THE ROLE OF TECHNOLOGY IN CREATING SUPERFICIAL TIES
The general topic that I would like to explore is communication and relationships through social media. In particular I am interested in the way that social media affects the way that we create or maintain relationships and different identities, and if this alienates us from human understanding in relationships. This topic is connected to the concepts of online communication and personal relationships, the concept of self-disclosure and the construction of identity (Duck & McMahon, 2012). Is the bite-sized world of social media leading to bite-sized and unsubstantial personal relationships? This was a question I asked myself recently when looking at some of my own relationships — friendship, romantic, professional, and family alike. Social media plays a role in many of those relationships these days, and what I noticed is that it isn’t always for the better. The main academic articles I will reference are written by; Pavica Sheldon (M.M.C., Louisiana State University), a graduate teaching assistant and Ph.D. student in the Department of Communication Studies at Louisiana State University, Xin-An Lu, an Associate Professor in The Department of Human Communication Studies at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania, USA, and Sally Dunlop, a professor at University of Australia, school of public health, and her two co-authors, Eian More and Daniel Romer, both professors at the University of Pennsylvania. This paper will first outline the main points of the aforementioned articles. I will then draw upon their themes to help answer my research questions, and I will conclude with the derivations that can be drawn. THEORY REVIEW:
In the Rocky Mountain Communication Review, Sheldon (2009) looks at the motivations for the use of social media, Facebook in particular, and the difference in use between genders. She examines 260 university students across four common factors for logging onto Facebook; relationship maintenance, passing time, entertainment, and virtual community. She finds through these parameters that “Females used Facebook to maintain their relationships, to be entertained, and to pass time. Males, on the other hand, used Facebook to develop new relationships” (Sheldon 54). Specifically, she found through her focus groups that those who frequent the social networking site more are doing so out of loneliness (Sheldon 55). This links directly with Xin-An Lu’s paper published in Proteus 27 (2011). Lu takes a much broader approach; looking at the affects of social media on the creation of identity and the modern formation of non-geographical communities. Lu argues that online community helps to reduce and remove social restraints and gives the user the ability to experiment with different identities, coming together based on shared and meaning (Lu 53). However, these new text-based relationships may not have existed before and we cannot use them to replace face-to-face interactions as they are ‘media-poor’, which is defined by Lu as “possess[ing] less immediate feedback, fewer cues and channels, and weakened personalization and language variety” (Lu 52), because “relationships formed in this environment may be weak, superficial, and impoverished, as compared with those formed in [face-to-face] communication” (Lu 52). We must be wary as we read through this review of the comparisons of studies conducted years apart with different conclusions, and we must remember that technology advances at such a rate that should be taken into account when looking at conclusions of past scholars. Finally, Dunlop, More and Romer discuss the positive aspects for having an enlarged network of support, especially for adolescents who have been exposed to, or are thinking of suicide, stating that “social networking sites may provide both greater exposure to such information and also greater social support to those who obtain this information”...
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