The emergence of new media has had a tremendous impact on the way we communicate What we used to consider as new media has today evolved into what we call social media Websites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as text messaging and Skype, have enabled people to connect from distant locations at a speed unimaginable to generations passed These innovations in social communication are fundamentally changing the way businesses and governments operate, but they are also impacting our personal lives. By transforming our world into a “small village”, social media is increasing our global awareness and breaking down the barriers of nations, religions, and ethnic groups In many ways these developments have been positive As cultural awareness and familiarity increases, prejudice and mistrust seems to simultaneously decrease Unfortunately, improvements in the realms of convenience and understanding have come at the expense of our ability to effectively communicate in person In other words, applications such as Facebook, Twitter, and text- messaging, could potentially damage our ability to communicate effectively It is therefore important to understand and analyze all the different aspects of the new social media before coming to a conclusion regarding their utility in our society
With over 600 million users, Facebook was not the first, but it is certainly the largest of the social networking sites As the blockbuster film “Social Network” reveals, Face book started as a website aimed primarily at college students but has now become popular among junior high and high school students, as well as adults Facebook has re-united friends and families through its search mechanism Facebook has also have been of great utility to businesses that are trying to get a better understanding of who their potential customers are The “Like” button has been the key to a world of valuable consumer information
Facebook is obviously increasing the amount of time that people communicate but is it diminishing our abilities to communicate in person? Consider an article written by Lisa Valentine in the Star Tribune during the summer of 2009 Valentine, a school counselor, argues that the art of communication is being lost to technology She believes that this development will have a large and negative impact on the youngest generation Some would certainly argue that the author is over-exaggerating and that social networking sites such as Facebook, are only improving our communication skills They claim that the new generation will be even better than their parents at communicating Although, some of these critics may be right, it is hard to ignore some of the evidence that suggests otherwise
Consider a study done by Stephanie Tong, Brandon Vander Heide, Lindsey Langwell, and Joseph B Walther in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication The Authors found that there is a direct correlation between the numbers of Facebook friends someone has and the amount of time they spend socializing in person In other words, people who spend more time on Facebook are less likely to engage in real life socializing Now some would certainly suggest that Facebook is merely a variable in this equation, and that it is not the cause of people’s lack of social skills but merely a way in which people that are less-socially inclined communicate with one another Even if this were to be true, it does not negate the fact that Facebook is enabling these people to avoid person-to-person communication Although, this study was focused more on people who are less-socially inclined, it has some implications for how Facebook is impacting society as a whole Furthermore, it may be more informative to observe the impact that Facebook is having on people who are at a medium level of social activity
When Facebook reached the 500 million-member mark in 2010, it was clear that this was no longer a site used only by hyper-social college kids and “teenie-boppers” Facebook has reached the...
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