Social networks have created a whole new online world. Not only can we communicate easier, but can also voice our opinions and feelings instantaneously. Although social networks have been around for quite some time, only recently have networks like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter really engaged people in online communication.
People have definitely used social networks to its full potential. Social networks function as means of meeting friends, long lost relatives and even spouses. It has come to my attention that the older people are, the more skeptical they are about this new mode of communication. Older generations are less willing to put their trust into an online database for connecting with people all around the world. I believe as the generations move forward, social networks will become a second nature, if they have not already been for people of my generation and younger.
On another note, social networks have an irony within. They are used to be “social” and keep in contact with your friends and family, yet people use it to avoid real life socializing. I think part of the reason why people have resorted to finding a partner through the internet has to do with people lacking the skill in real life. In addition, people no longer meet the old fashioned way like accidentally bumping into someone on the bus or train. Instead, people have lost the confidence to make eye contact with people in public places. Social networks have many helpful tools, but until people stop hiding behind their phones, this socializing problem will continue to occur.
I think social networks (through the form of websites and apps) have altered the relationship between citizens and established government. As part of the Arab Spring in 2011 (around the same time The Social Network came out), Egyptian activists organized and led rallies to protest their current president. Their anger was aimed at the economic situation and corruption within the government but also involved freedom of speech, feminist issues and police brutality. Activists and journalists turned to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr to show firsthand accounts of what was happening in Tahir Square and raised an enormous amount of global outrage and solidarity, which eventually led to the resignation of the president. The social network campaign was especially heightened due to censorship that was happening in Egypt and led many to realize the power individual voices had in the face of government oppression.
A similar situation happened in Ferguson a few months ago, where a few photos and blogs about policy brutality towards blacks in the United States sparked an uproar of activism and civilian revolt. This created an unprecedented amount of civilian interest and critical analysis of governmental power, which allowed many Americans to step forward and challenge governmental authority, even in smaller matters. I think the ability of social networks – to spread current news and events among a global audience – is truly changing the way we view government as a whole. Because citizens are realizing the power of social spaces to raise awareness of smaller causes and uniting with others that share this drive, they are taking the power away from government and spreading it among themselves. In this way, the masses become more worthy of fear than the government because they have learned how to use social networks – a tool necessary to spark change – as a weapon against injustice.
At first, the affects of social networks all seem positive and important for the future of humankind. However, at further glance, social networks have many negative influences on people. The internet is nice for getting a person’s opinions out, but many people start taking it to the extreme and abuse the system by saying mean things to other, intentionally or on accident. The problem with talking to people on the internet is that it is hard to show one’s emotions. Yes, one can use emojis to try and show their feelings. However, a simple sentence can be treated as either sarcastic, realistic, mean or nice. Someone may mean one thing when they write about something, while someone else may interpret that writing in a completely different way. This is why facial expressions are so important in face-to-face talking. You cannot, or will usually choose not to, speak to others face to face on social networks. Another problem is that if something happens to a person who found a facebook message or a tweet offensive, the person who put up that message will get in legal trouble. Even if the message is supposedly deleted by the “criminal”, there are still ways to view that message again, it is permanent.
Social networks have made people forget how to talk to people in person. This is important because no matter how long you spend next to a computer, you still need to see people face to face whether it is to make love, play games with friends, or go to the store. As mentioned before, if you want to get your emotions out, it is much easier to just talk to a person face to face. Social networks have fixed the problem of reaching people far away, but it had also made a problem with the way we talk to people physically close to us. We are now more awkward in thinking of topics to talk about, can’t express our ideas as well and have trouble meeting new people in the outside world. Social networks have only made social interactions worse.