Archive forSeptember, 2010

Social Media: Bringing Us Together or Creating the Anti-Social?

Participating in social media through the web is now a regular activity of mine. As I continue to increase my usage of both the web and social media I watch others who also participate in this growing trend. It is a trend that allows us to connect with others worldwide, “meet” people with similar interests, and market ourselves and companies in ways we never imagined. As many of us believe, the web and social media can bring us together as a society, or it can have the opposite effect and create anti-social behavior.

Neil Postman, the author of Technopoly, and Paul Levinson the author of, Digital McLuhan, touched upon the idea of the use of the web and social-media many years before it was popularized. Both authors were ahead of their time in predicting how the web would affect our daily lives. Interestingly enough, I wonder what they would have to say about it now? Postman and Levinson had opposing views about the usage of social media and the web; Postman believed that:

“Technopoly also encourages insensitivity to what skills may be lost in the acquisition of new ones. It is important to remember what can be done without computers, and it is also important to remind ourselves of what may be lost when we do use them.”

In Technopoly, Postman continues to state that the dependence on social media networks directs our attention away from social and intellectual matters that are crucial for all human beings. While Postman believes that we will be missing out on many crucial matters, Levinson informs us of the fast paced availability of these newer technologies. Information is presented to us faster, easier way, but how do we know this information is correct and what it is really meant to mean without the use of human interaction?

While many may argue that through the web, information is available at your fingertips and provides users a method of connecting with others, it has developed a society that has become overly reliant on technology for any type of information. Because of the growing popularity of the web, there is no longer a need for human interaction as a means of communication. The slow elimination of real human interaction decreases the overall quality of a human relationship between people. Without real human interactions, the feeling of loneliness will always be on the rise. An online relationship between a group of people is not the same as a relationship that is dealt with in real life since emotions cannot be expressed as actively and openly when it is online. The idea that the relationship is online creates a barrier between the people involved due to the fact that there is absolutely no human interaction.

One of the advantages of the web and social media is that by using it, you can most likely find at least one other person who has a similar or common interests as you. While this is an advantage because you can share thoughts and experiences it also has its disadvantages. Using the web to find someone with a common interest ignores the opposing view of what you believe in. This in turn starts the formation of groups that have no information coming in from the opposing view. Many of these groups can be harmless, however, as Leili McKinley states in her article Hate 2.0 – Does Social Media Bring Us Together or Tear Us Apart?, “All of this seems to point to a disturbing potential trend: the use of Social Media to encourage hate and ostracism, perhaps even violence.” These common interest groups that are forming are breaking society apart. People are turning against one another to hang out with others that have similar personalities. As McKinley also points out, and I agree with is that, Social Media and the web can be useful to truly see who we really are as a person.

Even though the world is getting smaller with the idea of Marshall McLuhan’s “global village we are separating as a society. Social Media has enhanced the way in which we find people with similar interests, but it is jeopardizing our ability to sustain the human interaction we look for in a relationship. Postman and McLuhan both have thoughtful ideas seeing as how both of them formed their ideas long before the web and social media existed. But, I agree more strongly with Postman’s ideas; with the usage of social media and the web on the rise, the world as a society will continuously be torn apart and will eventually be segregated into many different groups not wanting to accept opposing views. As our society continues to move in this direction towards a society filled of groups, I believe it will make it more difficult to return to the original state of our “global village”.

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