Anti-social Media – An Online Existence

“The more social media we have, the more we think we are connecting, yet we are really disconnecting from each other”

The wise words of JR, a French artist, accurately describing the ways of today’s society. It seems that the world we now live in has become an online existence. From social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, to online dating sites, online car sales sites and even a site that exists that is literally just an image of a potato, it seems everything we do in life, exists online. But with the expansion and introduction of new media forms, comes anxieties about the media and how its effecting people’s lives.

So why do these anxieties about the effects of media exist? It is the media that purposely causes these anxieties? Or is it the way that society perceives what the media does, that brings about anxiety?

With every new media form, anxiety arises. The online social networking site, Facebook, was launched by creator Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004. At first the site was viewed as a marvelous technological advancement. Facebook can be used to connect with people all around the world, it increases people’s social skills with the ability to make new friends and it’s a great way of sharing experiences and stories with family and friends.

But with the good comes the bad, and after a while anxieties about the effects of Facebook become prevalent. People started to worry that Facebook was ‘addictive’ and that the social networking site encouraged ‘anti-social behaviour’ from young people. Parents are constantly stressing about their children “spending too much time on that bloody computer” (direct quote from my mum).  A study carried out by Hart Research Associates for the Family Online Safety Institute, found that “most parents believe Facebook is a bad influence on their kids”. 43% of the parents interviewed agree the negatives of social media outweigh the positives, 31% were undivided over the issue and the remaining 26% believe social media is beneficial to their children.Read the full article here. So is Facebook really a bad invention? Is it really corrupting the lives of children and making them anti-social and addicted to social media? Or is it that society is just overreacting because of the way information from the media is interpreted? I believe the way the individuals decode messages sent from the media has a very strong impact on these anxieties that exist.

In 2011, Evan Spiegal, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown, three Stanford University students at the time, launched a new application by the name of Snapchat. Snapchat is a photo messaging application used to send photos or videos, often referred to as ‘snaps’,  to friends and family. Users of the app set a time limit on how long the receiver can view the snap for. After the snap has been viewed, it is deleted from the receiver’s mobile phone, and also from Snapchat’s servers. The app became very popular, very fast. According to a study conducted in September 2013, Snapchat has roughly 100 million monthly active users, a whopping average of 400 million Snapchats are sent every day and 71% of people under the age of 25 are using the app. Check out more statistics here. But as we know, with the good side, there is always a bad side.

In 2012, Cosmopolitan, a magazine aimed at teens and young adults, published an article titled ‘New app made for sexting?’ The article claimed that “..the one main reason anyone would want their picture to destroy itself, seconds after it has been seen” is for sexting purposes, the act of sending sexually explicit photos or messages via mobile phone. The article went on to explain that the app has an official rating, stating that users must be over 12 years of age due to “mild sexual content or nudity”. This, of course, would generate a great deal of anxieties within society. Parents would immediately assume that if their children have Snapchat, they are using it for sexual purposes. However, if the media had not drawn attention to this, would it still be an issue? Have the anxieties that society has about the effects of the media just added to the problem?

These are a few questions to think about. Society is always blaming the media for something, whether it is causing their children to become addicted to computers or exposing them to sexually explicit phone applications. Anxieties about the effects that the media has upon society are always going to be present. But is the media really the blame? Or is it the mind of the individual?

Think about it.

– Sophie

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