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When Did Social Media Stop Being Fun?

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We can all date our relationship with social media back to a specific point. Some tried their best to avoid it before getting a Facebook account out of necessity, or a Twitter one to keep up with the news and others signed up to access a particular feature and just got sucked in. When I was first exposed to social media, it was MySpace, back around 2004 or so. Bebo came shortly after. Like a lot of other people, I was just following my friends, since without a MySpace I would have had no clue what anybody was talking about at school the following day. There was another aspect to it though: it was fun.

That might sound like a bit of a bizarre statement in this day and age - the idea of social media being fun, but it honestly was. The novelty of uploading pictures, posting on the notice board (the nearest thing to a status update at the time), comment conversations, fiddling around with your profile theme, picking the right music, all of that stuff was part of a viable, enjoyable pass time. It was still a distraction, but it had as much validity as playing a video game or watching TV. 'What did you do last night?' 'I just went on MySpace for a while'.

People don't even say that any more, you 'check' Facebook or Twitter but you're never 'on' or 'off' it, those platforms are kind of eternal, you just have them on tick-over in the background and glance over them every 10 minutes. Growing up is, of course, an intrinsic part of it. If you look at the platforms that kids and teens are most drawn to like Snapchat and Vine, they are principally aimed at just messing around. Facebook feels a lot more serious, it feels like a necessity. MySpace never felt like that, it was never a primary line of communication, that was what MSN was for.

It goes beyond that though, the dynamic of social media at large has morphed from a thing that we want to a thing that we need. It's not about enjoying it, it's just a part of life, a branch of wider communication. Think about it, you never see a phone call being marketed as a fun thing to do, it would be weird if you did. Phone calls are an accepted aspect of everyone's lives, they don't need to be novel. Social media is in the same boat now. When it is marketed, it's more about you enjoying life and then talking about it online later, or organising things through social media, rather than dedicating yourself to it. Social lubricant, so to speak.

The other side to it is marketing. Before, social media marketing was isolated to the people who ran the platforms, music, film, TV, events promotion and some online shopping. It was all kind of on the edge of figuring itself out, and it was easy to ignore. Now, the marketing side of social media is vast and so pivotal to many businesses that you simply cannot get away from it. Having a certain number of followers used to be gratifying only in the most tertiary sense, now it could actually factor into getting a new job. Nobody would have have paid money to get into a top friends list on MySpace but people bid obscene amounts to get followed by popular Twitter accounts.

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The fact that an overwhelming sense of negativity has bubbled forth from the backwaters of nasty, vitriolic forums and reached all the more popular platforms hasn't helped. Trolling used to be something that you almost had to seek out, but now it's just everywhere and it's hard not to be depressed by it at times. We have cognitive dissonance to thank for that. All you can really say is that the more regular and significant a thing becomes in our lives, the less fun it will be. It's not a bad thing, just a sign of society moving forward, but if it's funny to reflect on when social media was just an amusing distraction now, imagine what it'll be like in 10 years.


Callum Davies

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @CallumAtSMF

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When Did Social Media Stop Being Fun? Reviewed by Callum Davies on Friday, July 31, 2015 Rating: 5

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