Lonely? Blame social media — for pointing it out

Anna Weggel
Analyst
Public Insight Network

My old student newspaper, the Minnesota Daily, asked me to critique last week’s edition of their newspaper. In it, I found a piece about social media from columnist Trent Kays that went refreshingly beyond the tired rant about “kids today and how their social media habits are ruining their lives.”

You know the story I’m referring to, right? Something like this, or this, or this.

In his column, Kays makes the hilarious and sad conclusion that social media isn’t ruining our lives — it’s just making the bad parts of our lives more obvious. Here’s my favorite point that he makes: “Social media doesn’t make one lonely; it amplifies a loneliness that already existed.”

I love that point. Instead of social media being the cause of our problems, couldn’t it be that it just highlights the problems we already have? It’s a dark concept to consider, I know. But Kays also makes the point that great things can happen with the use of social media, and in some cases — like Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring — they might not even have happened without it.

 ”Social media doesn’t make one lonely; it amplifies a loneliness that already existed.” — Trent Kays, Minnesota Daily

When I think about  my own use of Facebook and Twitter, I don’t give much thought to the drawbacks of the tools (annoying games; people whom I never wanted to connect with finding me anyway – and obviously the amount of time I’m spending using social media in the first place).

But most of the time, I think of them just that way — as tools. Tools to connect, tools to promote and tools to share — just as I’m doing with Trent Kays’ column.

So it’s only appropriate that I let him have the last word: “Technology’s pervasiveness has allowed us to blame it for our shortcomings. While peer pressure does exist, ultimately no one makes us use social media. Perhaps we should stop blaming technology for our problems and instead look at how we use technology to achieve whatever goals we set out.”

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Anna Weggel Analyst
Public Insight Network

Anna Weggel is a Public Insight Analyst, which means she spends her time crafting questions about upcoming story topics to send to sources in the Public Insight Network and then produces web, audio and video content featuring those sources.

Before finding her home at APM in 2008, Anna received her B.A. in journalism, was the editor in chief of The Minnesota Daily, and internship hopped through Mother Jones, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Pioneer Press, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal, and the Downtown Journal. Anna's non-work life is held hostage by the stage -- where she performs improv comedy and shows with her lady bluegrass band.