Screen time is increasing as students are left home with extra free time, much of which is dedicated to social media.
Friends use social media to connect and to boost their own property with new followers, likes and comments. People also use the community aspect of social media to stay engaged with a network of people they can no longer see face-to-face.
Nuclear engineering sophomore James Passmore said he has been using social media to keep up with friends and watch people’s reactions to the pandemic. He prefers Twitter to engage with his 11,200 followers.
“Typically Instagram isn’t as interactive and not as engaging, and TikTok is mostly for entertainment,” Passmore said. “Twitter allows people to communicate in an environment where people share their thoughts and welcomes open discussion.”
Last year, Passmore held an Aggie Twitter meetup at Gumby’s to meet some of the other users because he believes physical interaction is necessary to build true friendships.
“With social media, you never present yourself how you truly are but rather as a snapshot of who you think people should see you as, and without the physical interaction between people, you are not going to show your true self,” Passmore said.
He started getting noticed on Aggie Twitter, a common community many students join with #TAMU follow trains where Aggies follow each other despite never having met before.
“It wasn’t long before I started engaging more with my audience, posting viral content and following everyone with a TAMU in their bio just so I could see what the general public at TAMU thinks and how to best curate content for my audience,” Passmore said.
During social isolation, petroleum engineering junior Cade Blackmon has found himself becoming internet famous on the popular video app TikTok.
“I’ve met a lot of new people and made new friends through TikTok during this quarantine,” Blackmon said. “I just started TikTok in January and plan on continuing building quickly. It's given me another fun hobby to take on during the isolation.”
Blackmon is a member of a group on TikTok called TAMU Hype House that mimics the TikTok Hype House, which consists of famous YouTubers. He plans to meet up with the other members in the fall, as well as new friends.
“Hopefully, I’ll get to meet some people on campus next semester that have seen me on TikTok,” Blackmon said. “I think of it like a part time job. It’s pretty awesome building a fan base and growing both platforms. It’s also a potential business move depending on how much you grow.”
By frequently posting and using TikTok live streams to interact with people, Blackmon has grown his account to nearly 100,000 on TikTok and almost 15,000 on Instagram. He hopes to get sponsored by a brand.
“I see it more as building a fan base to spread a positive message,” Blackmon said. “TikTok followers accumulate a lot faster than Instagram. Usually, you get one Instagram follower for every 10 TikTok followers.”
Business marketing senior Haley Seiba uses social media to keep busy and fight boredom.
“My favorite social media platform right now is Instagram,” Seiba said. “I think it’s the most fun. I like to use it as a way to be creative, artistic and to show my interests and personality through my photos.”
Even though she feels that social media cannot replace human connections, she said she has found a community online she enjoys.
“I’ve recently become a community member of the College Fashionista page on Instagram, so that’s been really nice to be a part of,” Seiba said. “I’ve met a lot of people through it already.”
Many people use FaceTime and Snapchat as a way to communicate creatively, but it isn't enough for some extroverts like Seiba who are missing in-person interactions during social distancing.
“Although it’s nice to be able to send quick photos and chat with friends throughout the day, it doesn’t replace the joy of being able to spend time with my friends face-to-face,” Seiba said.