Social media: Not for societal discussion, but for expression of individuality

By Jack Kelly 

We’ve all heard the anecdotal criticism that socially active American millennials and Generation Z-ers are deactivating their social media accounts and opting for a lifestyle less affected by an online presence.

While the decline of Twitter has been documented—perhaps most notably by The Atlantic in April of last year—, I would say that social media is not declining so much as it is integrating more seamlessly into daily life.

It has become apparent as we now pass the midpoint of the decade that social media is becoming both more candid and visually orientated.

The days of an immaculately manicured Twitter account representing the soul expression of one’s personal online brand may be quickly passing us.

Instead, teens and young adults are opting to create involved, inspired Snapchat stories to share their lives with the world.

Whether it’s Wilhelmina model Barbie Ferreira (barbienox), Kylie Jenner (kylizzlemynizzl) or Ashley Benson (Benzo33), social media content has taken on a slice of life philosophy. Snapchat stories capture the illusion of a moment in real time. Shaky camera shots of Kylie singing with her friends in a well-appointed bathroom or Barbie Ferreira in the back of an Uber rolling through Midtown feel far more accessible and realistic than a tweet that has been fermenting in Drafts for two weeks.

This shift in social media culture is evident at Puget Sound.

I asked junior Dana Donnelly about her thoughts on personal brand expression in the post-Twitter era. Donnelly’s stories often feature a variety of geotag selfies from the greater Tacoma area, as well as snapshots from her daily outings and pictures of her boyfriend taken at awkward angles.

Her stories often follow a narrative arc incorporating timestamps and bed selfies to indicate the passing of time. “My snapchat story allows me to showcase what I’m doing without feeling overly self-referential,” she said.

“Utilizing Twitter as a way to express ‘here’s what I’m doing’ is frowned upon, but with the Snapchat Story that’s all you can do really; it’s a given.” Snapchat stories are uniquely disposable, lasting only 24 hour. These qualities are a departure from the pressure on maintaining a likable Instagram “grid” (the conglomeration of posts one views when visiting a profile).

Perhaps what we’re witnessing isn’t a complete return to living IRL, but rather the integration of social media in our lives so flawlessly that it is difficult to notice its omnipresence. Young millennials and Generation Z-ers are finally perfecting the art of personal branding in a way that integrates it seamlessly into the graceful flow of IRL.

Our culture is becoming more explicit, more spontaneous and less curated as we power further into the second decade of the millennium.

Both on the glassy streets of Manhattan and in the sleepy bedrooms of Tacoma, our generation is quietly exposing its personal life for the world at large to envy.