In today’s modern era, complete with digitization and technological advancements, social media such as online networking sites have been successfully integrated into the everyday lives of almost every individual on the planet. Social media has embedded itself in the foreground of this digitized age and has defined its place by attracting people, both laymen and researchers, due to their increased affordability and reach. Since the introduction of these sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace, these online “worlds” have become so popular among the newer generations that they have been completely integrated as a basic part of their everyday lives. This warrants the need that is commonly seen in today’s youth, where checking the notifications or news on online social platforms has become as necessary and integral as buying groceries or going to school.
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To understand the way in which social networking sites affect personal relationships and offline social life of the youth in today’s generation, we first need to understand the core aspect and defining features of social networking sites and online social media in general. According to Ellison & Danah (211), social networking sites can be defined as online platforms that help individulas by allowing them to create a profile, which may be public or semi-public. This profile can then be used to construct a list of other users with whom they share some kind of relation or connection. They can further traverse through numerous lists and build their social profile by creating more connections and strengthening their network of interconnected profiles. Social networking sites can also be differentiated on the basis of some subtle nuances that separate one particular site from another. The most basic difference is on the basis of the social culture that a particular site creates among its users. Some sites encourage and enable the strengthening of pre-existing connections by empowering people to connect with their loved ones, such as friends and family, on a social platform. Other sites encourage interaction between strangers on the basis of common interests and influences. These sites provide a platform for discussion and sharing of points of similar interests between total strangers. On the other hand, social networking sites also differ on the basis of the audience that the site caters to. Some sites cater to a wid and diverse population of audiences, while others are restricted to individuals belonging to a certain cultural or racial background (Ellison and Danah 210).
By listing the basic aspects that make up online social platforms, we can now proceed to analyze the various means by which these sites affect the interpersonal relations of youth in an offline scenario. This area of analysis can be approached by dwelling into the basic reasons due to which the youth join social networking sites in the first place.
Areas of Impact Of Social Networking Sites
There have been numerous questions which have been raised in terms of the adverse and detrimental effects which social networking sites have on interpersonal relationships of the youth in today’s world. The major question that has been gnawing at the conscience of researchers, scholars and laymen is whether social media is becoming more of a tool for limiting and degrading the lives of the youth instead of just being a public forum or platform of discussion. Some of the areas in which social media has a high degree of impact are enumerated below.
Privacy of the Individual
Since the advent of the age of social media and social networking sites, there is only a fine line of difference between the public and the private life of an individual. According to Das and Sahoo (223), following the upload of any type of image, video or any other type of information, an individual is not at the liberty to control the distribution and reach of hat particular piece of information. On one hand, the person can fine-tune the privacy settings of his/her profile in order to ensure unwanted exposure, but nevertheless, any piece of information that is shared on social media is shared with an unknown web administrator. In today’s modern era, any aspect of your personal information may be accessible to your employer, teacher, parents, friends, marketing firms and cyber criminals.
According to a research conducted by Gross and Acquisti (7), A thorough analysis of the facebook profiles of 4000 students belonging to the Carnegie Mellon University found several loopholes and threats which had stemmed from the result of extensive posting of personal information on the social networking site. The study found that only a meagre 1.2 percent of students made the effort to change the default privacy settings if their online profiles on social networking sites. It has been seen that there is a vast array of personal information, such as first name and last name of the individual, personal image, date of birth, ZIP code etc, which can be easily used for estimating an individual’s social security number and other types of sensitive information such as medical history and so on.
This vast reservoir of personal information is now being used as a tool to determine an individual’s eligibility for jobs by several employers. According to Mooney (120), assessment of the facebook profile of one of its potential employees by a consulting company in Chicago led to the revelation of several aspects of the candidate’s personal life, with increasingly noticeable references to marijuana, obsessive sex and misanthropic disposition. This assessment proved to be dear for the candidate as it resulted in complete rejection by the company.
Due to increased usage of social networking sites and other forms of social media, there are several risks related to dependence and addiction that can arise due to the same. Extensive usage of social networking profiles cosiderably reduces everyday face to face interactions between people and draws people them towards the virtual world of relationships. Due to easy accessibility and the need for instant gratification that becomes inherent in an individual once he/she joins a social networking site, there is very high potential for addiction. The ease and convenience associated with approaching people on nline platforms is something which cannot be replicated in real life interactions between individuals. Due to this , more and more youth are drawn towards the idea of forming virtual relationships on online platforms. According to the The Economic Times, 53 percent of the people in US check their profiles on facebook immediately after getting out of bed. They have been reported saying that checking their respective social profiles and news feed on social netwroking sites is one of the most essential ways for them to know the morning news. Further surveys also reveal that about 35 percent of people in the US check their social networking profiles or accounts several times a day.
