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Social Media, Other Technologies And Human Behaviour

Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga X-rays the pros and cons of modern technology on human behaviour


The advent of social media as a result of Internet technology has been affecting the way people think and do things individually and structurally in different families, organizations, societies and cultures over the years. Various folks have different stories to tell about how technology especially facebook- arguably the most popular social media on the internet has revolutionized global interactions among its users for the immediate past years it came into existence.

Speaking with The UNION about how social media/Internet technology has affected her life in various ways, Marianne Van der Wel, a retired lecturer who specializes in Natural Sciences and Mathematics at McMaster University, Canada, said “In 1991 or 1992 or 1993, when I saw a web site for the first time and the internet was becoming a world standard for computer networks, I said to myself ‘Pay attention, Marianne. If humanity is to survive, this tool will play a vital role!’

“During the latter half of the last decade, social media has risen to the forefront. I said the same thing to myself and forced myself to look into this phenomena. I started with twitter but have since moved over to facebook. Instagram has not yet peaked my interest nor the other 300 or so social media apps out there. “Life on facebook, more or less, parallels life offline. Hence I find facebook useful to study human behaviour and try to understand it (the good, the bad and the in between).

“I am interested in the question: ‘Is it possible to build a positive relation using only words- (which make up about 7 per cent of all human communication)?’ I do not yet have a conclusive answer for this one.

“I find that using only words, I get more acceptance as a white person by blacks than I do in real life. I find this an interesting observation but I certainly have made no definitive conclusions as to whether this is accurate or not.

“Since at least a few people see what I write and I get to see what others write (bypassing borders, the media and governments), my time is more productive on facebook than expressing my opinion to the media, letters to my politicians and the like.

“I am learning to write (though writing is something I hate doing). Sometimes I have an opportunity to show empathy or encourage another person whose path I would not have been able to cross otherwise

“Through facebook especially, and other websites, I learn information and facts from others, I would not have learned anywhere else.

“I did try to use facebook to promote “A Tiny Shift In Connecting Schools” programme (which is now shut down); but other than that, I am more interested in encouraging others to think for themselves than follow how I think. I will make statements for others to consider, doing my best to focus on behaviour rather than the person. While agreement generally feels better than disagreement, I do learn more when others disagree.”

Nonetheless, according to “Dimensions of leisure for Life” by Human Kinetics, with the proliferation of technologies that are able to overcome the obstacles of time and space (e.g., airplanes, cars, the Internet), one would think that these tools would be used to gain an understanding of other cultures, meet people all over the world, maintain and strengthen familial relationships, communicate effectively with others, and help people to become more socially adept.

Commenting on the negative effects of technology, Kinetics posits that “Some technological advances cause people to be distracted, overly stressed, and increasingly isolated. Many people are involved in an abundant number of relationships through technology, but sometimes the quantity of these associations leaves people feeling qualitatively empty. Obviously, technology has had a profound impact on what it means to be social. “Society is likely on the cusp of a social revolution, during which it will be important to redefine socially appropriate and acceptable behaviors (with regard to digital or virtual interaction). We are at a point in history where very few people have given critical thought to new social realities created by technology and what those realities mean for the individual and society.

“A few social technologies influence leisure in terms of virtual communities, social networking sites, and today’s communication tools.

“The use of social networking sites has both positive and negative consequences. It is amazing how someone can find a long-lost friend through a social networking site, enabling them to reconnect. In a society where people have become quite mobile and family and friends are often geographically separated, it is convenient to keep in touch through technology. However one need not look far to find problems associated with social networking sites. There is a lively debate about whether Internet addictions are real.

“To me it appears to be a real problem (perception is often reality in a social context) with which people have to grapple. Some assert that these Web sites contributed to cheating on significant others, often leading to divorce. “People have been fired from their jobs or put under pressure because they use these sites at work or because something is posted on a site that undermined the person’s professional standing. Although divorce and loss of employment are serious issues, perhaps they are not as common as other problems that have the potential to stem from social networking sites. Narcissism—excessive interest in one’s appearance and in oneself—is sometimes manifested on social networking sites. These Web sites have been found to be an avenue for people to display their narcissistic traits online

“I often wonder whether people use these sites to display their popularity to the world rather than use them as a vehicle to develop meaningful relationships. Creating meaningful relationships is often about sharing our lives with others, and technology can allow us to do so through photos, videos, text, and music. In conducting research for my doctoral dissertation, I looked at how eight senior citizens used technology and how it affected their lives.

“Someone might feel like an outcast in her own community or family but might find someone online with similar hobbies, pursuits, and interests. Consider someone who enjoys photography as a serious leisure pursuit. This person would be able to share that passion with people all over the world by using the Internet and its powerful tools (e-mail, video chat, discussion boards, online video, family Web sites). However, simply sharing common interests and pursuits with people through technology does not necessarily have a positive impact on social skills and social development.”

Kinetics also point out that Television and Social Development Television is another technology that has mixed reviews with regard to social skills and social lives. Some researchers suggest that spending a limited amount of time watching wholesome programs can strengthen families and friendships. Others believe that television contributes to the downfall of social values in this country. It does seem that many people spend less time with others in their community than they do with the people they watch daily on television. Television tends to be a passive medium, which requires little skill and thought on our part (although some programming bucks this trend). Therefore, television provides little opportunity for meaningful interaction while watching. Watchers simply sit there and ingest what is presented to them without having to respond or react to another person. Obviously this can have serious effects on people’s social skills because viewers are not practicing how to relate to and deal with other people. Exposure to what is viewed on television can have some other serious effects on people’s social lives. For example, exposure to television shows with sexual content may increase the chance of teen pregnancy Furthermore, when some people see violence, sex, and all manner of lasciviousness on television, they may be prone to mimic the behavior and think that it is acceptable. Were everyone to copy the social behaviours portrayed on television, our society would lack morals, and many levels of individuals’ lives would be destroyed. It is apparent that technology has the potential to harm or enhance your social skills and social life. The key is to analyze how technology affects you socially. Do technologies help you build positive, meaningful relationships, or do technologies hinder this process? It is one of the critical questions regarding technology and social development.

From the forgoing, it can be concluded that technology has great effects on human behaviour both positively and negatively. What is left for the consumers of technological devices is to be able to sift good characters from what they are exposed to from different cultural settings as they navigate the great time consuming and emerging sapping waters of modern technologies worldwide.

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