Social networking is a tool used by people all around the world. Its purpose is to promote and aid communication. However, this type of technology might be doing more harm than good. It is not only changing how we communicate, but how we interact with each other in daily life. Sarah Zay, of USA Today, stated that “With the rise of websites such as Facebook, social networking may be on the verge of replacing traditional personal interactions for the next generation” (1). Traditional interactions will continue to be at risk if we don’t realize the effects of our social media. Social networking affects our lives in many ways, including our communication, self- expression, bullying, isolation, friendships, and even our very own sense of humanity.
Social networks, such as Facebook, were created for the sole purpose of helping individuals communicate. There are many other reasons that these technologies are used, but communication is still the number one. Many people use these networks to talk to their friends in other cities, states, or even other countries. There are many situations that do not allow the use of telephones; this is why social networking is preferable by many. These networks not only allow communication between friends, but allow you to meet new people. Similarities and common friends can create new bonds. This allows one’s social circle to expand. If you ask around how people think social networking affects them, many will say that they, “Have an expanded circle of social connections, and stay in touch more” (PC Magazine Online 2). These networks are becoming the modern way to make friends. These new friends communicate through these networks. However, standard communication is not the only way this social technology is used.
On these networking sites, users normally create pages that represent them in some way. They post pictures of themselves and their friends. Their friends comment on these photos. This concept seems simple enough, but its use is very different depending on the age of the user. Adults are known to be more mature about what they post and how they interact online. It is more likely that adults would, “Use their profile pictures as a way of casually showing themselves, their family, or possibly a recent trip they took” (USA Today 1). This is a reasonable way of representing yourself online. Teenagers, however, use this new technology in a way that could be dangerous. In this stage of their lives, they care more about their need to impress their peers than mature reasoning. Teenagers gain popularity through the interesting pictures they post. Comments that are left on their pages mean more to them than actual words. In order to get the results they want, they try to get a reaction from controversial images of themselves. This adolescent need to be “cool” leads to “gross amount of young girls and boys attempting to impress one another by showcasing themselves in mature situations or displaying their physique. For instance, many pictures that teenagers post online reveal underage drinking, smoking, and partying”(USA Today 1-2).
These explicit pictures are very harmful to the user. Posting inappropriate pictures are demeaning and damaging reputations. The self-expression used on these networks should stay age appropriate. Users will receive more respect if they stick to pictures of their last vacation, birthday party, or field trip.
With so many teens using social networking, it has become easier to target one another. Cyber bullying is a form of bullying that is only done through the web and other technologies. Social networks make it worse for the victims. Bullying is difficult in person and even harsher over the internet. When cruel comments are posted on an individual’s page, anyone can see them. However, on the networks no one is there to witness the attack. This makes it harder for a victim to ask for help. The bully has an easier job insulting the other because there is no threat of getting caught by a close adult. These kinds of social attacks are harmful. All types of bullying are wrong, though cyber bullying might be the worst yet. The victims are vulnerable online and the insults made towards them deadlier because “computers mask faces and the majority of insults, threats, and taunting go on without repercussion. There often is no make-up or apologies, because no one witnesses the harmful effect the words may carry” (USA Today 2). Teenagers must understand that bullying is always wrong. It does not matter if the victim cannot see them; it is still immoral and disrespectful. Social sites should be used to communicate with each other but not to torment each other in the comfort of one’s own home.
With the constant use of these social technologies, less people are communicating in person. Many people are becoming more isolated due to the lack of personal interaction. It is becoming easier to go through life with less personal confrontations and conversations. Many people are becoming used to only conversing through their computer. This trend has continued and lead to an, “Interesting number of developing adults that function well in a keyboard setting while failing at human interaction” (PC Magazine Online 2). The failing of human interaction is a horrible result of this new technology. Without person-to-person interaction we will lose our language skills and have trouble with public speaking. Normal debates and confrontations will be made more difficult due to the inability to read one another body language. This is not healthy for our development because “Humans are social animals who need to have regular interaction with others to experience the full benefits of socialization and lead a balanced life” (Current Issues 2). This kind of isolation is degrading towards our society because it is necessary to be personable. If we continue to be isolated than all of our communication skills will drop lower than they already are. These new communication sites were made to improve communication, not destroy it.
These social networks allow an individual to have thousands of “friends.” However, these supposed “friends” are really no more than strangers. On these web sites we allow strangers onto our page for petty reasons, such as having the same taste in music or movies. We spend more time with these people online, when we should be spending time with our real life friends that we’ve known for years. This lack of dedication to our real life friends leads to shallower friendships. Many people care for their Facebook friends, but they don’t even know what their lives are like. Many of those people will “know what fifteen of their friends had for breakfast, but don’t know whether any of them are struggling with major life issues” (PC Magazine Online 2). This is a common occurrence in online friendships now.
Many don’t even realize that they have ruined their other friendships. Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we create connections with people who we don’t know, or even care about? It all stems from, “an underlying fear of being alone. Social networks may form shallow friendships but the connection makes you feel as if you are not alone” (Our Media, Ourselves 2). This fear is why we allow ourselves to act against our brains and our hearts. Friendship is about being there for each other and being able to tell each other about important issues. It is not about who comments on Facebook quicker.
The constant use of this kind of technology is harmful to us as a whole and to our humanity. When we contact one another through these sites we are limiting ourselves. When you use networks like Facebook, “you’re representing yourself on a database. Then you live according to that database. You fill in check marks saying this is what I’m interested in, this is who I am, this is the music I want to hear, and you become a caricature of yourself”(University Declares a Week Without Social Media 3). This kind of representation lowers us and our humanity. We are known only as what we write on our pages. Our humanity is what lets us be ourselves. We have the right to control what we say and do, “We invent ourselves, and we invent our own taste. We decide what friendship means, and furthermore, we intend to make a living because we’re not subordinate” (University Declares a Week without Social Media 3). This is what makes us who we are and communication is a large part of that. If we stop making our own choices than we’ve lost what it means to live and be human. We should be able to tell each other about ourselves in person and make real friends. These social networks have damaged many things, but they cannot be allowed to harm our humanity.
Although many people around the world use social networking, it should only be used as a tool. Social networking aides long distance communication greatly but there must be a stopping point. It cannot become our main form of communication and interaction. There are positives to this new technology but nowhere do these positives outweigh the negatives. If we continue overusing the aid of these sites, then it will keep effecting our communication, self-expression, bullying, isolation, friendship and humanity in negative ways. There is nothing that can substitute for personal interaction. Social networking is the problem and we must eliminate its overuse for the sake of our fut.