The post-exam world that St Andrews students currently live in is fraught with danger, from minor inconveniences (such as doing without the 601), to truly terrifying issues (such as having to get a job). There are those who defy all odds and make their summer holidays an actual holiday, but for others this supposed break can be a vacation-long popping of the Bubble. The long journey home can mean being a long way from friends, and being further away from mates naturally brings us closer to other pals like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram. Social media can make friends from across the pond feel as close as Brew Co., but is not without its drawbacks. Tiptoeing around the usual well-preached aspects of the topic, this article seeks to quickly identify a few things to keep in mind when you are desperately trying to keep up that Snapchat streak.
The most obvious advantage of Facebook and the like is that they drastically reduce the longest distances between friends. Social media makes our physical location almost irrelevant; a mate’s image can sit in the palm of your hand while they themselves are anywhere around the world, kicking proverbial rear and taking names in whatever they happen to be doing. For those of us who have befriended many strangers from strange lands, a cheeky snap or two can keep us connected and involved. Group chat banter can continue, and thus the natural order of relationships can be maintained.
Rendering physical distance obsolete may not be as great as it sounds, though. Sure, it is quicker and (usually) less messy than communicating via pigeon, but this feeling of closeness is just that- a feeling. Talking via messenger can never equate to talking face to face, and it can never teleport you to where the other person is (although that would add another world of possibilities to prank calling). If anything, constantly being updated about the adventures of others can make people feel further apart; for every person that is soaking up Californian rays, or soaking up culture in Paris, there is someone soaking up Netflix in the dark on their own (not that this isn’t an adventure of phenomenal proportions). Rather than reducing distance, social media can in some cases increase it, showing us how much we are missing out on the good times of others.
Maintaining our presence in cyber space can also be detrimental to our presence in real space. This is not the usual generation-old argument for getting off your phone and getting outside, but is merely a reminder not to forget the people and places that are within reach, rather than focusing solely on those which are not. Some people do need to be reminded that social media is not the only way to be social over the long break, and that friends will still be there when the holidays are over. The summer is a great opportunity to spend time with family and old friends from before uni; a chance to renew meaningful connections rather than perhaps mindlessly maintaining Snapchat streaks or updating one’s story.
At worst, all that has been done with this piece is labour a point already on its last legs. Nothing that has been said is particularly ground-breaking; we all probably have it at the back of our minds. At best, though, this can be a subtle nudge in the ribs; a quick little reminder that living on social media does not equal living a social life over the summer break. I myself have shed many a tear at a good streak being lost, but I am not going to let such a thing ruin my holiday. I’ve got the weather for that.