Chapter 6: 21st-century media and issues
English 102, April 2021
Communication is extremely important in today’s world, whether it be verbal or nonverbal. It can take place through many different forms such as through writing, speaking, listening and physical actions. These forms of communication evolve and continue to improve over time. As humans, we rely on communication for almost everything and it is a way of life. Communication has evolved from talking to writing letters to texting or talking over the phone. Every time a new form of communication is brought up and becomes more popular, we have to adapt and evolve to that new lifestyle. Throughout all the new forms of communication and ways of evolving, social media has been one of the most influential so far. Social media has allowed us to create new ways of communicating, such as texting or posting through different apps. It can connect us with people all over the world and give us a platform to express ourselves in ways that have not been possible before. While social media started off as a small form of technology, it has morphed into aspects of our everyday life. Now there are apps for everything from social media profiles to online shopping. While social media and technology itself has evolved, this has also affected our communication with each other and the world. Social media has created a fast track for information in a matter of seconds. It can give people a platform with millions of followers overnight for doing practically anything. It can help people express themselves in new ways and connect with people who have similar interests. The end goal of social media is to make people happy and ultimately make lives easier.
With all this being said, it is evident that social media is in our everyday lives and will continue to change. It has a very strong grip on society as social media usage continues to rise throughout the years. Generalizing social media, we are exposed to forms of media at almost all times of the day. Answering the question of what media is will help give a better understanding of social media as a whole. Media can be defined as a way of mass communication. This could include siting in the car listening to ads on the radio all the way to scrolling on twitter. We are exposed to social media less often than generalized media, but it tends to come in greater quantities when exposed. For example, for people that wake up and check twitter it is an instant flood of information with every scroll. Everything from politics to sports to celebrity news is available at the fingertips. The concern is not all focused on the overwhelming information, but also the overwhelming number of comments and opinions. If we wanted to debate or talk about something before social media it had to be done in person, face to face. Now with social media, we are able to fight with people in comment sections on a backup account with a different name and no connection to who we really are. This new form of communication takes away the vulnerability of speaking to people and having genuine conversation, and makes up for it in internet trolls. Overall, social media is impacting the way we communicate with each other and the real questions are: Is social media impacting us in a positive or negative way? Do the positive aspects outweigh the negative aspects? Is social media hindering the way we communicate in person with each other? Is their more room for improvement when it comes to dealing with communication in the social media spectrum? How is social media impacting younger generation’s communication versus older generation’s communication? How can we help improve our communication skills on social media and in real life?
Along with the other studies that I found from the sources I chose, I also conducted my own study to determine more accurate and recent data. I asked students mostly within high school and college range questions relating to social media and communication. I tried to get a wide range of data dealing with social media apps, screen time, and overall communication as a result of social media. I expected to see almost all negative responses about social media and communication. I figured that most people would respond saying that it has affected them negatively rather than positively, but the results were different compared to what I expected.
The first questions I asked had to do with social media itself. I asked questions about their most used social media apps, screen time, what age they were allowed to start using social media, and whether or not they think social media has had a negative or positive impact on them. As expected, most of the social media apps were some of the most popular ones like Snapchat, Instagram, and TikTok. Overall, the average screen time for all apps was evenly split between 4-6 and 6-8 hours, which I also expected. Something that did surprise me was the amount of time spent on certain social media apps. The data was split pretty evenly three ways and all between 1-4 hours. The next two questions dealt with when they group surveyed started using social media. I asked these questions because a lot of the points I want to discuss later in my paper have to deal with age and whether younger generations are suffering when it comes to communication. More than half the people surveyed said that they wished that they had waited to get social media until they were older. Some said that it is not appropriate for younger kids and that it is just toxic in general. Something that I really like that a couple people mentioned was that in reality, social media at a young age is stupid and useless. A lot of people said they wish they would have enjoyed their childhood more and they would be more extroverted now if they had not been exposed that early. The last question of this section that I asked was if they thought social media has had a more positive or negative impact on them. Overall, the data was split but leaning slightly towards the more positive side. The positive answers mostly dealt with being able to talk to stay in contact with people and meeting new friends. The negative answers all related to mental health and feeling bad about themselves. A lot of people said it is toxic and very controlling and takes up too much of our time.
