We live in an age where social media is king. The phrase, “pics or it didn’t happen” has evolved from a cheeky statement to a mantra to live by. Because social media is such a dominant force, it comes with rules. Rules that include when and what you can post, who you can tag, whose story you should watch, the subtext of emojis, what abbreviations mean, and much, much more.
So what happens if you don’t know all the rules? Many times I have been called out for my blatant misunderstanding of social media norms, such as the meaning of the winky face and the fact that sarcasm can be communicated through the addition of “!1!1” – because apparently that’s intuitive. From my inability to translate the meaning of FOMO or my occasionally disastrous use of Instagram filters, I am the first to admit that social media, with all its rules, is a mystery to me.
It is practically impossible to keep up with every viral video and popular meme, as well as cultivate your own online presence. Not to mention, the inceasing updates to apps as they desperately strive to be the most popular among the younger generations. With each new update comes a wave of complexity, and a new series of rules. Facebook, in fear of being branded uncool or obsolete, has evolved like an amoeba to encompass nearly every popular social media platform, even dropping one billion dollars to purchase Instagram. Instagram appears to resemble Snapchat more and more everyday, who in turn, updates to include attention grabbing filters and easy access to celebrity news.
Interestingly enough, however, it is never the social media platforms themselves which impose the supposed proper etiquette of the Internet. Every rule is made up specifically by and for users of social media, and quickly adopted by all who care to follow them. While process seems democratic, with the people in question making the rules themselves, the rules seem at times irrational and incomprehensible. Does the length of time between receiving and replying to a Snapchat mean so much? Is it truly important how many posts someone makes in a day? Do the subtle meanings of an emoji really carry so much weight? The nuances of social media are always changing, as is social media itself. Maybe someday the rules will be entirely different, and we’ll all be relearning the do’s and don’ts of social media. At the rate things are going, someday is probably next week.