Social networks become more and more important for us. There are a lot of different opinions about social media. Some people say that these apps and websites may cause a significant damage on our communication skills, since we don’t need to see our friends anymore, as well as live conversation becomes more difficult for us. However, we shouldn’t look at such an issue from only one side, since it’s too complicated issue, and we are going to discuss all points, considering all kinds of impact of social networks on our communication.
First of all, communication means an act of exchanging information, feelings, or ideas (Collins, 2009). Baack (2012) states that communication is a key part of everyone’s life. This process means a transfer of information or meaning.
In the recent times, exchanging information became simpler than ever, since we have constant access to the internet. Using PCs, smartphones, notebooks, tablets, we communicate all day long. E-mail, text messages, and social networks slowly replace live meetings and phone calls. Social networks formed a new standard of communication, used both for sharing important information, such as weddings, birth of children, business events, and for everyday tasks, like inviting someone for a dinner. Social media became important even for politics, and now it’s hard to overestimate an impact of these sources on our lives.
Increasing accessibility, the internet becomes more and more used everywhere. For over than 20 years, the internet was just a tool for sharing news, entertainment and educational sources. As for social media, these technologies weren’t popular until the last 10 years. Now such services as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, are the most popular and the most visited websites in the internet. These sources constantly improve accessibility, design and simplicity of use, making communication easy like never before. Having constant access to information about lives of other people, we change our behavior, catching latest trends immediately and transferring them further. Social networks form our lifestyle, and help build strong communities consisting of people from all over the world.
Now social media give us information about someone’s communication skills. They are used by businesses, government structures, students, and even religious organizations. Social networks become a basic communicational tool, replacing other methods of information transferring. As we know, everything that transfers a message, sound, other waves, pictures, and any other types of signals, is called a transmission device (Baack, 2012). Thus, social media include a lot of transmission devices. First of all, it’s possible due to mobile devices, which constantly become more and more powerful, and simple in use. Now we are able to share almost any type of information, using only one app, just with a few taps on the screen.
Many people notice that they check their pages in social networks constantly, without even thinking about the purpose of such actions. Some people share almost every minute of their lives with others, taking pictures and updating their statuses. We often see how tweets of some celebrity become the most discussed topic in TV shows and popular magazines. Even every commercial has icons of Twitter and Facebook below.
Twitter and Facebook motivate their subscribers to live online, creating a little network of friends that becomes a part of the worldwide network (Griffith & Tengah, 2009). Every two persons from all over the world can instantly communicate with each other, either publicly (using comments and reposts), or privately, via private messages.
Subscribers are able to not only find their friends and get new ones, but also to join different communities based on common interests. Thus, everyone can find people who are interested in the same things, without going anywhere. Now it became possible to even make online conferences, working on the same project from different points on Earth. According to Briggs, an average Facebook subscriber usually participates in 80 different groups. Such groups often have certain rules of interaction and publication. There are forums, where subscribers can easily ask necessary questions, talking to each other, or to leaders of such communities.
Another social media, YouTube, allows users to share and comment videos. This platform is used by a lot of musicians and video-bloggers, some of them don’t need any other, additional sources for promotion. YouTube provides constant access to all kinds of movies, sports, TV shows, and music.
Due to such social networks, we talk less and message more. However, we still make phone calls, mostly using internet apps, such as Skype.
Another tool that makes conversation even more interactive is webcam. A lot of social networks support webcams to allow friends to not only hear, but also see each other. Webcams become more and more popular, since this type of conversation can be considered the most private. It allows us to share emotions and supports all features of a real dialogue online.
Skype, Twitter and Facebook are so popular now, that it’s hard to find somebody who doesn’t have an account in one of such services. Not only are they used by people, but also by business companies. Almost all business organizations have accounts in social media.
Qualman (2009) says that social media are presented in all spheres of our lives. In business, they are not only used by departments of marketing or public relations, but serve as a part of the whole strategy of every company. IT departments, HR, customer service – all these parts of business find something useful in social networks.
Most of all, such services provide great opportunities for advertisement. Now every company is able to find millions of users who are interested in a particular product. Facebook pages allow companies to talk directly to their customers, giving new information about promotions and discount programs. Every time we like some page, our friends instantly receive notifications, and so they can become new customers.
Social media introduced new technologies, and implemented new standards of everyday communication. Our communication is fast and efficient. We get notifications on friends’ birthdays, so we can immediately leave greetings on their pages, with no need to use phones or send postcards. At the same time, such an approach eliminates some personal features of conversation. A lot of people note that the very process of opening a card delivers warm emotions and makes them think about a person who sent it. On the other hand, quick message on the wall seems like something impersonal, and many people even don’t read such messages or just react with a like button, which takes less than a second.
Social networks allowed companies, social organizations, and churches to reach wider audiences. They pushed communication to the new level of efficiency. Celebrities use Twitter to deliver messages to all their fans. Government structures and presidents can instantly inform people about important events and new government projects.
At the same time, such services make a significant negative impact. Children get opportunities for cyber bullying; many people become victims of revealing personal information. Many children don’t understand consequences of their actions in the internet (Wallis, 2012). Every year, more and more people commit suicide as a result of unwanted information exposed by others, against their will. Of course, there are a lot of programs that provide parental control, but this method only helps block some adult websites. There is no method that could protect children from posts of their peers.
Considering the impact that social media have on our lives, we must be able to estimate all positive and negative features. First of all, these websites and apps provide more possibilities for communication. On the other hand, many people use such platforms for unusual purposes, hurting others.
Prisoners now have a chance to stay connected with the outer world. Social media slowly replace TV and press. Such services as Facebook or Twitter provide news much faster than any TV channel. Almost all newspapers or radio stations have their accounts, which helps them stay connected to their audience.
Now it’s so easy to access any social platform via smartphones or tablets, that a lot of people are online 24/7, posting all details about their lives. There are many people suffering from the social network addiction, who cannot be offline even for a few minutes, feeling anxiety and depression.
On the one hand, Facebook unites people of the same interests, helping them find each other and discuss necessary questions. There are no limits for your friend list, you can install apps and play games with your friends. On the other hand, it cannot provide necessary security for children. Pedophiles use social networks to search for victims, and there are no tools that could protect children from them.
Another dangerous feature is that your private information becomes accessible for everyone. Unless your page is private, everybody can get information about your location, people you’re working with, and so on. Thus, potential thieves can use your page to know when you’ll be out of home.
Now privacy becomes one of the most discussed questions about social media, especially due to such functions as GPS tracking. Facebook provides basic functions to save your data, but there is no built-in function of protection. Every user must study necessary instructions and set up his or her page in order to protect it from unwanted visitors. The best way to protect yourself is to be careful and think what and when you post. We suggest you to post only things that you are ready to share with everyone.
Social networks improved communication and even introduced completely new ways of communication. Social platforms allow politicians and social organizations to talk to a widest audience. At the same time, there are a lot of bad consequences of social networks use, and we are still unable to avoid many of them. Generally, positive impact seems to overcome the negative, but we must focus on safety issues and be careful, sharing our private data.
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