Growing Up in the First Generation of Social Media
The Importance of Intentional Media Consumption
By: Sophia Blair
I felt like I joined rank with my peers as a sophomore in high school when I downloaded Snapchat, finally accessing exclusive private stories and maintaining my own streaks. It felt powerful to have this extension of my consciousness in my pocket: a way to communicate with friends and archive my life.
Yet, I found myself more focused on recording moments than actually experiencing them, and my Snapchat “memories” became more important than my real ones.
Broadcasting my entire existence was not just normal—it was expected and encouraged by my peers. Stories became my personal 24-hour news cycle, while my “streaks” were a daily ritual of sending meaningless photos back and forth.
On Instagram, I spent my energy shaping an image for an audience who didn’t know me beyond my digital identity.
Then, as a junior in high school, TikTok entered the social sphere and captivated my generation’s attention. Each social media platform brought with it a distinct relationship, and TikTok’s short-form videos offered a new level of entertainment with advanced recommendation algorithms that tailored content acutely to each individual.
As these social media platforms swept through our lives, like most Digital Natives, I got swept up in them too, surrendering most of my time and attention. There was no guidebook on how to navigate these platforms meaningfully or how to utilize them to have a fulfilling online experience.
We have experienced the rapid merger of the digital and physical worlds in real time, and they are only becoming increasingly interconnected. As someone of the first generation to grow up with social media, I’ve been beyond complicit in this cultural shift— I contributed to it and helped create it. I fed into it, revolved my life around it, and evolved with it.
These apps are designed to hijack our attention and detach us from reality with their never-ending nature. It’s easy to slip into aimlessly scrolling through posts and endlessly tapping through stories—I am no stranger to being stuck in a cyclical dopamine-doom-scroll-trance. Our online experiences don’t always belong to us; the content we’re fed keeps us online.
The Digital Revolution and Social Media Uprising is a phenomenon unlike anything humanity has ever encountered. The influence of social media was so swift and profound that we haven’t been able to fully comprehend its long-term impact on our psyche. It can be a great tool, but its benefits won’t outweigh its negative effects if we remain passive consumers, hypnotized into thinking this is the normal way to live life.
We are the guinea pigs—the first to navigate this uncharted territory.
Social media can be an asset to life when used intentionally, connecting people and ideas across the globe, but the line between mindless distractors and mindful instruments is thin. It’s our responsibility to become active consumers, engaging with content that enlightens us and enhances our physical world experiences rather than detracting from them.
The digital world won’t consume all of our attention if we consume it with intention.