Much has been said about the impact the virtual world has on our ‘real’ world. Quite often the use of smart phones and the internet is seen as a way for many to become distant from the people and the things around them in their physical world. In this article Josh Rose looks at the paradox that the use of social media has created. In some ways it allows us to have a closeness and a connection with people because the technology allows us to do so – texting our family members, sharing pictures on Facebook, tweeting our latest what are we doing facts. In the same breath people attribute a sense of coldness, and lack of a real connection through the use of social media. Yes they may stay in touch more often, but perhaps the quality and the emotional attachment of staying in touch is lost when done through technology versus in person. The article notes that perhaps there is a way of categorizing the outlook we have on the effect of social media – we either think it’s good, bad or normal.
Perhaps a key component of how we see the effect is how we use social media and if we use social media. Talk to the generations that have never lived without it and they will see that it is as natural to text someone as it is to call them or talk to them in person. Palfrey and Gasser assign three characteristics to these Digital Natives: born after 1980, have access to networked digital technologies and the skill set to use them (2008, p. 1). These children are identified both by their real time identity and the one they create online, both existing synchronously. They are bonded together by “the amount of time they spend using digital technologies, their tendency to multitask, their tendency to express themselves and relate to one another in ways mediated by digital technologies, and their pattern of using the technologies to access and use information and create new knowledge and art forms” (2008, page 4). To these people, the effects of social media are definitely a plus versus a negative.
Perhaps the most positive aspect of social media is the ability it allows for people to come together and create. Traditional barriers to working together as a group are taken away through the use of technology. In Clay Shirky’s Here Comes Everybody (2008), he highlights the case that most barriers to group action have been eliminated, and without these barriers there exists an ability to find new ways of gathering together and getting things done Groups that before were dispersed and difficult to bring together are now benefiting from the social tools that exist online.
Rhiengold takes this one step further showing that now that the barriers are removed, the group action can lead to a population in which people wear the title of creator and consumer. With these titles, “they are far more likely to generate freedom and wealth for more people than one in which a small portion of the population produces culture that the majority passively consume”
Gasser, U., & Palfrey, J. Born Digital. New York. Basic Books.
Rose, J. (2011, February 24). How Social Media is Having a Positive Impact On Our Culture. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2011/02/23/social-media-culture/
Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. Massachusetts: Perseus Books.
Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: New York. Penguin Press.