Culture Clash: Social Media

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Don’t log in. Don’t log in. Don’t. Log. In.

Sarah Dutton – The Good Side

I get up in the morning and log onto Facebook. I am what could be described as a Facebook addict, although I don’t leave it logged in because of the high population of “frapists” in my house. Immediately I can see that there are two messages, one friend request, an invite to a college event and a close friend’s birthday. These are just some of the notifications that make social media, particularly Facebook, increasingly useful devices. The easy messaging service makes it simple to keep in touch with people, especially now that a lot of us are at universities miles from home, and statuses and Twitter updates can give you an idea of how your friends are getting on in their new universities or jobs. On Facebook it is nice that even a simple ‘poke’ can remind an old friend of your existence. How else can you keep in touch with your best friend on a gap year in Canada without racking up a huge mobile phone bill? Yes, her constant tweets about how many cute bear cubs she’s seen and how she swam in the sea before breakfast might make you a bit jealous, but it’s good to know she’s having a great time!

As I am the typical bad friend with an equally bad memory I often forget my friends’ birthdays and Facebook has saved me many a time. It also allows you to network with people you have just met with practical and not just social benefits. Many, if not all of our university courses require group work, and Facebook allows me to share ideas about a presentation with others in my seminars and discuss topics and problems that we might face. Wouldn’t it get annoying to have to text the four other people in your group every time you have an idea? Facebook has become more and more widely used allowing colleges and even departments to communicate important information to us. We do receive emails about upcoming events but I think I am right in suggesting that on the whole, it’s Facebook we check most. Any events you’re invited to are also synced straight to your Facebook calendar, and this gives you helpful reminders. Who ever remembers the contents of an email and all the events publicized in it?

Another key function is the large storage of photographs on Facebook. Although the notification that so-and-so has added fifty photographs of you that night you thought it would be a good idea to volunteer for the gunge pool in Hustle isn’t always appreciated, I still think it is mostly nice to have an album of university memories all in one place. I like the idea that in twenty years’ time not only will I be able to look back on student life, I will also be able to stalk out my old friends (and even fleeting acquaintances) and find out what they’re doing with their lives. Does it not make you feel secure knowing that you have all your friends on Facebook or Twitter and with the click of a button know that you will easily be able to get back in touch with any one of them?

 

Hannah Ralph – The Dark Side

I can honestly say that I spend the majority of my spare time on my laptop. More specifically on social networking sites such as Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook, which I literally click between for hours despite no new or vaguely exciting changes to either. Despite the lack of space I put between myself and these sites, I can note my own somewhat unhealthy behaviours and those of others are often inextricably fuelled by the sites themselves.

As aforementioned, I spend a lot of time on these sites. I have come onto the laptop to do important work and three or so hours later I realise that I’ve wasted the time recapping through the ‘newsfeed’ or the ‘dashboard’. The social networking cons exist because we as humans are prone to obsessive, addictive behaviours and the addictive factor of the sites can lead to isolation, diminished ‘real life’ social skills, lower grades in education, and in a more general view can overtake lives in a swamp of procrastination. A study by ‘HomeNet’ concluded that greater Internet use was directly related to depression and loneliness while two thirds of teachers believe social media does more to distract students than help academically. It is generalized that students who spend time online perform weaker than those who do not.

Of course, there is cyber-bulling. I was once a victim of cyber-bullying myself and saw first hand how the absence of face-to-face communication instilled a newfound, vicious bravery in the bullies. I suspected they felt that there were no consequences due to the long distance nature of the bullying. The faceless identity of people in the online world only heightens this feeling of an anonymous culture that can get away with saying whatever they like to whomever they like despite the harm they are causing. Cyber-bullying can often make the victim feel especially isolated – in public we are almost constantly surrounded, but behind our computers we are usually very much alone.

There are much more subtle con’s to the world of social networking regarding its complete access and observation. Stories of men and woman losing their jobs over a status that criticises their company or boss are plentiful, and some may say they deserved it for being so careless. However this leads on from my last point, online you can ‘get brave’ without feeling like there are consequences. The familiarity of what we feel is a personal world, there for our personal expression, dominates our thinking and often makes us ignore the public nature of the sites. Most dangerously perhaps, it also helps to facilitate student/teacher and other inappropriate relationships. In my hometown for instance, a PE teacher of one of the local high schools was found to be ‘messaging’ the girls of his class on Facebook, leading to various, unsupervised meet ups. It shows just how easily the sites can often be a platform for escalating behaviours.

Lastly I’d like to take the one of the major positives of social networking – the sense of community. This however, has massively harmful consequences, such as on the blogging site Tumblr, where ‘underground’ networks of bulimic, anorexic users have progressively banded together in a kind of ‘Pro-Anoxeric’ after-school club. They are most definitely a supportive community, but not one of the positive kind. Tumblr themselves have decreed a new policy toward Pro-Self-Harm blogs, shutting down blogs they feel are triggering self-harm but the fact is, they have already done their damage.

Social networking sites prove to have caused much damage to individual lives across the world, and as it stands they are irreversibly continuing.