In a high school student’s life, social media is ubiquitous—it provides updates on classmates and friends, distracts from assignments, and keeps the student informed about current events. However, people have many different perceptions of what social media is and who uses it. Facebook has dominated the market for years—in 2012, 81 percent of American teens used social media, and 94 percent of these teens reported having a Facebook profile. Nonetheless, there are hundreds of other platforms on the Internet, and the users of each website are typecast, usually in negative ways.
In the public eye, platforms based off of blogs or articles are seen as as prime territory for time-wasters. “I know people who spend hours on [Tumblr], and it detracts from their productivity,” said Jeremy Cohen ’16, noting that his use of Tumblr was minimal and mostly not spent well. These sites take away from already-limited time for homework and other assignments, Cohen said.
Grace Wampold ’17 said that even though many Tumblr users are stereotypically seen as hipsters due to the large number of hipster blogs on the site, Tumblr can be for anyone. “I don’t really go into the depths of it because there are some pages that are specifically for fashion and very hipster movements … It’s not my style,” said Wampold. “But even the biggest conformist has [his or her] own special styles, and Tumblr is a way for people to show that.”
Each platform brings a different manner of personal expression in spite of drawbacks, explained Victoria Wayland ’16. “I’ve heard [Tumblr] is sort of sketchy … [but] it’s customizable, and if you want to put a certain message out into the world, it’s pretty easy to do that,” she said.
Some feel that Reddit and other similar platforms are dominated by users that aren’t open to new ideas. If new users aren’t willing to contribute uplifting, happy additions to the Reddit environment, they may be intimidated into leaving, explained Jasper Lee ’17. “Reddit isn’t as much about [being] social as it is finding something interesting,” said Lee. “There is a lot of judging on Reddit—[there is pressure] to share … really upbeat, positive things, and not really any dark things … People who use Reddit can really be kind of judgmental. They are more clique-ish and don’t want people who don’t share their views to post.”
Despite these generalizations about Reddit users, many of them simply use the platform as a manner of obtaining news, added Wampold. “There are subgroups [of Reddit] that are pretty … dangerous, but it can be educational.” Wampold noted that Reddit is a popular way for students to learn about the world and and provides an outlet for creativity. “You self-publish, so if you have an idea, you can send it out to the globe,” she said.
Twitter has long held the spot of the second-most-popular social media platform, but students who don’t use the site question those who do, citing the lack of privacy, few personal connections, and tendency of Twitter users to over-share.
“People who use Twitter are sometimes thought of as more narcissistic because they are posting everything about themselves,” said Isaac Yassky ’14. While this particular opinion may not be voiced among all students, a plethora of other negative feelings towards Twitter are present in PHS, as well as an abundance of stereotypes towards its users.
To many, Twitter is simply an ineffective Facebook clone. “I think that it’s pretty much the same thing as Facebook,” said Mary Sutton ’15. Because Twitter does not provide the same interactions and media that Facebook does but copies the sharing aspect, many would-be users stick with Facebook instead.
Fans who wish to mix and mingle with celebrities are abundant on Twitter. “Someone who uses Twitter [is] looking more to interact with celebrities or what is happening in other people’s lives,” said Cohen. To Cohen, Facebook provides more realistic interactions with the people he sees every day.
Twitter users, however, use the platform for many reasons, some of which Facebook does not completely fulfill. “There are some people that use it for the comedic aspect … but some people just like to vent,” said Wampold.
Sneha Pandey ’16 said, “I think that everybody wants to show this perspective of themselves as really happy, or funny, and it’s nice to have this platform to show people that side of you.”
In the eyes of users, different platforms are simply different mediums to express views and beliefs, and also display individuality. “[When they learn that I use Twitter], some people are like, ‘Oh, what’s the point of that?’” said Hannah Scheibner ’17. “It’s just about sharing ideas with others.”