Human beings are walking toward an era of network sociality, introduced by Andreas Wittel in his essay ‘Toward a Network Sociality’ as a contrast to “community” which represents belonging, integration and disintegration (Wittel, 2001). Social media have been transforming human’s lives and relationships in an unprecedented speed. This essay will explore and analyze this influence. It will be divided into three parts, each describing and analyzing social media’s impact on one of the three above-mentioned spheres. I assert that social media is a mixed force, both positive and negative, whose influence has changed the way people stand in the world and connect with each other, the way people work and do their business, and the way people live and entertain themselves.
1. Social Media’s Impact on Individuality and Human Relationships 1.1. Social media’s impact on individuality
Societies and communities have existed for so long that even thousands of years ago, archeologists learnt that people everywhere, be they Amazon hunters or African shepherds, formed their own communities, with different but similar societal patterns (Van Loon, 2000). Social media have been greatly shaping our individuality and our relationship with others, so that today the notions of society and community have achieved new meanings and thus are different from what we believed before. With the help of social networks, people today tend to be more individualistic, as they make friends and establish business relations depending more on their own choices and decisions, rather than on the pre-determined social principles and connections. Beck (1999) argues that “individualization” presumes a removal from historically prescribed social forms and commitments. In a new environment where social networks dominate, human beings are faced with a wider range of choices of connections they are going to form, of things they are going to learn or to buy, and of information they are going to garner, which entails more individualism on the part of human beings. Under the influence of network sociality, human beings’ individuality is more and more emphasized today, and in fact, equipped with the mighty cyberspace, people are able to handle more complicated tasks than before. The common practice of selling secondhand goods on eBay or other e-business websites would simply seem imaginable for people of decades ago. As a matter of fact, selling things online is not limited to enterprises, stores or professional salesmen. Thanks to social networking, everybody can have an online business. At the same time, the sellers can better do their business by linking this page of their products to their blogs and advertise there, or posting on their Facebook or Twitter pages a piece of news promoting the products. In this way everybody can be a boss and salesperson, thus achieving more individuality.
1.2. Social media’s impact on human relationships
In real life (as in contrast with cyberspace,) there are various ways to divide people into different groups, according to their ages, sex, income, geographic positions, or their faiths and values. However, people in these groups or communities are something like sand- they seem to belong in a certain group, but in fact they are still separate maintaining their individuality. If these “grains of sand” are to put together and mixed so that they can form an affectionate, tightly-related community, the input of “water” for bonding will be necessary. The above metaphor and induction is to show that it is by no means an easy job for people to form valid communities, since on the one hand, the frequent communication is troublesome with a high cost, and on the other, there are many obstacles and hindrances in establishing such relations. For example, the age gap may be a problem when a group is founded on the basis of geography, and likewise, the income gap may be in the way of forming a community around gender. Luckily,...