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Social issues

Symptoms of the Social Network

– by Simon Chitre

Social media is synonymous with life now and has changed human behaviour. This article explores some of the positive, but predominantly negative traits that correlate in human behaviour.

I am sure you have noticed masses of people on public transit and in public spaces glued to their mobile phones, devoted to this small electronic device like it is a baby or a small child. Chances are the person looking at the screen is consuming social media.

This relatively recent phenomenon spawned from technological achievements and the rise of major companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, it has changed the way humans behave and interact.

Social media has been said to have broken down and removed traditional social dividers such as race, class, age and geographical location, and replaced them with being behind a screen and not physically present, these categories are considered less noticeable.

Instead many people will base their social judgements on other’s online profiles, the quality of photos they have, their friendship base and status updates/ views of society. Whilst it is definitely a positive thing that fewer judgements are based on dividers like race or class, isn’t judging someone’s attractiveness through pictures or popularity through the number of ‘likes’ just as harmful?

In fact, because these traditional traits are becoming less important, the online ‘status’ may consume some people to consistently update and compare their social media with other people. Studies have shown this can lead to internet addiction, which unfortunately is spawned by the nagging need many feel to have amazing pictures, check in at cool places, be up to date with trends and share super cool lifestyle experiences online.
This never ending 24/7 cycles of social media and the development of smart phones, tablets and so forth, means it is harder than ever for some people to unplug, and therefore they begin to develop unhealthy relationships with digital technology.

A study of Australian Internet users found Facebook members tend to be more extraverted and narcissistic but at the same time less conscientious and socially lonely. This supports the claim above as sharing ‘amazing’ experiences and photos frequently leads to increased online popularity and feedback from others, fuelling users to keep posting similar items, and therefore boost their confidence both on and offline.

study of US preteens with a control group of social media and communication users, and an experimental group banned from technology and interacting face to face with their peers, found that the group that abstained were more able to recognise non-verbal emotional cues and respond appropriately in social situations. Lead author of the study Yalda Uhls states, “you can’t learn nonverbal emotional cues from a screen in the way you can learn it from face-to-face communication…. If you’re not practicing face-to-face communication, you could be losing important social skills.”

Whilst social media has had positive behavioural changes such as some young people have been found to be politically active and engaged online, this has not translated into increased political knowledge. Many still choose to engage in ‘cyber hedonism’, which is basically engaging in music, memes, emoticons, funny videos, online dating rather than meaningful, thoughtful debates. The unfortunate consequence is while this activity may seem harmless it distracts people from ‘real’ issues going on worldwide; so many politicians may be content in people’s placidity to their agendas.

Therefore maybe we should reduce our usage of social media and screen time to become more socially aware and empathetic human beings. Social media should be used to debate and shape our views about important social and world issues, rather than reading the latest celebrity mishap or try or out compete each other for ‘likes’. Perhaps like Obama’s 2008 Campaign which showed a new wave of political enthusiasm and used Facebook to raise money and support for natural disasters, shows hope is not lost and social media can be shown to have a positive effect on human behaviour.

Featured Image by Blogspot; Stats Image by Canva; Teen Image by ConstantContact

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