Sam discovered the social benefits of the internet when she joined a social group online (Facebook, Myspace, Bebo, Faceparty). There she got the advice for effective way to deal with "growing up". But Sam also noticed that she was spending less time - talking to her mother, whose judgement, advice and support - had once been just as beneficial, if not more so than the virtual world she had now become acquainted to.
The opportunities that have stemmed from the emergence of newer technology, has facilitated in the growth of social networking, ensuring friends and family members stay in closer touch, but also allowing for social relationships to take a backseat to the new age of the interactive world, replacing vital-day to day human interactions.
The world is more connected than ever before, but people spend less time in person with those they care about. With regards to social interactions, quantity has replaced quality (Norman, 2005).
Sure Facebook can send you a virtual hug, but Facebook can't physically hug you or laugh at your jokes. You may log onto Facebook and see that you have four hundred friends...but then ask yourself? do you really have four hundred friends???? These virtual acquaintances are just as they say - acquaintances, all contributing to the further isolation among a population that is gravitating towards virtual communities. National survey data show only 22 percent of people who had been using the Internet for two or more years had ever made a new friend on the Internet, the researchers note. And we all know that those friendships tend to be of low quality.
The emergence of new technology, claims that its primary goal is to facilitate further communication and interaction by breaking down the traditional barriers of geographic locations. What we are seeing though is a genuine loss of belonging and connection as people cancel their Sunday breakfasts to poke each other online.
Has social networking enabled by sites such as Facebook, Myspace, Bebo and Twitter made us better or worse off as a society?
Research has shown that increasing dependence on the internet decreases ones social capacity. They found a direct correlation between participants level of internet use and their reports of social activity and happiness. As their use of the Internet increased, the participants reported a decrease in the amount of social support they felt and in the number of social activities they were involved in.
So what is the net effect of social networking???
According to Nie, a self-proclaimed internet addict, the web is but the latest in a long list of technological developments that have improved quality of life but restricted social interactions.
I don't understand how something can improve quality of life, but then again admits to restricting social interaction. As much as online communities try and regulate behaviour by creating virtual norms - it will never resemble the offline community. Social technologies and networks never have predictable outcomes or effects.
So, realistically social networking sites are hindering society's ability to effectively interact with each other. A Study offers an early look at how Internet is changing daily life. A key finding of the study is that "the more hours people use the Internet, the less time they spend in contact with real human beings," (Nie, 2005).
In my opinion - with the growing trend to interact online, im forseeing a world where we no longer communicate face to face, rather in a networked environment that is controlled by virtual gatekeepers. An environment where friendships and relationships are fabricated as individuals invest emotionally into their online identities. I am not the only one that shares these concerns. Newspapers have reported a growing trend of university students interacting online.
It is a given that social networking sites enable people to keep in contact with friends and family, the problems arise when sharing becomes dangerous. Examples include web suicides that are attributed to gossip circles on a social network. Individuals become addicted to an alternate identity on the internet and thus withdraw from physical interaction with other human beings.
Social networking is changing the dynamics of society as we know it - whether the ramifications of this change is good or bad is dependent upon the type of society that you value. After all my idea of an awesome interaction is attending a family reunion - not staying up all night in a virtual world, with a second identity.
Dubner, S. 2008. Is Myspace Good for Society? A freakonomics Quorum: The New York Times, accessed April 30, 2008. http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/02/15/is-myspace-good-for-society-a-freakonomics-quorum/
Flew, T. 2004. New Media: An introduction. Melbourne: Oxford University Press.
Nie, N. 2005. Researchers link use of internet to social isolation: Stamford University accessed April 30, 2008. http://news-service.stanford.edu/news/2005/february23/internet-022305.html
Sleak, S. 1998. Isolation increases with internet use: American Psychological association, Volume 29, No. 9, accessed April 30, 2008 http://www.apa.org/monitor/sep98/isolat.html