It was a high school friend that introduced me to the wonderful world of Facebook, even though I had heard about the platform. This was 2006, two years after its creation and I thought social media was another cool, faddish thing that will fizzle out with time. I found the platform exciting to use though, writing posts and chatting and reconnecting with old friends just by searching their names. It was a heady Facebook era, albeit riddled with small annoyances like unsolicited group invitations and photo tagging.
But the zeitgeist moved on and social media proliferated into other diverse, uniquely functional platforms. I found Tumblr, but it was Twitter that stuck with me and made the most impression. What I first observed on Twitter was that it didn’t have that familiar crush of Facebook friends; a whole new space where people said “follow back” to complete strangers and everyone seemed knowledgeable about something. I didn’t understand how to tweet just yet, but I was dimly aware that Twitter was better than Facebook. Posts referred to as tweets, with the then-140-character limit that taught me brevity. As a writer, I was already programmed to say less while being effectively communicative, and I found Twitter as a useful tool in this regard.
Though I didn’t realise this then, I could check on topics that were trending via hashtags and be a part of that hyper-specific conversation. Twitter as a mini-blogging facility appealed to me most and this is the platform’s unique functionality, its selling point, even with its video and picture capabilities. I’m not a picture person. Till now, I keep a scanty number of self-taken photos on my phone, and the only framed portrait I have in my apartment is one I took at age nine, wearing a navy-blue, short-sleeve suit and looking imperceptibly distressed. So my reaction to Instagram, and as the Selfie phenomenon became popular, was one that had me feeling horrified. Naturally, I knew Instagram wasn’t meant for me, a photo-centric social network that a friend had referred to as a “flesh market.”
Despite being on Instagram for close to two years, I still don’t know how to execute an Instagram story and I haven’t felt inclined to rid myself of this ignorance. My post aggregate is 72 and my Selfie count is 17, and this clearly indicates low Instragraming activity and points to how I feel about pictures. I’m not on Snapchat, and I think this brand of social media filters its users into caricatures while they make goofy snaps? I may be wrong here, but that goes to show the limit of my knowledge about the app.
I will probably open an account on Snapchat because it looks like a fun, fleeting approach to using social media. It’s 2018 and I’m still not on LinkedIn and I want to believe that I’m not the only one. For this article, I had to Google what LinkedIn is accurately about, and learned why I wasn’t even interested in the first place. Currently, I no longer have a Facebook account because I wanted to detach from high school friends and their constant messages for reunions. More to the point, I deemed the app as a zone for mostly old people, users still struck by the charming novelty of social media.
Facebook’s signature insistence on calling everyone you accept a request from your “friend” has never felt true for me, even if used loosely. But on Twitter, I like that I’m always in conversations with people I don’t know and learning from them. I like that I can be free to tweet what I like without the interference of family and close friends. And although Twitter destroyed brevity when the company introduced the 280-character limit last year, it’s still the one, major platform that I can’t imagine being without.
When Bernard Dayo isn’t writing about pop culture, he’s watching horror movies, anime and trying to pretend his addiction to Netflix isn’t a serious condition.