Social media, like anything else, follows a quickly turning trend cycle. For instance, MySpace was popular circa 2005, then Facebook later in 2008 and so on. With those sites on the outs, the 2020s have some new apps that have people in a frenzy. Generation Z, composed of people born from 1997 to 2012, has the power to decide which forms of social media are prominent at the moment. While Instagram and Snapchat are still heavily used, there are some new frontrunners. As an avid member of Gen Z and a social media user myself, here are the two platforms I find to be the most popular right now.
TikTok is a short-form video-sharing platform created by the Chinese company ByteDance. The app launched in 2016 but was not available worldwide until 2018. TikTok has an exponentially diverse assortment of content; anything from dancing, cooking, comedy and lifestyle videos. Part of what makes TikTok so popular is the fact that the app is able to curate your feed to show the viewer exactly what they want to see. This means that if you double tap or “like” a video about the latest season of “Outer Banks,” for example, you are sure to get ten more just like it. This ensures that the viewer will continue to scroll for long periods of time, which is something that lots of college students do. TikTok is definitely the app that causes the most screen time. In my experience, young people make TikTok videos to funny “sounds” and dance to the current top hit before a night out or in between classes.
BeReal is a photo-sharing application in which a notification is sent to everyone with the app loaded at a specific time every day. At that time, the user has two minutes to snap a photo using both front and back cameras: this is your opportunity to “BeReal”. The goal of this app is to combat the idea that social media posts are planned out and fake. Not knowing when the notification will go off forces you to show your most authentic self. This app is my favorite because being in a setting with a bunch of people who have BeReal, you can always hear at least three people yell “it’s time to BeReal!”
That being said, social media is not all good and is not all bad. Finding a good balance is key. I find social media to be an easy way to decompress after class. It is so easy to come back to your dorm, lie on your bed and scroll on TikTok for hours until your next class. However, between social media and doing homework online, the screen time can get too much. To contest this, I put a time restriction on my favorite apps through the settings on my phone. For example, after an hour of Instagram, my phone will lock me out of the app until the next day. Another screen-reducing option is to go for walks. This may sound simple, but when I am using social media I often am looking for a distraction. A healthier way to procrastinate is to go on a walk and listen to music or a podcast. This way your brain is busy and your eyes get a rest. A final idea is to keep your phone on “Do Not Disturb”. This way, you will not get notifications from your social media apps and therefore be less tempted to pick up your phone. I usually do this when working on papers or studying for midterms and it has definitely worked.
Social media will continue to change and new apps will become outdated. Soon BeReal will be as forgotten as the beloved app, Vine (2013-2017).