Why we should shine some light on the positive side of social media
After I graduated college in 2008, landed my first job and got my first 300 sq ft studio apartment in San Jose — it was an exciting first step for me; but I had no one to celebrate with. I went from being surrounded by a solid community in San Francisco because I was in a fraternity (yes, fraternity, it was co-ed) and continuously going to events to absolutely no one around me, hang out with, or celebrate my victorious independence. Additionally, I didn’t know anyone who was my age that had common interests/goals as me that was living this independent woman lifestyle.
Even my parents who were immigrants and brand new to this country had more of a supporting community than we foster, here, in the States. In India, there is an importance of communities, not just for social events but also for raising children — with a village type feel. My parents still have gatherings with their grade school friends and they treat each other like family even if they haven’t seen each other for years.
When my sister was younger, she got into a snowboarding accident damaging her wrist. She had to learn to write with her left hand because she was in so much pain and doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with it. Luckily, my dad had a friend from India who was living in California, found what was wrong and performed a critical surgery. My dad hadn’t seen this friend of his in over 10 years, however he still helped when it mattered the most.
Throughout my life, there are stories like this — where my parents have people they can reach out to in times of need and it made me envious of how vastly different our cultures really are. Most of my life I had been searching for a community of like-minded people such as myself and had struggled to find it for a long time.
Growing up in the internet age wasn’t always what it is now & no one knows that better than the “Elder Millennials.” We were cautious to give out our addresses, credit card numbers and talk to strangers online. There was no shortage of shows that would confirm our online scary perceptions either. But I do remember when I was in high school and Myspace launched. I would have competitions with my friends on who can make the most online friends in a week, or who we met up with that wasn’t actually a “creep” and it was at this time that the definition of new communities was born. A time where we could find random strangers online who had the same hobbies and interests as we did. Facebook furthered that feeling during their launch; fostering a community for college students only. Now, we were able to find people in our classes, give out our AIM IDs, phone numbers. It gave us a reason to skip class easily/get notes from someone else while also meeting a new class member and making a new friend.
There was a whole new world when it came to networking in the virtual and physical space; and it was a total game changer.
Yes, online bullying still existed, and the looming dangers of the online predator were still going on but 10 years later something profound had happened — more and more youngsters, elder millennials and even some adults had started trusting the internet more. Finally, Facebook launched it’s feature to build communities: first within pages and then having it’s own independent feature.
For every ONE bully online, there was another full COMMUNITY fighting online bullying. And it continued like that until there were extremely niche communities of strangers supporting each other, their dreams, causes, political views and the list can go on.
It begs the question: do we really give credit to the positive impact that online social medias have?
It’s easy for us to hate on this new paradigm, but at the same time it has given people the chance to live out their dreams and make new friends while doing so or if we are having personal trouble there is now a place where we can find hundreds of different communities to turn to and speak with. Influencers are finding the more transparent they are, the stronger their communities are: giving their followers a voice and safe haven while going through hard times or a place to live out their dreams.
We have learned that communities are important for our own sanity. When we are unable to find a comforting place to turn with people who are going through the same types of experiences as us, it’s hard to find the light at the end of the tunnel or to force ourselves to keep going.
Years ago, there was only limited ways to build communities by invite-only, school events/clubs or newspaper announcements… but that has completely changed. Some of the best people I have met or events that I have gone to as an adult have been through social media connections/communities. My own dreams are no longer seen as “crazy” but instead as a viable career option — since there are others who are experts in the field, teach classes, start their own communities and can introduce us to people we never thought that we would meet.
Though it’s easy to love to hate social media, we must also attribute it for giving us a simple way to finding like-minded communities spreading positivity everywhere. The support that some of these communities have amongst its members is astounding; it’s like small acts of kindness are being spread everywhere. It has turned into a safe-place where everyone looks out for each other. Online, we can transform our careers into whatever our heart desires, live out our wildest dreams or be going through a hard time and find a place to talk to someone.
It’s inspiring to see that in spite of all the negativity surrounding social media, there is a positive impact: the communities that it fosters are trying to overcome differences and empathize with each other to build a better tomorrow for future generations.