“Social Media isn’t a fad; it’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate.” (Qualman, 2010). Communication as it is known today is truly and constantly changing as a result of social media utilization and thus the dynamics of human relationships take on a new perspective. The first thing that comes to mind when one hears the words, “Social Media”, is definitely the means by which one can communicate and meet with people across the globe, through the different channels that are now available. What do we really mean by “Social Media”? “The term refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create, share and or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks”. (Provencher, pg 1). The Social Media has definitely become a great significant part of our society and thus defines how people integrate. For this we can thank our technology visionaries who have created this platform. People can now freely express their opinions, thoughts and feelings which can be shared with family and peers.
What types of social media or networks are there existing today? While Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and WhatsApp might be the first sites that comes to mind, these however, do not represent the full scope that exists. Through social connections: Facebook, no doubt arguably one of the most popular and world’s largest social media utility, has provided users around the globe to build connections and share information with people and organizations they choose to interact with. According to (Provencher, pg1), “as of September 2010 Facebook has more than 1.15 billion users worldwide”.
Twitter, on the other hand, is a social networking or micro blogging platform which also allows groups and individuals to stay connected and as it says, it is basically sharing one’s thoughts and ideas and also keeping up with others. Google +, though relatively new is designed to allow users to build circles of contacts which is also integrated with other Google products. YouTube is another popular social media which is mainly used for video hosting. Then there is LinkedIn, this is also a place where groups of professionals who share areas of interests gets to share and participate in conversations about what’s happening in their related fields. This platform is an important tool for people who are seeking employment which can be a viable option for networking.
Though it may be exciting and beneficial to most people, it is also essential that people proceed with caution when using the various social media tools and platforms, hence in this light; one can consider how social media has impacted on people’s lives, such as, sourcing information or news; interacting socially and fostering literacy.
Sourcing the News/Information
How time and things have changed over the years, thanks to new innovation introduced. Today, look at how the news is sourced, compared to when the only means was way of the television, radio or the newspapers. According to, (Sarah, page 1), “Technology has certainly advanced over the past two decades and has transformed how we perceive the world’s means of communication. This however, is a “step-up” from the other types of media of which we were first introduced, and then known as, “industrial media” or “traditional media”, example, the television, newspaper and radio on which people decades ago had relied on”. This method however was never really within the reach of people as it is now compared to if people were living in remote parts of the country where cables and in some instances no electricity was present.
It can be said, (Sarah, page 1), “that with the internet, borders have been surpassed, where people can blend in with other cultures and new worlds in a matter of seconds”. This is thus one of the biggest influences thus far, which is impacting on the present generation and those to come. Social media, in other words comprises everything that has to do with the internet. Social Media has become an important source of news to many, as the availability of the major news channels on the various social networks, such as CNN, ABC, NBC and Fox News to name a few, have made it even more accessible and quickly for people on the move. No matter where one is, may it be on the public transportation, in the restaurant, sourcing the news have become so easy, compared to twenty years ago, when the only means was by waiting for a particular time to watch the news on the television or the radio.
In this section we will examine the impact social media has on how we interact socially. With the proliferation of technologies that are suppose to overcome the obstacles of time and space, one would think that these tools would be used to gain an understanding of how other cultures meet people all over the world; maintain and strengthen familiar relationships and communicate effectively with others and to help people to become more socially adapt. Technology advances however have caused people to become more distracted, stressed and to an extent isolated. “People have formed relationships through social media, but this means have sometimes left people feeling qualitatively empty”. (Human Kinectics, excerpts, pg 1).
Hence, advance technology by means of the social media has a profound impact on what it means to be social. A study of students and information technology found that 85% of undergraduate surveyed used social networking sites. “Many were reported to use sites daily and this is increasing each year. 85% of the student used the social media to stay in touch with friends; 68% shared photos; 50% communicate with classmates; 5 % found someone to date, while 16% used it as a forum to express their opinions and beliefs”. (Salaway et al, 2008) Although these sites acts a positive place or forum to meet people who may share similar interests and experiences, does not often have a positive impact on one’s social skills and development, as it oftentimes leads to isolation and loneliness.
Watching television is another way in which we interact socially; it is regarded as technology that comes with mixed reactions regarding its impact on social skills and social lives. Researchers have suggests that spending limited amount of time watching wholesome programmes can strengthen families and friendships, however, some suggests that it also contributes to the downfall of social values worldwide. Television watching provides little opportunity for interacting socially because one just sits there ingesting what is presented to them without having an input in responding to another person. This in reality can have serious effects on people skills in not practicing how to relate and deal with people.
