I can still remember the first time I sat at a computer in a lab at my high school and received an email from a friend sitting across the room. I was maybe 17 years old with a brand spanking new Hotmail account. My mind was officially blown. How did it go from that computer to mine, I thought. In seconds? (Side note: do you remember your first email?)
Anyway, I’m proud to say that I remember a world without social media. I remember when an email was actually exciting. I remember when my heart stopped the second our family phone rang and my crush’s phone number showed up on call display. I remember passing hand-written letters to friends in class, many of which I still have stashed away in a memory box. I suppose you could say I remember a simpler time when two-way communication happened in one of three ways – in person, in writing, or on the phone.
My sons, now six and three, will never know a life that doesn’t allow you to communicate with anyone, anywhere, at anytime. They will never know complete privacy because anything they do or say can be posted online and shared the world over within seconds. They will never understand that it actually isn’t necessary to post photos of the food they eat, just because. And if I’m being honest, that makes me a little sad.
Here I am, a thirty-something-year-old mom of two longing for the good old days of communication. And yet, I’m an active member of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It’s how I keep family in different provinces updated on our family, it’s how I stay connected with friends from all around the world, and it’s how I work. Social media is engrained within every aspect of my life and it’s hard to think that just a few years (ok, maybe 17 years) ago I received my first email.
While I can see the negatives that social media has given society (keyboard warriors, anyone?), I can also see the positives. As a communications advisor with the Correctional Service of Canada, I use YouTube and Twitter to share our organization’s story with the general public so they can better understand what corrections is all about. It’s nice to answer their questions directly rather than having them call a 1-800 line and be put on hold. It’s nice to engage with them about the positive work we do. And it’s the best way to find out what our audience is looking for and why.
I suppose you could say that while I worry about what social media has done to society and our brains and our capacity to not crave new information every.single.second (Exhibit A), I also celebrate its ability to bring people together (Exhibit B).
PS. Anyone else in government manage to start a Facebook or Instagram account for their department without a massive strategy and 27 layers of approval? I’m asking for a friend…