The overflow of social media content is overwhelming, but intentionality can change that.

I remember going on a youth group missions trip to Mexico during spring break of my senior year of high school. Being the reckless teenagers we were, there were many rules put into place, most of which were followed reluctantly. One of the strictly enforced rules was shutting off our phones and put them away for the week. Besides avoiding out-of-the-country data charges, the purpose was to unplug and refocus our attention to why we were there. 

Although it was difficult at first, I managed to survive the week without my phone. By the end of the trip, my natural urge to light up my square screen every couple of minutes was gone. I would even say the break from social media was refreshing. But once we crossed the border into California on our way home, everyone whipped out their phones as an automatic reflex to check and see what they had missed. 

I followed suit and checked my text messages, then made my way over to Instagram. What awaited me was an onslaught of a week’s worth of posts, DMs and Instagram stories. I sent a couple of funny posts to some of my friends who immediately responded with something like, “Girl, that’s old. Catch up.” 

This interaction of not being “in the know” can happen without being off of social media for just a week. Simply taking a social media break — and then caving after a day — can set you back at least eight memes and 30 tweets. 

The constant stream of viral trends that flow through our feeds every day are continually evolving. New crazes build off of ones that died mere hours ago, demanding our attention. It wasn’t long ago that a typical meme would last a couple of months before fading. Now, we immediately digest the amount of content that is fed to us and are ready for the next course five minutes later. 

From a consumer’s standpoint, it’s hard to know the exact lifespan of viral content. That’s why Virality Score exists. It’s a website that calculates what content is viral by the hour with a specific scoring process. The collected data showed that viral content only lasts a few days at most. On average, viral content lasts about one day, while it loses 50 percent of its viral life just after a few hours of being created. 

There’s so much content to go through it’s hard enough for just one post or tweet to gain enough fame to last long enough to catch our attention. According to Forbes, 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created each day. It would be nearly impossible for one person to be able to catch up on everything viral with the amount generated and lapsed daily. 

Even as fast as content comes and goes, social media consumers are more than happy to take and create with each passing minute. A diagram created by DOMO shows this reality. As an overview, on Snapchat, 527,760 photos are shared, 4,146,000 videos are watched on Youtube and 46,740 photos are posted on Instagram — all in just one minute. 

Even though Generation Z doesn’t use Facebook as much as previous generations, Facebook still has the largest presence with 1.5 billion active people per day. Instagram has about 400 million active users per day. With the amount of content, users and exponential time spent on social media, viral trends are no longer lasting but are growing and building off of one another ––  and these trends don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

This continual rebirth of trends can be categorized as a renaissance. However, this is the quickest kind of change, as it only takes five minutes for content to rush and gain attention before it is replaced by something new. 

But this renaissance doesn’t have to continue spiraling into ever-changing content. In comparison, Renaissance-era scholars in the early 1400s embraced the value of slowing down and looking back at ancient texts and philosophies based on classical antiquities. These texts had been ignored and forgotten, yet these scholars revived the classic ideas found and brought them to life again. From previous neglected knowledge, they created their own styles on the study of classical antiquities, but they had to go back to the past. 

What would happen if we did the same? What would happen if we slowed down and looked back at the content we already created? Would it bring nostalgia, embarrassment or new ideas for the future of content creating? 

We can continue in this five-minute internet fame trend, but it will reach a point where no one can keep up, and the amount of content we consume will in turn consume us more than it already does. 

However, this fast paced revolution is not necessarily a negative facet in content creating. In fact, it has the potential to be the opposite. If we are able to successfully gain life from the old or shift into a new phase, that’s something to celebrate. Yet, this technological renaissance can quickly be destroyed when it is twisted to conform to the fast-paced environment of the present. A renaissance with impact was not intended or meant to be carried out in such a minimal amount of time.

A continual overflow of content is not what we should aim for, but rather, we should strive to produce content with intentionality by reviving old, meaningful content.