How, and to what extent, has it re-defined social relationships and is this generationally specific? Social Networking plays an important role in society today; it will be argued that social networking has redefined social relationships and that this effect is generationally specific (Salman,2009) Social Networking sites such as Facebook have had a profound effect on personal relationships.
The twenty first century is an imprisoned atmosphere where the Internet is the most prominent method of communication. Its users will most probably argue that using these social networking sites have had no direct impact on how they interact with others or have any direct affect on their social relationships, that in fact social networking sites had increased their participation in social activities and contact with their friends and family (APS 2010).
However, with its increasing popularity and high usage, social networking has become the new way to “socialize”.
In the past people developed social relationships through interaction face to face, by mail, by telephone, and in person, however there have been dramatic changes since the impact of the internet and sites like Facebook.
These sites allow people to create online profiles, upload pictures and disburse personal information to their online allies which allows users to proclaim a perception of identity lived through a technological world. “These sites allow informal, 24 hour communication regardless of physical proximity”.
The “social grid” boasting 175 million users, has been found to be “positive for social relations” (Kang,2010, p1) but according to the research I have undertaken, I will argue otherwise. To strengthen my argument I will use statistics from a survey that was conducted by The Australian Psychological Society (2010) with a total of 1,834 respondents. Fourteen percent of the survey respondents were male and seventy three percent were female. Thirteen percent of respondents chose not to disclose their gender (APS, 2010).
Concerns about excessive use of online social networking were investigated. 0% of the participants felt a need to log on to these sites several times a day and believed that they wasted time on these sites, however 53% had declared that using social networking sites had increased their participation in social activities. (APS, 2010). Further studies into the effects social networking sites had on how people communicate with each other indicated that internet communication may supplement traditional social interaction like talking face to face and making time to see the other person in physical figure.
Cyber bullying was also an expression of concern, particularly among children and adolescents with 28% of respondents reporting inappropriate and distressing behaviour whilst online (APS,2010). A few of the tasteless behaviours included abusive messages and harassment which is not only upsetting but can severely affect how someone feels about how they communicate with others and may feel a need to shut themselves out further from society in fear of abuse and confrontation.
Some other disadvantages in using online social networking included: concerns about how catching up with friends had become increasingly non existent and a fear that using online social networking would become addictive. A study conducted by Chak and Lueng (2004) concluded that the more a person is addicted to the Internet, the shyer the person is, which will reflect the way that person communicates in the outside world where face to face interaction is significant.
With Internet addiction fast becoming a popular enslavement, studies have indicated that some patterns of Internet use are associated with loneliness, shyness, anxiety, depression and self-consciousness. (Chak & Lueng 2004) which in turn will affect your social relationships. Valkenburg, Peter & Shoulten (2006) investigated the consequences of friend networking sites with negative feedback illustrating a decline in self esteem and well being. However, the positive feedback indicated that social networking sites had increased their social self esteem and well being.
Although the association between Internet use and subsequent social support is negative, the effect is not statistically significant. People who use the internet more subsequently reported larger increases in loneliness while greater use of the internet was associated with increased depression at a subsequent period (Social Tech Science, 2010). “Social networking displaces face-to-face time: an hour longer spent on the Internet has been shown to equate to half an hour less face-to-face time in a day” (Social Tech Science, 2010, p1).
The explosion in Social Networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook is broadly regarded as an exciting opportunity, especially for youth as they are more inclined to embrace the new technologies that are becoming increasingly available, although a study conducted by Kennedy (2009) found that the fastest growing demographic on Social Networking Sites were women aged 55 and older, and Facebook users older than 35 had doubled by the end of March 2009.
This proves that Social Networking really has nothing to do with age but with society wanting to embrace new technologies to enhance their personal and professional lives.
The results from the research I have gathered demonstrate that social networking sites do have a profound influence on society and it re-defines social relationships. However, it is not generationally specific. “In every era, cultures go through numerous changes, and in recent years ours has been more impacted than anything else by social media”. (Gordhamer,2009).
Although there is a lot of research to support the argument that Social Networking Sites are the most beneficial form of communication and boosts self esteem and well being, we cannot ignore the body of evidence that suggests the impact social media has on our personal and professional lives.