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How does technology define us as individual and society?
Social media, also known as social networking sites, are a group of international-based applications such as live chat applications, photo-sharing platforms, video sharing platforms, and micro-blogs and so on. Since social media technology were developed in the 1990s, it has undergone rapid development with the Internet revolution. It has been calculated that the number of worldwide users of social media today is expected to reach 2.95 billion by 2020 (PRNewswire, 2018). In order words, one-third of the global population now will be accessing social media technology by 2020. Some argue that social media technology isolates people from the real world or real interpersonal relationship. In fact, social media truly promotes interpersonal relationships and contributes to the development of society by creates various types of relationship. Furthermore, the technology help individual to express their own opinions and ideas publicly, which contribute to the social justice and freedom of speech.
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To understand the roles that social media technology plays in our life, it is essential to learn how people use it today. Konnikova (2013) suggested that social media enable people to send the text message or other types of information to others quickly. However, young people now are becoming reliant on social media, and they may spend a significant amount of time scrolling through newsfeeds (Konnikova, 2013). Pennell (2015) points out that in addition to sending text messages or scrolling newsfeeds, users of Facebook would like to post pictures of themselves online. From the ways people utilize the social media at the present days, it has discovered that the social media technology aims to contribute to information sharing and interpersonal communication, and there is no doubt that social media are popular among young generations. Therefore, social media is an advanced communication and efficient information sharing technology which promote interpersonal relationships and development of the society.
To explain how social media technology dramatically contributes to communication among people. First, the powerful functions of social media, friends, family members, and couples could keep in touch with each other anytime and anywhere. As a distance education student, my classmates and I are reliant on social media technology because it is the only way to effectively interact with each other for homework purpose or discussions in general. In some cases, social media technology will help people to go through difficulties. For example, I still remembered the first year of being distance education student; I felt helpless without any friends in school. Once someone sent me a link to join Groupme, a collaborative group chat application, it was such a relief. From all the support and comfort I received, I quickly adjusted distance education class. Today, though I have joined many new groups, but I will never miss any updates from the previous group, and still receive useful information about other courses. Thus, comparing with other communication technology, such as writing emails, calling phones or sending short messages, social media which featuring higher speed, lower costs, and multi-media function could significantly contribute to interpersonal communication.
Secondly, social media technology creates more types of interpersonal relationships such as brand-customer relationship and audience-doctor relationship. For example, today, a majority of corporations take advantage of social media to start the social media marketing. Such a new relationship between individuals and brands could not only help customers to get more information on products and services they need but also enable companies to increase sales and promote customer loyalty and retention. Also, the audience-doctor interpersonal relationship has generated by social media. For example, an increasing number of medical professionals and doctors started to use social media now to deliver health information to a broader range of audiences (Heldman et al., 2013). Thus, the new relationship between the public and medical professionals is promoted by social media, which significantly facilitates the public health communication of the society.
Lastly, social media help individuals to express their own opinions and ideas publicly, which contribute to the social justice and freedom of speech. For example, Beth Terry, an ordinary woman from California, forced the Clorox Corporation, a cleaning products company which produces products packed plastic containers, to recycle the plastic products it produced through her blogs (Westervelt, 2012). Terry used the micro-blog to express her opinions on the plastic pollution issue caused by Clorox. Terry’s blog soon won support from the public, and now she has over 2 million followers. Terry’s appeal and the support of her followers finally forced the company to realize its corporate social responsibility. Thus, social media offer the platform for individuals to express their ideas, and thanks to this effective information sharing channel, the social justice and freedom of speech has been protected and promoted.
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Some might argue that social media technology ruin people’s life, their position is social media technology has more negative impacts on people’s lives and the development of society. For example, a research study of York University suggested that the more people spend time on social media, the more envious or bored they would feel because social media has attracted people’s attention to the virtual world, therefore people now are less able to “meaningfully engage” and become “more disconnected” (Konnikova, 2013). Pennell (2015) also suggested that social media now become a platform for people to compare their body images with others, which may increase users’ feelings of jealousy. However, technology itself is neutral, and it is biased to blame on social media technology for human beings’ inherent weaknesses. In fact, in past time when there was no social media technology existed, human beings would also feel bored with the dull life or being jealous of the peers who had more beautiful appearances or human bodies. Also, there is no strong evidence which can prove the association between human beings’ negative emotions with the development of social media technology. Even the research study in 2009 suggested that people who used Facebook can be happier because they increased social trust and encouraged political participation (Konnikova, 2013). Thus, technology is inculpable, and social media can help people to deal with their negative emotions.
Moreover, some people suggested that social media technology will cause legal issues on cyber-safety or privacy. For example, according to Cox (2014), people can impersonate anyone they like on social media. Therefore, the changeable virtual identities may result in a series of safety and privacy issues. Also, in 2018, Facebook was involved in lawsuits because a bug of the system may have stolen over 6.8 million users’ private information (Ho, 2018). Thus, Mark Zuckerberg tried to require all users to use their “real names” online, but it is hard for people to integrate their real identity with their virtual identity online (Cox, 2014).
It is true that technology may lead to some problems with safety or privacy, but all these issues can be solved with the development of technology. Today, firewalls and anti-virus software has widely applied to all kinds of computing systems, therefore the cybercrimes will be effectively prevented in the future. Furthermore, regarding people’s identity, it is necessary to integrate people’s social identity with their virtual identity online because people may have several identities in different situations, just like people become an employee at the workplace, but they shift their identity as the father or mother when they come back home. Thus, there is no need to worry about the confusion of identity. Instead, we should respect the rights of people to develop their real identities in different conditions.
All in all, technology, such as social media technology, promotes interpersonal relationships and contributes to the development of society by dramatically increase communication among people, it creates more types of interpersonal relationships. Moreover, the technology can help individuals to express their own opinions and ideas publicly, which contribute to the social justice and freedom of speech. Though in some situation, technology brings people negative emotions or may lead to safety or privacy issues, however, only the development of more advanced technology could help us solve the current problems. Without social media human essentially go back in time, but the future is ahead, everyone will enjoy more convenient and safe social media technology.
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