It has been said that the advent of social media and social networking sites has made accessibility much more simpler and convenient in today’s world, making it much easier for people to connect with friends, families and strangers on an online platform, in order to discuss similar interests and several issues that plague the world today. On the other hand, the advent of digitization and the boom of social media prevalence has also become the cause of some of the major instances of social isolation ever recorded in the history of mankind. Due to the ease and convenience that social networking offers in terms of social relationships and the responsibilities associated with it, people are finding it more and more difficult to keep up social relationships in an offline mode of life. Individuals are more attracted towards the life and relationships which are prevalent on social online platforms and prefer to interact on these social networks than on a face to face basis with people in everyday life. This can have several problems for people who may be faced with several anti-social feelings when asked to interact on an offline basis of life. It has been observed repeatedly that electronic media has been detrimental to the aspect of social interactions in everyday life, which has seen a huge fall since the advent of the former.
Addiction to Social Networking Sites
The phenomenon of addiction to social media and social networking sites is widespread and surpasses boundaries, race, ethnicity and cultural background. This aspect proves the fact that social media has in turn contributed to a large scale social isolation in all parts of the world. The addiction caused due to social media is directly related to the psychological dependence that people feel towards social online platforms. This widespread addiction disorder has been the cause of several discrepancies in terms of social relationships and responsibilities. It has in fact been the cause of a scenario where people are so immersed in their online and virtual social life that they do not have the time and patience to appreciate and introspect on the physical world around them. In certain advanced cases of addiction to social networking sites, chronic users of social networking sites loose all perspective about the physical world around them, making it increasingly difficult for them to pursue social relationships in an offline scenario on a daily basis. An article in The Economic Times gives several references to the degrees of addiction which people exhibit towards social networking sites. As study found that individuals under the age of 25 were most likely to loose sleep over a particular post or discussion that is facilitated over a social online platform. Other interesting statistics which were garnered by the study include the finding that 17 percent would willingly check their social profiles during acts of sexual intimacy while 63 percent would do so in the toilet.
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Day to Day Relationships
Social media and social networking sites were once thought to be the epitome of unity and integrity. The basic ideals behind social and electronic media was that these easily accessible forms of communication and information were a perfect way in which people around the world could connect to each other on the basis of similar interests and thought processes. Though most of the aforementioned principles and ideals have been implemented to a great extent due to the subsequent rise of social media, there have been several factors related to the same that have been the cause of social isolation and have resulted in the severing of numerous relationships all over the world. A survey was conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), whose major finding revealed that Facebook was one of the major reasons behind one out of five divorces in the US. The survey further accentuated the fact that approximately 80 percent of divorce lawyers use the social networking profiles and accounts of their clients and the other party in order to gather substantial evidence in case of infidelity. Extensive analysis of personal messages, images and online relationships which a person shares on an online networking site can be used as potential evidence in order to prove infidelity in a case. According to Grohol (1), there was an extensive survey conducted on 308 participants and their social networking profiles. The results of the survey estimated that a majority of the candidates, which amounted to about 74.6 percent of the total candidates present in the survey, were likely to add previous sexual partners or individuals with whom they shared personal and intimate relationships with as friends on social networking sites. This reinforces the fact that social media is being used as a platform to facilitate illicit sexual relationships and has become a sort of online dating portal or platform. This can be further lead to several complications and misunderstanding between married partners if one (or both) of their friend lists contains their previous sexual partner or friend.
There is a good as well as a bad side to every aspect of our lives. The only thing that matters is how we choose to utilize these aspects and in what way we choose to approach them. Instead of being psychologically dependent on social networking sites and other forms of social media, we can limit our usage of online platforms in order to strengthen social bonds and to connect with people with similar interests and passions. There should be enough awareness among people in order to understand the various effects that psychological dependence on social media can have on interpersonal relationships on an everyday basis. People should strive to appreciate the physical world around them and give as much importance (if not more) to relationships and social responsibilities in an offline and face to face scenario. After all, it is not our Facebook profiles or status that defines us, it is the personality which we exhibit on an everyday basis in the physical world that gives us substance.
Das, B and J, S. Sahoo. “Social Networking Sites- A Critical Analysis of Its Impact on Personal and Social Life.” International Journal of Business and Social Science (2011): 222-228.
Ellison, N, B and M, B. Danah. “Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication (2007): 210-230.
Grohol, J, M. “Facebook reinforces relationship jealousy.” 2014. psychcentral.com. Document. 15 August 2014.
Gross, R and A. Acquisti. “Information revelation and privacy in online social networks (the facebook case).” Proceedings of the Acm workshop on privacy in the electronic society (wpes) (2005).
Mooney, C. Online Social Networking. Gale Cengage Learning, 2009.
The Economic Times. “People’s addiction to networking sites on rise: study.” The Economic Times 25 March 2010.
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