So, you see, we live in the age of social media. We, the millennial generation, are the workhorses that run its campaigns. We are the fuel that feeds its fire, and we are the embers that burn those who don’t meet its standards. We have created a culture built around proving our worth based on Internet popularity, and we, the millennial generation, need to help it stop. Why? Because we need to remind others (and ourselves) that importance or value does not come from a random series of “likes” given by friends or family or anonymous strangers. The value of an object comes from the price someone is willing to pay for it, and you, kind stranger, were bought at an infinite price (1 Peter 1:18, 1 Corinthians 6:20, Acts 20:28). Your self worth is immeasurable because the price Jesus paid for you is incomprehensible. So the import of the things that make you *you* (what you say, how you appear, what you think, what you feel) can never be measured by “likes” because your value is rooted in eternity. Someone thinks you’re hilarious. Someone is captivated by how you look. Someone hangs on your every word. Someone always wants to know how you feel. Someone knows that you matter, and at the end of it all, the only opinion that really matters is His.
Now I challenge you to measure your social media success not in how many likes you get, but in the positive impact of the life you live.
Verses Referened Above:
Acts 20:28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
1 Corinthians 6:20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. NIV
1 Peter 1:18 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom He paid was not mere gold or silver. NLT