(Anti?) Social Media

September 18, 2012
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A big part of human life is dedicated to crawling out of one’s own minds and forging social connections with others. In the good ol’ Stone Age, this was done through something called talking (the act of opening one’s mouth and letting one’s thoughts spill out). It required face time; not the Iphone kind, but the I-can-reach-out- and-physically-pinch-your-nose-if –I-was-so-inclined kind.

But today, social media has industrialized, and therefore revolutionized, that entire process. Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Google+ (even though only 6 people use it), etc. have made it so a relatively large amount of our communication is textual. Additionally, they have also allowed us to have most of our friends, and really most of the developed world, at our fingertips. Such an arrangement has definitely made communication easier, but has it made communication better? Have human relationships suffered from social media? Or have they benefited?
A study conducted by the research centre Pew Internet claims that regular Facebook users are 43% more trusting than other internet users and 3 times more trusting than non-internet users (which may not be too surprising if you’ve noticed how many of them believe that the cure for malaria is 100 000 “likes”). Oxytocin (the chemical which triggers trust and empathy) was first discovered as the cause of the bond between mother and child and the strong and the unconditional love between close family members. But it has been known for a while that it’s production can also be sparked through actively using a social network. The ultimate conclusion of the study is that the high levels of Oxytocin acquired through “Facebooking” in particular, indicates the strength of relationships formed and maintained there, and can also be applied and helpful in a person’s non-virtual lives.

However, a study from the York University of Canada objects; claiming that regular Facebook users are insecure and narcissistic. Undergraduate student, Soraya Mehdizadeh, “Facebook stalked” 100 of her peers and through analysis of their “About me,” “Status Updates,” “Main Photos,” and “Notes,” found that those who practically lived on Facebook rated lower on the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and higher on the Narcissism Personality Inventory. She stated that the results of her study were not a reflection on social networking has a whole, as frequent Twitter users appear to be very different from frequent Facebook users. Their interests, in comparison, tend to be more on the intellectual side despite the fact that the top trending topic is usually something about Justin Bieber.

But what about the children? Nowadays, it seems like kids have a Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube account before they even learn to walk. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most of the people on Youtube who claim to be 50+ are actually 10 year olds trying to elude the age restriction. So, how does social networking effect its most prominent and most impressionable demographic? Well, heavy exposure has been shown to limit a child’s attention span and academic performance. Not to mention that children are also more likely to click those ads promising $1 million, or a sexy single in their area, or salvation-that social networks get most of their money from. However, according to The Boston Globe, a majority of parents do not disapprove of their children using a social network, even if it violates the age limit #YOLO. Now, at this point, it’s very easy for old timers to say; “Oh you kids these day, with your Tweetbooks and your FaceTubes. Back in my day, we actually wrote letters and went across the street to see each other, instead of texting someone in the same room. You’ve completely lost touch with one another! Oh, and get off my lawn!” However, it should be noted that just because children do stupid things online, doesn’t mean that they’re any less socially capable (plus, they do pretty stupid stuff offline as well).

At the end of the day, studies on social media seldom produce definite results. Usually, they just supply data that people can interpret in their own way. Some may say that social networking doesn’t change our social capabilities, it changes the way we socially interact. However others think that changing the way we socially interact, changes our social behavior, which ultimately changes our social capabilities. The question of whether or not social media deserves to be called social media will perhaps always be the topic of intense, CAP-LOCK PROVOKING, internet debate.

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livisan said...
Sept. 25, 2012 at 6:36 pm
Hey this was very well thought out and logically presented! You did a great job! Check out mine, right next to yours on the page. Great job!
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