The next set of questions I asked had to do more with communication and interaction with and without social media. I asked questions like how they feel about social media and how it has impacted their communication, their mental health, and if it has made our lives easier. I decided to ask questions like these because I figured I would get a wide range of responses and a lot of people’s different opinions. I started off by asking if people are an introvert or an extrovert to get an idea of what the responses would be like, and 66% said somewhere in between the two. The response for the next question really shocked me because I received such a one-side response. I asked if they think social media has impacted their communication and the way they interact with others and 75% (18/24 people) said yes. This is the information that I was looking for along with the next two questions. The next question asked if they think social media has negatively impacted their mental health and 50% said yes. I also plan on using this as a research question to show that social media can affect our mental health and therefore affect the way we interact with and around other people. The last two questions are similar but the responses were both very good. Almost everyone answered yes to the question asking if social media has made our lives easier. Everyone that answered yes said they think so because it helps them talk to friends, stay in touch with people they do not see as much, and meet new people that they are comfortable talking to. The people that said no also made good points such as it takes over our lives and it is filled with too much hate and cancel culture. I agree with both sides and am very happy that people can feel a positive response especially when it comes to communicating with other people online. The last question I asked was used to wrap up the whole survey and topic. I asked if they think social media has made our generation’s communication improve or worsen. The data was pretty evenly split, and most people gave a positive and a negative. The people that said improve gave that answer because they said it broadens our communication and allows us to talk to people at a wider range. The people who said it has made it worse all said that it is ruining our face-to-face interaction and causing us to lose emotion. They said that some people do not even know how to have a proper in person conversation and that they are too dependent on their phones. Overall, I agree with both arguments that people made but I do think that the positives outweigh the negatives in most of these situations and questions.
The first question I want to ask has to deal with the overall social media and communication connection and has multiple other questions I would like to cover within it. The main question is: Is social media hindering the way we communicate with each other? I also want to touch on questions like: Is social media impacting us in a positive or negative way? Do the positives outweigh the negatives? The second set of research questions I have is: Is their more room for improvement when it comes to dealing with communication in the social media spectrum? How can we help improve our communication skills on social media and in real life? How is social media impacting younger generation’s communication versus older generation’s communication?
Research Question One
Social media and communication have a direct connection to each other and both have a strong impact on the outcome of the other. My first research question has to do with that. My questions center around how social media has impacted our communication, and whether or not it is positive or negative. First, I think it is important to note the changes and different characteristics that come into play when talking about this. Things like age and problems going on in our world can affect our social media usage and communication. While we connect to people on a deeper level when talking to the in person, social media has also given us a newer and more broad way of communicating. The article “How Social Media Affects Our Ability to Communicate” by Stacey Hanke, talks about different ways social media has impacted our communication. Social media has become so relevant in our day to day lives and Hanke describes it in a couple different ways. She describes it as information binging and the fear of missing out, social graces and conversational boredom. Within these, she explains how social media has become an excuse and escape to talk to people face to face. Hanke also talks about how even though it is limiting our in person communication, it can sometimes make communicating in general easier, by being able to talk to each other in just a few words (Hanke 1). In another article by Ryan J. Fuller titled “The Impact of Social Media Use on Our Social Skills”, he discusses similar topics to Hanke’s article but also brings up more positive attributes of social media. Fuller starts of his article by giving some statistics, stating that 75% of teens own cellphones and 25% of them using it for social media, and also says that they use 7.5 hours a day using it (Fuller 1). I am glad that this was brought up because it is important to know how much time is spent on social media, scrolling through feed. Next, Fuller starts to discuss some of the benefits of social media. He briefly explains