Social Networking: Is it really social?

History has had many ages: the Bronze Age, the Industrial Age, and sweeping the globe right now is the Digital Age. For my first venture into the blogosphere I aim to target the everyday audience. I want to put forth my opinions of a social movement that invariably affects multiple generations, whether directly or indirectly. What I am talking about is social media, more specifically, the Facebook revolution. With my experiences in hand I can’t help but wonder, is social networking really a means of social communication or is it in fact the opposite? Do social networking websites promote anti-social behaviour?

In my personal experience I have found that social networking can be a very time-consuming procrastination tool. Due to its prevalence in my life and my inability to avoid checking it at every opportunity, I made the decision to delete my Facebook account over a year ago. But does this affect everyone in the same way, or does the impact of social networking differ between generations? Facebook entered the World Wide Web in 2007, a time where most of us had started our undergraduate years already. If it was there with us from the time of birth, I am not sure it would be this easy to let it go.

So why do we use Facebook? I conducted a mini-survey of my fellow peers with reference to the driving factor for social networking. The most common responses were:

  • Procrastination tool
  • Keeping in contact with friends
  • Easier to organise events
  • “Stalking” or keeping tabs on friends
  • Peer pressure

Apart from mainly positive comments, there was a general consensus that Facebook is also an avenue for gaining self-confidence. Whether it be through mundane statuses, excessive photo uploads or increasing ‘friend’ count, Facebook seems to be a tool for seeking out attention. Call me cynical but I tend to believe that ‘keeping communication channels open’ is a generic excuse for said attention seekers.

Despite the social benefits or dismays (depending on how you see it), it seems as though social scientists can benefit from this craze. According to an article produced in Nature last month, Facebook data can be analysed for research topics such as ‘what drives the spread of information and ideas’ to the very on-topic discussion about whether there is a ‘relationship between social-networking activity and loneliness’ (Corbyn Z., 2012).

Regardless of whether I believe social networking promotes sociality, the fact of the matter is that it’s on the rise and soon enough online chat may replace social outings altogether. As for the question if Facebook promotes anti-social behaviour, I will leave that one up to you!

All images courtesy of Google images.
Full Nature article available at http://www.nature.com/news/facebook-likes-the-scientific-method-1.11064


11 Responses to “Social Networking: Is it really social?”

  1. Sila says:

    Hi Harriet and Johnny,

    I see the positives of Facebook, and have actually considered reactivating it because of all the positive feedback!! It definitely is a great tool if used – not abused. Connecting with friends, family and organizations is definitely an upside to this craze. I do feel, however, that generations below us might not necessarily use it as responsibly as older generations.

  2. Johnny Oneal says:

    In my case, I use facebook for my business and to connect with friends whom I haven’t seen for years. The sad part of using it is that a lot of people added you on facebook and would not even dare to talk to you in person. We have so missed the real world where people would interact with each other for real.

  3. Harriet Dashnow says:

    I use Facebook to keep in touch with friends who I don’t see often because they live so far away or because we have grown apart or even are just too busy to catch up. I do wonder what would happen if Facebook didn’t exist. Would I be more likely to keep in touch with people my phone or go to visit them? Honestly, I think that I would loose touch with those people completely. So for me Facebook is a social tool. It keeps me in touch with friends. However I think it has the potential to stand in for other communication methods. I’m not Facebook-obsessed. I check every couple of days. So maybe I’m not a good example…

  4. Sila says:

    Thanks for your comment kam. I completely agree that it can be a detriment to your professional career, if it is abused. My current employer (who is in the health profession) has disregarded applications solely on the basis of finding inappropriate photos with a google search.

  5. KAM says:

    It is really a nice and interesting topic for discussion Sila but I would like to discuss some drawbacks of using facebook.

    I think facebook or any social networking website is addictive or can become addictive easily. I used to spend so much time on faceook in commenting, viewing other’s pictures, playing games or doing other stuff which I think is not good enough but on the other hand, it is really handy if someone use it in limits just to stay in touch with friends and so on.

    My point here is all contacts, I used the word contact here deliberately, in your profile are not same in sense of relationship and frankness. When you obviously not want your personal information exposed to every contact of yours on facebook. Your personal life updates come to the notice of all your friends, and so your privacy is compromised.

    In my view, the biggest drawback of facebook, if you are applying for a new job, you are aware that your chances of getting that job may be so much reduced because of your facebook profile page and you know employers, now a day, often search for applicant’s on social networking website’s profile page to know more about their personality, interests, social interaction and many other things. Maybe someone has put some humorous pictures in his or her profile or maybe someone has entered wrong information (maybe just for fun) in his or her profile. The employer will defiantly be shocked to see all that and he or she may lose the opportunity without having a face to face interview and in fact he or she could be the strong candidate for that job.

  6. Sila says:

    As humans I think we are always interested in other people’s lives. Call it competitive or simply intrigue, I think we all secretly want to know what our friends or colleagues are up to for comparison with our own lives. A classic example is staying ‘friends’ with people from high school that you will never see or contact again.

    Kristal you do have a great point – I agree that for people who need a confidence boost to interact socially, Facebook can be a great way to build up interpersonal skills. I do wonder though if the future will involve even more advanced technologies such as virtual reality to remove personal contact altogether – we definitely see it over again in sci-fi films.

  7. cpoh says:

    I think social networks create a new social distance that didn’t exist before, a middle distance as it were, where we can keep up to date with people without having to interact with them.

  8. Kristal says:

    This is a very interesting and thought-provoking post indeed. I know I personally think I use Facebook as an easier way to keep in contact with long-distance friends and, as you say, stalk them, and it makes event-planning much easier, but I won’t deny that I constantly use it for attention-seeking and validation ALL the time.

    I think most interesting, though, is the idea that it may be decreasing social skills. I’m not sure I agree fully, if only because I look at my brother (who has Aspergers), and see the way he can talk to people now that he’s got some experience online. It’s kind of been a bit of a teacher for him. For others, though, I’m sure it decreases the likelihood of them leaving the house for real face-to-face interaction.

    Very interesting indeed.

  9. Ginger says:

    I like using Facebook just to catch up with people but it becomes such a procrastination tool once it gets to exam time! I recently discovered that I have to rely on Facebook to know when my friends birthdays are, which is very sad 🙁

  10. Sila says:

    Thanks for your comment Helen. I do wonder how Facebook will affect the younger generations and it definitely is horrible to hear of child/teenage bullying stories. Social networking is not really regulated and the reality is anyone can create a profile and post whatever it is they like.

    The most disturbing of all (that I have seen in media over the years) is pro-anorexia feeds/websites. Teenagers are so vulnerable and impressionable that having too much negative information out there can be detrimental to a younger person’s upbringing. Even though us older generations may be responsible users, unfortunately some are not! Maybe the answer is better regulation.

  11. Helen says:

    I think you’ve raised an interesting point. I definitely think that facebook has it’s good and it’s bad sides. Personally, one of the main reasons I use it is to keep in contact with friends I have met overseas because we can chat for free and share photos of important moments in our lives.

    On the other hand, I also think that facebook can make people more anti-social and lessen people’s interpersonal skills. We may be living in the digital age but I think that it is really important to know how to talk to people, work with people and have fun with people! Real people!

    I guess, another emerging negitive of Facebook and other social networking sites, especially for school kids, is that it has opened up a whole new realm for bullying. As if the playground wasn’t enough.