Apparently, social media and technology has the potential to harm or enhance social skills and lives. Therefore the key is to analyze how social media affects us socially. Social media has changed the way people interact and in many ways, has led to some positive changes in the way people communicate and share information; such as, it improving relationships as one gets to communicate with family and friends living apart. It also allows people to communicate without geographical limitations. However, social media also has a negative side to it, in that, “…long hours tend to be spent using social media and people tend to spend more time and energy into online relationships than real life, which impacts how people socialize in the physical world’, says, (Lee, pg 1). Fostering Literacy
Social media plays an important part in fostering literacy and also enhances early communication skills especially where children are concerned. The social media has been able to “tap” into the platform by encouraging the amount of information that is made available on the internet. Websites, such as: ABC.com, Education.com, NickJr.com, PBSKids.com, is just a few of the medium in which children from ages 2-8 are able to access for early learning. In comparison to two or three decades ago, where the only access to means of learning was either by the television, when popular shows such as Sesame Street was available or going to the public library, where there were sections for children to sit and read story books and so on.
With time, this has all changed due to modern technology. Worldwide, people now have access to thousands of learning applications online such as learning new languages. With the advent of tablets or ipads, smart phones and other devices, the way media messages are brought to us is ever-present and with social media, internet TV, blogs and self-publishing, in addition to the traditional print and broadcasting the number of media messages out there is also ever increasing. People now have the ability to critically deconstruct the messages the media is conveying to us. “People are buying things, they don’t know why; they are voting for people, they don’t know why and, what we’re doing is giving them the skills so that they can develop a distance from what they are watching and understands what they are watching.” (Silverblatt, pg 1).
As pediatrician (Haller, pg 1) says, “children these days live in a media-saturated environment. Children ages 3- 6 nowadays spends between 5- 6 hours a day watching television or playing internet games, which should be cause for concern”. The question is, are they learning from what they are watching, and does the messages and images that are portrayed foster learning? It is therefore important for parents to monitor and instill certain levels of ethics and morality on their children at all times. It is known that the media can be used positively in fostering literacy if used in a positive manner to reinforce learning and literacy.
“Advocates are now pointing out the benefits that social media provides for today’s digital learners, while critics call for regulation and for removing social media from classrooms, thus finding a middle ground has become a challenge”. (Lederer, pg 1). As an educational tool, social media enriches the learning experience by allowing students and teachers to connect and interact in new and exciting ways. So with sites such as, LinkedIn and Wikipedia Encyclopedia, which provides a platform for exchanging ideas and sourcing information, users can dialog and find answers to questions with instantaneous response. These sites are designed to foster collaboration and discussions thus fostering literary skills.
Although, social media fosters literacy in a positive way, such being an educational tool, enhancing people engagement and improving communication among students and teachers, there is also the downside to social media. To some it can be a distraction, it also encourages cyber bullying or malicious behaviour and harassment online and it also discourages face-to-face communication as in previous decades before the intervention of social media.
In concluding, one can say that social media and technology apparently has the potential to harm or enhance social skills and social lives. Therefore, the key is to analyze how social media affects people socially. Does it help us build positive, meaningful relationships? Are people better able to communicate, listen and share information because of the technologies in their lives? Such are the critical questions regarding technology and social development. What is clear is that social media is here to stay and has thus become a daily part of life for many people. Social media has therefore changed the world drastically and up to this point has a firm place in our future, where it is hoped that the capabilities of these interactive platforms will be extended. One of the most important functions of social media or networks is connecting users with other users worldwide.
According to, (Hsieh, Hsieh & Feng, pg 1), “A number of studies have explored how social media stimulate sharing and relationship building among their users”. With social media strong presence today, people worldwide find themselves more closely knitted than ever before, which have influenced the present generations immensely. Therefore, one can say that social media, when and if used appropriately can facilitate the collaboration that will be essential to overcome the challenges facing how information is sourced, how it fosters higher education and the way people are interacting socially today. To this, one can give credit and thanks to those visionaries who have made this possible. According to (Guha, pg 1), “We credit this achievement to the developments that have made in technology to ingenuity of the visionaries among us, who in creating social networking platforms have helped write some of the present occurrences being experienced in the world today”.
1. Qualman, E., “Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business”, 2010, Wiley, Hoboken, NJ.
2.Provencher, Kaitlin, “Social Media Overview”, 2013, Web. www.webcomm.tufts.edu/social-media-overview13/ 3.Sarah, Naomi, “Different Types of Social Media”, 2011, Web. http://www.buzzle.com/articles/different-forms-of-social-media.html 4.Human Kinectics, “Dimensions of Liesure for Life”, web. http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/technology-can-have-positive-and-negative-impact-on-social-interactions 5.Salaway,et al, (Excerpts), “Dimensions of Leisure for Life”, Human Kinectics, web. http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/technology-can-have-positive-and-negative-impact-on-social-interactions 6. Silverblatt, Ken, “How do we foster Media Literacy in Today’s Digital World?” by Camille Phillips, web, http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/how-do-we-foster-media-literacy-todays-digital-world 7. Haller, Ken, “How do we foster Media Literacy in Today’s Digital World?” by Camille Phillips, web, http://news.stlpublicradio.org/post/how-do-we-foster-media-literacy-todays-di