The impact of social networking on the lives of individuals and societies
Social media is a vast form of interaction and communication which permeates every aspect of modern culture. As a matter of fact, the trend has become an integral part of human life in the contemporary world. Great milestones are being realised in the communication sector as modern technologies continue to evolve in every minute that passes.
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Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and MySpace are widely used across the world to enhance human interaction and communication (Ellison 2007). These social networking sites have emerged as reliable communication platforms for individuals, business organisations, celebrities, and government departments, thus amassing great recognition from allover the world.
These powerful technologies have continued to offer great benefits to humans in a number of ways. For example, the mediums have helped to change the way we interact with other people in life. More importantly, the social networking sites have continued to play a crucial role in helping people gain a better understanding of other cultures, retain and strengthen familial ties, and socialise with other people from allover the world.
Although people will tend to see social networking sites as flawless technological innovations, the sites can also bring negative impacts to individuals and societies. For example, the constant use of these social networking sites has brought profound issues to modern societies, organisations, and individuals.
Some of the bad effects that may tend to arise from the social networking sites include privacy issues, health matters, insecurity concerns, and social aspects. These mixed perceptions about the implications of social networking sites on individuals and societies have made the trend a controversial issue.
Whilst some people perceive social media as curse that has been send to the world in the name of technology, others will tend to see it as the best thing that has ever happened to human beings when it comes to communication and social matters.
Despite these mixed perceptions about social networking sites, it is quite clear that the positive impacts of social media platforms on individuals and societies can never be overestimated. There is no doubt that, the immense benefits realised from these newest technologies in communication have made us better off as individuals and as a society.
Enhancing Relationships and Reducing Communication Barriers
Communication has never been as effective as it is in present times, where the proliferation of social media technologies has made it possible for humans to effectively address the obstacles of space and time that can be found in various communication systems (Thompson 2013). As a matter of fact, it has never been easier for people to connect and interact with one another as it is today, thanks to social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Google plus, MySpace, and Instagram.
With these social networking websites, people can effectively communicate with their families and friends from any part of the world (Thompson 2013). In this respect, social networking makes it easier for people who live away from home get updated on the latest developments at home in the shortest time possible.
More importantly, the sharing feature of many social media sites has always allowed people to communicate their perceptions over various topics to the masses, thus making communication more convenient. As Haythornthwaite (2002, p. 392) observes, ‘Social networking is a very crucial aspect when it comes to socialisation’.
Through these platforms, people can easily connect with their friends from around the world who they are unable to meet on personal basis, and establish strong relationships that could bring mutual long-term benefits (Haythornthwaite 2002). As it would be observed, there has been a counter argument about social networking, and how it impacts people’s lives in society.
There are some people who tend to see social networking as a false sense of connection. In this regard, it would be hard for the users of social networking sites to draw the line between relationships fostered in the real world, and those formed over the internet (Kiss 2009). This argument has led to the claim that, people who spend much time in social media platforms are likely to withdraw from personal contact with other people around them, probably as a result of the addictive nature of the social networking sites.
This can result into selfishness and attention deficient, as people continue to pay more attention to social media sites, which have become a meaningful part of their life. However, there is no concrete evidence which has been provided to support the perception that spending much time in social networking sites can disengage people from their real-world activities and relationships with other people.
In that case, social networking is still that powerful tool which continues to bring profound benefits to social media users when it comes to enhancement of relations and reduction of communication barriers.
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Development of Social Skills
Social networking sites improve the quality of people’s lives in many ways. For instance, through these interactive sites ‘people are able to interact in manners that would be significant in enhancing social skills (Beaumont 2011). As a matter of fact, social websites can make the world small for the users, by exposing them to all kind of social engagements that would have been inaccessible through the normal ways of interaction.
Social media users, particularly the younger ones have come to see social networking as a reliable form of interaction which can be useful for all kind of social explorations (Bates 2012). The fact that social networking sites conceal people’s identities gives the users enough confidence to reveal themselves in a manner that they might not be comfortable with in real-life scenarios.
In this regard, users are likely to find themselves becoming less conscious of themselves and the people they interact with in various social networking mediums. This freedom is likely to compel the users to post personal content on the websites, with less concern on the kind of reactions they are likely to fetch.
