The use of social media has exploded in recent years and in many different forms: social networking sites, internet forums, email, blogs, vlogs, open source (wikis).
“Social media is a group of internet-based applications that build on the technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content” (O’Reilly 2005, cited in Leung, 2013).
These different social media platforms are mainly used for hearing about events, keeping in touch with friends or as a way to distract you from boredom or the work you should be doing (Quan-Haase & Young, 2010). These platforms are also available on both web-based and mobile technologies making the outcomes of their use an instant occurrence. With the touch of a button we are connected to almost anything: a phone call with friends, online banking, a movie on Netflix or a novel on Kindle. But why the need for such immediate satisfaction and gratification?
Because of modern technology, devices such as our smartphones, tablets, laptops and watches help us to meet our demands to create instant pleasure. Posting photos on our social networking sites lead to floods of ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ notifications on our phones, making us feel involved and accepted by our friends. You can communicate instantly and cheaply with people across the world with the use of the Internet and apps like WhatsApp, Messenger and Skype. You can find yourself a date without leaving your bedroom with dating apps that match you up with potential significant others based on similar interests and hobbies or even just based on aesthetic photos alone. Even ordering food has become easier and quicker with a touch of a button, rather than a phone call, with apps similar to JustEat- it has lists of take away restaurants near where you live, all different types of cuisine and it even holds your card details so you don’t have to have much dealings with the delivery guy if you don’t want to.
So has the age of information and technology affected us as a society? It has become common place to feel the need to share almost everything about our personal lives on our social networking sites- be it venting, stating our opinions, sharing photos of our meals or checking in everywhere we go. Our discussions over the table have changed with the immediate answers we can get from our connection to search engines. Do we do the things we do so we can document them online to prove to ourselves that we are interesting and liked? Has the use of search engines made us less capable to hold onto information, to memorise numbers? To quote Nicholas Carr (2008) “Is Google making us stupid?“
Technology has helped improve our lives in many ways. It has made some everyday chores even easier than ever before. But with the instant availability by the touch of a button, have we risked our social learning abilities as a society?
- Uses and Gratifications of Social Media: A Comparison of Facebook and Instant Messaging – Anabel Quan-Haase and Alyson L. Young
- Generational differences in content generation in social media: The roles of the gratifications sought and of narcissism – Louis Leung
- Is Google Making Us Stupid? – Nicholas Carr
- Who interacts on the Web?: The intersection of users’ personality and social media use – Teresa Correa *, Amber Willard Hinsley, Homero Gil de Zúñiga