how social media is beneficial because we are able to stay in touch with our friends and family, and share important parts of our lives with them. He also explains how it helps people reach out to new friends and provide themselves with more opportunities (Fuller 1). Overall, I really like that he mentioned these because it is important to keep in mind the vast majority of social media and communication. While some use it for more simpler purposes likes just keeping up to date with what is going on in the world, others use it to make new friends, find new job opportunities, and stay in touch with people. Another topic I find important when it comes to answering this research question is how Covid affected everything. With the pandemic, we were left inside with nothing to do but what was at our fingertips. This pandemic increased social media usage drastically. The article “Social Media Insights Into US Mental Health During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Longitudinal Analysis of Twitter Data” by Danny Valdez et al, shows extensive research into determining just how much social media usage in the United States increased during the pandemic. They did experiments and surveys to determine multiple responses to research questions and show how much we rely on social media to communicate with each other. During the pandemic, everyone spent more time on their social media and their phone in general, probably more than they would like to admit. The article helps give more insight into this claim. There is the idea that social media was meant as an addition to our lives. For some people, it has become an addiction and a new piece of their life. The article focuses on how social media could be a toxic place and have a negative effect on our mental health. The time period for this information focuses around the COVID-19 pandemic. Using data from Twitter, Valdez created a study to determine the mood of people during the pandemic and the usage throughout (Valdez et al 2). Collecting tweets with certain hashtags and during time periods, the goal was to determine how much the pandemic affected people’s moods, and how much they put out and shared on social media. They used hashtags, timeline data, and tweets from different periods such as the first lockdown, different stay at home orders, etc. Given the responses to the data, they were able to determine the increase in social media usage. We cannot determine if this had a positive or negative effect on the people who were using Twitter, but we can infer that social media is becoming a key part of our lives. Not being able to talk to people as much in person during the first few months of the pandemic greatly affected communication, in positive and negative ways. Communication over the phone increased due to the amount of free time that people had and were able to spend talking to others. Contrary to that, in person communication also decreased given that people were not really allowed to leave the house. The next article by Tayebi et al, “The Role of Information Systems in Communication Through Social Media” focuses a lot about how we have evolved over time with social media and communication. They start off by talking about how social networks are like social media societies. They explain it by resembling it to a human society, as it is filled with people communicating, regardless of time or place. They also exemplify other aspects such as emotional support, information, emotions (Tayebi 2). Social media is constantly looked at through such a negative light due to some of the major bad events that have taken place. While it can be difficult at times to look past the negatives, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the positives. The growth of scientific research would not be possible without the amount of information received from the media (Tayebi 3). Without social media and media in general, we would not be where we are today as a society. As mentioned earlier, it is so easy to get lost in the negative aspects of social media and discard the positive ones. Positive parts of social media such as widespread communication and unlimited access to information makes it all worth it. Staying on topic with positive aspects of social media and communication, social media in the workplace has also broken down barriers for communication. The article “A Guide to the Successful Use of Social Media in the Workplace” by Clark Boyd gives insight into how social media has improved the workplace, and ultimately communication and interaction as a whole. Companies can use social media as a form of branding and way to communicate their products (Boyd 4). Boyd states, “Harvard Business Review finds that 82% of employees believe social media improves work relationships. Left to their own devices, your teams will connect and communicate on social networks, both inside and outside the office.” This directly relates to the research question asking whether social media hinders our communication with each other. Social media also helps when it comes to dealing with complaints placed online. By seeing these through social media, it can help the company communicate either with the person or their company the concerns that are being stated (Boyd 9). Overall, it is safe to say that social media has directly affected communication throughout different aspects of our lives.