Moreover, constant interaction with people of different ethnicities and cultures on social media platforms gives the users a perfect opportunity to develop key social skills. The main counter argument here, however, is that, social networking encourages the users to expose their identities and personal lives to strangers without the slightest idea of the type of implications this can bring to their lives.
Obviously, items posted on social networking sites are likely to remain there indefinitely and this can be a big threat to people’s privacy (Beaumont 2011). The internet is open to all sorts of people in the world, and some have no other intention, but to seek other people’s personal information and use it for all bad reasons.
More importantly, the information may be unattractive in the context of a business client or employer conducting a background investigation. Internet safety, however, is no longer a big worry these days, considering the fact that many social networking sites have introduced features that can allow users control the privacy of any personal information they post online (Waters et al. 2009).
Moreover, parents have constantly been urged to discuss internet security matters with their children as one way of ensuring that the latter have a better understanding of the many dangers that are likely to befall them if they carelessly put their personal details online for everybody to see.
In fact, online privacy can be guaranteed if the right procedures are followed. In this regard, social media has a great potential to remain as one of the most reliable technologies that can be useful in helping people advance their social skills (Bates 2012).
Social Networking as a Tool of Change
There is no doubt that social networking serves as a fast-class transformation medium in the modern world and also a powerful tool which can be used to change the world (Barras 2009). Obviously, social media is a cheap, convenient medium of communication through which huge masses of people can be reached within the shortest time possible.
This, however, explains the reason as to why politicians and other high profile people in the world would opt to use social media, whenever they intend to draw people’s attention to a particular issue of concern or when they are campaigning for elective positions.
Over the past few years, social media has become one of the most promising platforms of passing information to people, popularised by Facebook, Google, and MySpace applications, among other sites. These social networking sites have been used to pass important messages that would be intended to bring positive changes in people’s lives (Barras 2009).
This is evident in Barack Obama’s decision to use social networking as the central mode of communication for his election campaign as US President. As it would be observed, Obama’s massive recognition as a promising Presidential candidate was realised through social networking sites. This victory offered a strong evidence that social media platforms can really be used to bring positive changes in the world.
Similarly, social networking sites can be embedded in organisations to bring group members together. In this case, group or organizational leaders can post updates on Facebook and Twitter for the other group members to see, and this enhances organisational development and productivity (Philipson 2013).
However, the main drawback here is that, the same social networking sites that can be used to bring positive changes can also play a significant role in destroying the world. Online activism and violence against particular groups of people have been fueled through various mediums of the social media (Philipson 2013). Social networking sites have also continued to serve as key platforms for political demonstrations, protests, and uprisings.
A good example of how political activists have used the social media to carry out their missions can be observed in the events of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt where twitter and other social networking sites were used to raise concerns against bad governance and oppressive leadership in the hands of political dictators (Henley 2009).
Even though it is not possible to control the use of social media, interactive social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace are significant portals that can be used to transform the entire social media environment, to ensure that it is used only for the right reasons.
As it is observed in this paper, social media has permeated in every sector of the modern world, as a significant medium through which people are able to communicate and interact with one another easily. It is apparent from this work that various social networking sites have continued to impact people’s lives in many ways.
This enormously successful medium of communication is observed to have changed people’s lives in diverse ways, thus being seen as the best thing which has ever happened in modern day communication. As it revealed in this paper, social networking sites are also associated with numerous negative implications that would tend to bring significant impacts to the lives of individuals and societies.
These positive and negative implications of social networking have continued to raise mixed thoughts and perceptions about whether the trend is good or bad for individuals and societies. As a result of these mixed perceptions, the truth on whether social networking sites have made a more positive or negative impact to people has emerged as a controversial subject across the world.
However, this paper has successfully made it clear that the benefits which individuals and societies continue to receive from social networking sites far outweigh the disadvantages.
Based on the observations of this paper, it is clear that the positive impacts of social media platforms can never be overestimated. In fact, the immense benefits realised from these newest technologies in communication have made us better off as individuals and as a society.
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Henley, J. (2009), “The power of tweets”, The Guardian, October 31, p. 22.
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