Anti-Social Media: the Role of Technology in Creating Superficial Ties
ANTI-SOCIAL MEDIA: THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY IN CREATING SUPERFICIAL TIES INTRODUCTION: The general topic that I would like to explore is communication and relationships through social media. In particular I am interested in the way that social media affects the way that we create or maintain relationships and different identities, and if this alienates us from human understanding in relationships. This topic is connected to the concepts of online communication and personal relationships, the concept of self-disclosure and the construction of identity (Duck & McMahon, 2012).
Is the bite-sized world of social media leading to bite-sized and unsubstantial personal relationships? This was a question I asked myself recently when looking at some of my own relationships — friendship, romantic, professional, and family alike. Social media plays a role in many of those relationships these days, and what I noticed is that it isn’t always for the better. The main academic articles I will reference are written by; Pavica Sheldon (M. M.
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C. , Louisiana State University), a graduate teaching assistant and Ph. D. tudent in the Department of Communication Studies at Louisiana State University, Xin-An Lu, an Associate Professor in The Department of Human Communication Studies at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, USA, and Sally Dunlop, a professor at University of Australia, school of public health, and her two co-authors, Eian More and Daniel Romer, both professors at the University of Pennsylvania. This paper will first outline the main points of the aforementioned articles. I will then draw upon their themes to help answer my research questions, and I will conclude with the derivations that can be drawn.
THEORY REVIEW: In the Rocky Mountain Communication Review, Sheldon (2009) looks at the motivations for the use of social media, Facebook in particular, and the difference in use between genders. She examines 260 university students across four common factors for logging onto Facebook; relationship maintenance, passing time, entertainment, and virtual community. She finds through these parameters that “Females used Facebook to maintain their relationships, to be entertained, and to pass time. Males, on the other hand, used Facebook to develop new relationships” (Sheldon 54).
Specifically, she found through her focus groups that those who frequent the social networking site more are doing so out of loneliness (Sheldon 55). This links directly with Xin-An Lu’s paper published in Proteus 27 (2011). Lu takes a much broader approach; looking at the affects of social media on the creation of identity and the modern formation of non-geographical communities. Lu argues that online community helps to reduce and remove social restraints and gives the user the ability to experiment with different identities, coming together based on shared and meaning (Lu 53).
However, these new text-based relationships may not have existed before and we cannot use them to replace face-to-face interactions as they are ‘media-poor’, which is defined by Lu as “possess[ing] less immediate feedback, fewer cues and channels, and weakened personalization and language variety” (Lu 52), because “relationships formed in this environment may be weak, superficial, and impoverished, as compared with those formed in [face-to-face] communication” (Lu 52).
We must be wary as we read through this review of the comparisons of studies conducted years apart with different conclusions, and we must remember that technology advances at such a rate that should be taken into account when looking at conclusions of past scholars. Finally, Dunlop, More and Romer discuss the positive aspects for having an enlarged network of support, especially for adolescents who have been exposed to, or are thinking of suicide, stating that “social networking sites may provide both greater exposure to such information and also greater social support to those who obtain this information” (Dunlop et al. 078). This article, published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, suggests that online forums, which are often anonymous and have no connection back to the user, are “more strongly related to increases in [suicide] ideation” (Dunlop et al. 1078) than social networking sites. Nevertheless, the study shows that social networking sites increase exposure to stories of other suicides, and increased exposure causes increased suicide ideation, and increased curiosity to research and find forums and blogs.
This is important to an article discussing youth and the internet, as new innovations are taking place at an alarming rate, and there are new ways to communicate and receive information every day. This article is succinct and fact based, studying the different uses for the internet and social networking sites, and identity creation and anonymity on the World Wide Web. DISCUSSION: Communication is more than just the exchange of words, it involves a transaction between two people that results in a shared meaning and understanding (Duck and McMahon 82).
This greater level of communication involves more than the sending or exchanging of symbols, but more the negotiation of the shared meaning between people based on their personal connections. A key element to creating this understanding is engaged listening which allows the listener to move beyond the words said for a greater understanding of the overall message. Usually, this involves the richness of face-to-face interaction. Online communications lack this richness due to the lack of incorporation of non-verbal communications, such as facial expressions and tone of voice, with the words being said (Duck and McMahon 228).
The ease with which online communications become asynchronous cause concern for the development of understanding of social cues that are present in face to face interactions that hinder those who use the failsafe of online interaction to save face and to compensate for their own perceived shortcomings. Duck and McMahan state that online media has significantly increased the number of significant ties that people maintain, while the number of core ties remains the same.
