The social media generation

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The rapid rise of social media has been well documented over the past few years, quickly taking over both professional and personal lives. The generation that has grown up with social media has found itself fully immersed, so much so that one in three teenagers between 15 and 18 have met someone in person, who they originally met through social media.

These figures come from a BBC Newsbeat poll of British teenagers and also reveal some interesting and perhaps slightly alarming facts. For example, the results gathered in this poll suggest that 25{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} of teenagers feel happier online than they do in real life, while 28{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} said that the amount of friends and followers they had online meant more to them than their number of real life acquaintances.

At this point, I’m expecting some serious eyebrow raising or sharp intakes of breath from most readers out there. However, I’m not sure that anyone from this social media generation would be overly shocked to hear this. Being 23 myself, I feel like I sit on the edge of this generation and so can see either side of the argument. I’m even old enough to remember doing all my social communication via text. Those were dark days.

This poll goes onto confirm just how embedded social media now is in our culture, with only 1{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} of respondents saying they never checked online for social reasons.

The Newsbeat article also received comments from Dr Emma Short, a psychologist from the University of Bedfordshire, who said the number of teenagers meeting people they’d first met online was ‘worrying’.

She said: ‘Although we create and maintain our friendships online in a very real way, it is not safe to assume that strangers we meet online are anything other than strangers.’

Other interesting facts include 25{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} of teenagers admitting they’re addicted to social media, but with 62{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} thinking their friends were addicted instead. A quarter wished they could give up social media and 13{20156fe61baea400d2663eb990f17abdabeb6ef183a2129287a793abd8ac1d8a} suggested their online friends knew them better than their real-life friends.

All of these facts seem fairly terrifying when looked at by someone who doesn’t use social media, but perhaps this is a natural evolution for communication. You can interact with a far greater amount of people, far more quickly without being limited by any conventional restrictions. Taking this a step further, could we even assume that because of this mass exposure to the global online community, that the social media generation would be far more aware and accepting of different beliefs and cultures?

With traditional boundaries of social interactions falling, allowing people to communicate in a neutral space, regardless of their culture, belief, race, nationality or even geographical location, social media has made the world a much smaller place. I’d say roughly about the size of an iPhone, assuming you can get your 3G to work.