By Kerry Burkley
As my freshman year of high school came to an end, something dawned on me. High school was a place of connection and communication, especially online networking.
When I tell people that I joined social media in college, they look at me like I’m from another universe. In this society of online connectivity, I am a unicorn. However, life without social media was not as bad as it seemed.
I became fascinated with social media after a conversation with one of my friends, Alissa Umberger, that would change my outlook on my social life forever.
On my birthday, Alissa told me that she posted on her story, wishing me a happy birthday. Unfortunately, I did not know what a “story” was, or that she was referring to a feature on the social media networking app, Snapchat.
When she asked if I had Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, I replied with a simple “no.”
“I’m just not interested in social media like that,” I said.
I felt that social media was more of a hassle rather than a benefit for my life, and so I chose to stay unplugged from the craze of online socialization. “The less I have to worry about, the better,” was my motto when people asked me about why I didn’t have any kind of social media.
Throughout high school, I flirted with the idea of giving into peer pressure and creating a Facebook or Instagram just for the heck of it. But every time I visited the create your account page of any social media platform, I would just ask myself again and again, “Are you really going to use this? Or are you doing it just because everyone else has one?”
I felt a sense of empowerment by not doing so because I would make the effort to have conversations with my friends face-to-face, and I felt my friendships would reach a certain level of personalization that social media could not reach.
After I graduated high school, I had a conversation with my cousin about whether or not I should join Facebook. He told me that if I do, “you’re not missing much.” I also talked to my mom about Facebook, and she told me even though she did have a Facebook, she rarely used it, and that her life “was not affected by what goes on in that realm of networking.”
The impact of not having social media did bring its challenges however. There were times when I was excluded from my friends’ talking about Instagram photos of sweet sixteen birthday parties. Or I would miss out on fundraisers and events that my high school promoted on social media.
Sure, there are benefits of having social media, such as staying connected with long distance friendships and relationships, tracking what is going on in different parts of the world, and even find funny memes or short videos. But for me, I chose to stay unplugged in high school because I am a person who did not see it as a necessity.
During my first semester at Baylor, I didn’t think too much of not having social media as I did in high school, mainly due to adjusting to the busy life of a college student. However, in the first days of my writing and reporting class, my professor stressed that social media plays a major role in the profession of journalism.
In that moment, I realized that the impact of social media would only intensify throughout my collegiate career. All of my colleagues, connections, and competition in my field of work had the advantage by expanding themselves online, and pretty soon I would have to make the choice to join as well.
Maybe in the future I will decide to plug in and join the millions who are posting away, but for now, living the unplugged life is the way that is just right for me.