Virtually Young

Young people get a lot of flack for the ways they use social media and digital platforms. But as I sit here exchanging humorous gif’s with my cousin I can’t help but think how much more rich a conversation becomes when digital elements are added!

Confession 1: I love interacting on social media. Most of what I post, share, and comment on is positive, motivational, and/or humorous. I am not above a good controversial conversation, but I value civility and it can be tricky to find on platforms such as facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. So, my playful nature tends to come out in my digital public interactions.

Confession 2: I do NOT have time for this! Hah! While I haven’t worked in over a year due to this little global pandemic thingy, I do have two school-aged kids who are virtual learners, another who is home schooled, and I am a Grad student myself. I also thought writing a book would be a fun little (huge, daunting, time consuming) thing to try. The kids participate in athletics and play multiple instruments. We have a small menagerie consisting of two pups, three snakes, a bearded dragon, and a lot of roly polys (I have an 8-year-old, you figure it out). Since my daughter left for Army training, I am the only adult in the house.

Yah, no time.

The other day I took to one of my many platforms in a goading and humorous way to taunt my friends who were engaging with me on and off the public forum. “Ok, fbers! Y’all need to call me out! I have work to do and here I am glued to my phone!!!Somebody needs to take this thing away from me!!! If I didn’t have such entertaining friends maybe!” Ironically, I was well aware that the post would only generate more distraction. It did. But, it also reminded me to “Focus,” which is something I have been avoiding lately.

My cousin replied with one of my favorite gifs of a man dropping a phone out the window of a speeding car and laughing. My reply contained words and an clip, “ …realizes phone is hotspot for completing said work…,” along with a woman speaking sternly into a phone captioned, “get back here now.” Finally my delightful cousin drew out a real-world laugh with our beloved Jake Peralta, “Alright. I’m gonna go cry.”

These words may illustrate the exchange, but they can’t replace the images, motion, messages, and timing that the gifs brought to the conversation. We weren’t talking, texting, or strictly commenting…we were Gif-ing, and I adore that!

I will admit to having been the star of a TikTok or two. Yes, my students had me doing the Renegade last year and I have made my own happy or humorous clips, mostly starring other people. There may be a lot of insults flung at young people about their digital exploits, but this stuff is really great for communication! Like it or not, there have been whole movements executed on these “virtual” platforms. TikTok users organized to reserve enough tickets to a Trump event that it projected a false idea that the stadium would be packed. Reddit users perpetrated a stock buy the likes of which Wall Street had never seen and caused some upset for a Shorting exchange. Not to mention the many public and private conversations that are enhanced by photo, video, and other digital elements. Cognitive psychology gives a nod to this phenomenon demonstrating how images can capture attention, evoke emotions, and easily convey large amounts of information in an incredibly short amount of time.

If you haven’t yet, maybe gif it a try…stick your toes in the water. Download an app or respond with an image. Because I can promise you, as I sit here completing a college “paper” as a YouTube video and keeping up on my Snap streaks while using my car’s wifi, this change in communication is only growing and moving forward. If you’re not sure where to start, I’m pretty sure there is a video out there to show you. Google it!



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Katahdin Benard

Katahdin Benard

Woman, mother, teacher, student, partner, friend, sister, daughter, life-liver!