Research Question Two
My second set of research questions has a lot to do with the future and how we can improve. Questions such as: Is their more room for improvement when it comes to dealing with communication in the social media spectrum? How can we help improve our communication skills on social media and in real life? How is social media impacting younger generation’s communication versus older generation’s communication? The article “What is Literacy” by James Paul Gee talks a lot about the basics of communication. I find this an important article to talk about before I go into more detail with this second research question. Gee explains discourse as a socially accepted way of speaking, thinking, and acting (Gee 1). It is important to note this because social media has changed that discourse for us. We no longer communicate and interact the same way in which we use to therefore almost giving us a new discourse. Another thing Gee discusses is identity kits. Gee explains identity kits as “appropriate costumes and instructions on how to act and talk” (Gee 2). This relates to social media because there is a certain way we communicate online that we wouldn’t do in person. For example, we use emojis and abbreviations to communicate on social media or over text, but this is something we would not do when communicating face-to-face. There are also some basic well-known rules of social media that follow along the lines of an identity kit. Such as, for Instagram it is a common idea not to like people’s pictures from too long ago. When you say this aloud it sounds like it is not a big deal and silly almost, but for people that use social media it is something that makes sense. The next article is going to focus more on the question that has to do with room for improvement of communication. The article “The Positive Effect of Not Following Others on Social Media” by Francesca Valsesia, Davide Proserpio, and Joseph C. Nunes involves how we deal with social media and how we react to it. The article has a lot to do with pyramid schemes and marketing schemes on social media, simply due to follower count. Social media has a lot of power over us and the content we see. Influencers have too much impact on what we see every day and this overall effects our communication (Valsesia 1). Social media feeds us information at our fingertips, whether it be true or false. Valsesia is trying to get the point across that social media has no impact on our lives without the phone and therefore, having a smaller follower count is better for our communication and overall wellbeing in the first place. Leading into my next article, social media can have a huge impact on the younger generation. This leads into part of my second research question dealing with the younger generation and their communication. The article “The Impact of Social Media on Youth Mental Health: Challenges and Opportunities” by Jacqueline Nesi shows how social media is a very complex brand of information and makes it complicated for everyone. Younger kids having access to it and multiple devices like computers and phones makes it that much more difficult. There are a lot of positives and negatives for younger kids having access to social media and the internet in general. It has an impact on their mental health and studies show it leads to signs of depression, body dysmorphia, eating disorders (Nesi 2). It can also affect their communication and outward identity due to things such as bullying, internet drama, and behavioral problems. While it does have serious negative risks, social media also can bring a lot of new positive ones. Things like creative ideas, humor and entertainment, and being able to explore their identity are all really great positives that social media gives us (Nesi 4). Most of them using it as a way to connect with friends and family and help them feel a sense of acceptance and belonging (Nesi 4). Similarly to this, social media has given a great outlet for kids and young adults to speak out on issues going on in the world. The article “Building Bridges: Exploring the Communication Trends and Perceived Sociopolitical Benefits of Adolescents Engaging in Online Social Justice Efforts” by Mariah Elsa Kornbluh goes into detail about the racial injustices in the world and how they are communicated through social media. Social media networks can help connect kids to different backgrounds and aspects of their lives (Kornbluh 1). Kornbluh expresses how a society only can flourish under civic engagement and being able to express ourselves, and social media is helping us do that. It is helping the younger generation prepare for the civic role that they will undergo (Kornbluh 2). Social media helps play a major role in participating in political movements and bringing awareness to topics (Kornbluh 3). This all is done by the younger generation and would not be possible without them. So, while it is easy to look at the negative parts of social media and how it effects the younger generation, it also brings great awareness to real life problems in our world. This last article I wanted to go over dealing with this research question has to do with the pandemic. The article “Responses to COVID-19 in Higher Education: Social Media Usage for Sustaining Formal Academic Communication in Developing Countries” by Abu Elnasr E. Sobaih, Ahmed M. Hasanein and Ahmed E. Abu Elnasr briefly talks about communication with social media in higher education systems. Education systems had to switch from in person learning and communication to online learning, which was a struggle for everyone. Throughout the time that this took place, results showed that social media had a positive effect on students dealing with this (Sobaih 1). Students used social media to build a community and help support each other through this rough time. Through these results, proper usage of social media can be shown as a positive result for a new era of learning (Sobaih 1). This is just one more reason why social media can help us improve our future.
After answering my research questions, it has become clear to me that while social media does have negative aspects, the positive aspects outweigh them. Between the articles and my own research, I have enough evidence to prove that social media does effect communication, but in a more positive way. The way we act and present ourselves is heavily influenced by social media and communication between generations are different and can be seen that way. It is important to note the accomplishments we have made as a society with social media and the media in general. It has helped connect families, provide support groups, and provide entertainment in desperate times. Our communication has changed because of social media but has changed and helped us for the better in the long run. Keeping social media a positive place and staying away from the toxic people on it will only help us grow and learn new things about ourselves.
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