How the Use of Social Media Has Changed the World

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Over the last 10 years, we've seen social media galvanize thousands over politics, create as many industries as it has destroyed, and offer an abundance of visual and audio entertainment. But has all this incredible change actually changed us, or just the world we live in?

It stands to reason that children who read and write more are better at reading and writing. And writing blog posts, status updates, text messages, instant messages, and the like all motivate children to read and write. Last month, The National Literacy Trust released the results of a survey of over 3000 children. They observed a correlation between children's engagement with social media and their literacy. Simply put, social media has helped children become more literate. Indeed, Eurostat recently published a report drawing a correlation between education and online activity, which found that online activity increased with the level of formal activity (socio-economic factors are, of course, potentially at play here as well). Lisa Reichelt, a user experience consultant in London coined the very pleasant term "ambient intimacy." It describes the way in which social media allows you to "... keep in touch with people with a level of regularity and intimacy that you wouldn’t usually have access to, because time and space conspire to make it impossible." Consider the many communications technologies through history — the telephone, Morse code, semaphore, carrier pigeons, smoke signals — they are all fairly inconvenient and labor intensive. Lisa has hit on the idea that communication has become so convenient that it's actually become ambient around us. It surrounds us wherever we want it, not necessarily when it wants us. We dip into it whenever we like. From his Meditationes Sacrae, published in 1597, Francis Bacon was paraphrased as saying "knowledge is power." Fundamentally, the more you understand about life, the more chance you have at success. But these days, Wikipedia and Google have...
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