We can become so seduced by the ease of connecting with others online that we begin to think that these relationships are more intense, more committed and more complete than they really are. We run the risk of alienating the people who populate our daily lives in pursuit of intimacy with our online friends. Another downside of social media relationships is that we are potentially subject to emotional contagion effects, as illustrated in research by John Cacioppo, a researcher at the University of Chicago. His studies show that loneliness is transmitted via social networks.
Cacioppo’s findings suggest that if a direct connection of yours is lonely, you are 52% more likely to be lonely; if the connection is a friend of a friend, 25% more lonely, if the connection is 3 degrees out (a friend of a friend of a friend), it’s 15%. While this research looked at offline social networks, it may have some implications for online social networking as well. If someone in your online social network is angry, lonely, or hostile, and takes it out on you, you are more likely to transmit this mood yourself.
This means that even though you may never have met this person or interacted with them in real life, their “bad behaviour” can still influence yours. I have personally noted people interacting in mean and critical ways that, I imagine, they would find more difficult to do in real life. This is a problem, because any kind of negativity and bad manners has the possibility to multiply exponentially. The Internet is an amazing tool. Even as it is shrinking the world and brought us closer together, it is threatening to push us further apart.
Like any useful tool, to make technology serve us well requires the exercise of good judgment. For whatever reason, the restraints that stop most of us from blurting out things in public we know we should not seem far weaker when our mode of communication is typing. Unfortunately, typed messages often wound even more gravely, while electronic messages of remorse have little power to heal (Lickerman). Perhaps we just do not think such messages have the same power to harm as when we say them in person. Perhaps in the heat of the moment without a physical presence to hold us back, we just do not care.
Whatever the reason, it is clearly far easier for us to be meaner to one another online. CONCLUSION: Social networking websites provide tools by which people can communicate, share information, and create new relationships. With the popularity of social networking websites on the rise, our social interaction is effected in multiple ways as we adapt to our increasingly technological world. The way that web 2. 0 users interact and talk to each other has changed and continues to change. These users now socialize through the Internet and it takes away from the in person socialization that has been around forever.
Social networking websites effect our social interaction by changing the way we interact face-to-face, how we receive information, and the dynamics of our social groups and friendships. Communicating through the Internet and social networking websites is quite different than communicating in person. When users communicate through these websites, they use things like IM and chatting as well as status or Twitter updates to talk to friends and express themselves. Chatting online is quick and easy and allows you to connect to an almost unlimited amount of people from all over the Earth. Although the
Internet connects millions of people and allows them to chat, it changes the traditional in person conversation that is important to our social lives and friendships. This change to our social interaction is not necessarily positive or negative. The change expands the different outlets through which we can communicate and as long as we remember the importance of face-to-face contact in our social lives, we can find a healthy balance between the two. These social networking websites also affect the way we receive information and news. The sites open up different portals through which we get information and create a more diverse news outlet.
Rather than reading the newspaper or hearing the news on TV, we rely on our “friends” on the sites to give us updates on the world around us. Through Facebook or Myspace statuses, posts, comments, etc. , web 2. 0 users find new information that is most likely relevant to them. These new diverse outlets lead to users discussing world news or other information on the sites and can remove the need to discuss these events in person. Another way that web 2. 0 sites affect the way we socially interact with one another is by changing the dynamics of our social groups and friendships.
Social networking sites create a new model of social interaction and friendships. As people’s social circles grow, the ties of the online friendships are not always as strong as in person close friendships. Although these sites can alter the dynamics of friendships in that way, it also creates lots of new friendships and increases our social interaction. The many effects of social networking websites on our social interaction with one another can be both positive and negative, all that is sure is that there is a definite effect. We must embrace the increasing use of web 2. 0 sites and the different roles they play in our social lives.
There is not really a need to focus on the positive or negative effects of these sites because whether the effects are good or bad depends upon the things in society that you value, and that is different for most every person. These sites will most likely continue to grow in popularity and continue to alter the way we socialize with one another and we must embrace it. SOURCES: Duck, Steve & McMahon, David T. The Basics Of Communication: A Relational Perspective. Los Angeles: Sage 2012. Print Dunlop, S. , More, E. , & Romer, D. (2011). Where do youth learn about suicides on the Internet, and what influence does this have on suicidal ideation?
Journal o Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 52:10 pp 1073-1080. Landau, Elizabeth. “Loneliness Spreads In Social Networks. ” CNN. 4 December 2009. Turner Broadcasting System Inc. 1 March 2012. . Lickerman, Alex. “The Effect Of Technology On Relationships. ” Psychology Today. 8 June 2010. Sussex Publishers, LLC. 1 March 2012. . Lu, X. (2011) Social Networking and Virtual Community. Proteus 27, 1, 51-55 Sheldon, P. (2009). Maintain or Develop New Relationships? Gender Differences in Facebook Use. Rocky Mountain Communication Review. 6-1, 51-56.