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Social Networking: Just How “Anti-Social” are We Becoming?

Submitted by on October 5, 2013 – 10:55 PM

Negative-Effect-of-Social-Media-2The social network is theoretically useful in the social sciences to study the relationship between individuals, groups and even organizations. The ties through which any social units connect represents the convergence of the various social contacts of that unit. Like many of you, I have experienced and studied the trend of emerging technology and social media. Amid all the buzz and innovation, very few experts have taken a step back to look at how social media and technology are changing us.

They have changed our world in ways too numerous to count. There was no correlation with the amount of time we spent either messaging or exchanging photos with friends and family with the quality of those relationships in reality. It’s an argument constantly used by those resistant to technological change, afterall, television and telephone weren’t greeted with open arms at the outset. However given that we now spend 13 minutes of every hour on social media, is there something more sinister that is causing social media to make us antisocial?

The “conversation” of choice seems to take place on a mobile phone or any such new technology gadget as people take to their earphones to listen to music or better still chat endlessly on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks, oblivious of the people sitting around them. They ARE being social, and are actually communicating, but to people who are not in that omnibus but are hanging somewhere in the virtual sphere. Social media does make people anti social because families aren’t talking at dinner as much. People also don’t want to leave to talk to people when they can do it from the comfort of their own home.

Also those aren’t real emotions that are created over social media. Those are fake emotions that give you a temporary feeling. Social media also inundates us with constant “updates” from people that normally, we would speak to only in passing (but have been somehow tied into befriending) and are now privy to every aspect of their boring, grating lives. It can make a person want to be alone.

“Misery Has More Company Than People Think,” a paper in the The human habit of overestimating other people’s happiness is nothing new, of course. If we only wanted to be happy it would be easy; but we want to be happier than other people, which is almost always difficult, since we think them happier than they are. But social networking may be making this tendency worse. By showcasing the most witty, joyful, bullet-pointed versions of people’s lives, and inviting constant comparisons in which we tend to see ourselves as the losers, Facebook appears to exploit an Achilles heel of human nature.

And women—an especially unhappy bunch of late—may be especially vulnerable. Facebook is, after all, characterized by the very public curation of one’s assets in the form of friends, photos, biographical data, accomplishments, pithy observations, even the books we say we like. Look, we have baked beautiful cookies. We are playing with a new puppy. We are smiling in pictures (or, if we are moody, we are artfully moody).

Blandness will not do, and with some exceptions, sad stuff doesn’t make the cut, either. The site’s very design—the presence of a “Like” button, without a corresponding “Hate” button—reinforces a kind of upbeat spin doctoring. (No one will “Like” your update that the new puppy died, but they may “Like” your report that the little guy was brave up until the end). Last night I had the opportunity to attend a dinner party hosted by a professor.

The table was beautiful and food was delicious, however I left the dinner feeling very irritated. The thorn sticking in my side was a result of one of the guest’s (a student) manners and how he interacted with the other dinner party guests and his cell phone. The first clue of a potential issue came when I saw him place his phone on the table next to his plate. As the student’s phone sat next to his plate, it began to buzz with new emails and text messages.

This continued throughout the meal and at one point he even took and placed calls. We got to see his latest head-shots via the phone and hear about his new apps. He even Tweeted what he was eating. Really? Forget the meal that the host prepared or the conversation we could have had, dinner became an exercise of what was going on in another world.

A world that was occurring outside of the immediate dinning room.One that I was dragged into because the student just didn’t get it. In short, he wasn’t present. Since he wasn’t present and was not aware of his impact, he didn’t recognize that he was being rude.

He wasn’t aware enough to see that he was making a bad impression and being disrespectful. I’m sure it never occurred to him. This study showed not only how easily people could get hooked on social media but also shows how technology and social networking sites, particularly Facebook, have become such an integral part of people’s lives that it would be difficult to leave them, even if one wanted to. My hope in writing this article was to create awareness in you about the idea of being present and its importance. It may not change you or how society establishes etiquette and norms about how to interact with social media and technology, but I do hope you will give it some thought.

About the Author: Aqid Ahmed Malick is a astudent at Dow University of Health Sciences, Pakistan. He can be reached [email protected]

About this article: This article is competing for the JPMS International Medical Writing Contest 2013

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