The development of social networks: The socialization phenomenon or alienation?

The advent of social networks creates concrete effects on the thinking of users as well change their usual social interaction practices. The advent of social networks has created actual effects on the way you feel and to think of the users, who end up changing their usual social interaction practices. The easy accessibility of new media, however, could turn them into potentially dangerous tools for the illusions that are capable of generating.

“But you’re not on Facebook? There are all!” Who among us has not said, or at least heard, from a friend, relative or co-worker this sentence! Now social networks are joined, in a more or less direct, of the life of each of us. By graduate student and used to stay in touch with their peers, the managers are always looking for new trends, the company that wants to improve relations with customers / suppliers and wants to get publicity: all are recorded on some social networks.

It is undeniable that technology has changed our lives and our habits and the revolution caused by social networks cannot be ignored because it extends like wildfire and has an internal potential very broad.

The use of social networks and new technologies, in fact, induce many changes: changes the relationship with themselves and especially with others, that becomes more direct but much more mediated. New technologies promise to meet many people but tend to remove the taste, authenticity, originality and freshness to the interpersonal relationship itself. The change also the way of thinking about everyday life. It’s hard to think of our days without opening the computer or uses a mobile phone; our daily experience suffers grave consequences as it can change the way we participate in the life of society. New technologies also give us more opportunities to participate in social life also sharing virtual places, but it is said that this participation is then effective.

The development of social networks

But we understand better what the social network is … Social networks have become a global phenomenon, and in the last 10 years have seen an exponential increase in their use: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linkedin, are just some of the social platforms that from their introduction to date they have won exponentially the Web. All social networking applications are based on the construction, maintenance, management and visibility of profiles and personal Web pages.

A profile information-rich, dynamic, a list of contacts and a large number of interpersonal relationships established with friends and acquaintances, are the elements that make the new social media and social networking applications anything other than chat, blogs, and forums that have characterized the Web 1.0.

The social networking applications allow you to cultivate friendships and expand their social networks involving people ever encountered and no need for a live earlier encounter and face-to-face. As technology platform with its capabilities, applications and resources, the social network facilitates interactions and the development of connections and relationships through the use of different content (text, video, audio, photo), the social sharing of platforms and heterogeneous devices (PC, smartphone and tablet), the active involvement of members of the network and the speed with which you can converse and disseminate information.

It could be argued that these new technological tools have simply amplified what, by other means, humans can do always, eliminating time and space barriers and offering us new opportunities to develop new thoughts, to produce new content and reflect on ourselves. In doing this the new media have made obsolete the tools and ways to communicate the background as the meeting in person and other traditional forms of interaction.

But the thing to consider is how the advent of these online communities have created actual effects on the way of feeling and thinking of users that end up changing their usual social interaction practices. At the meeting face to face physicality replacing the virtuality of the profile from which you delete the body but above its meanings.

The transparency of new media, namely their easy accessibility, turns them into potentially dangerous tools for the promises of which they are bearers and illusions that are capable of generating. The new media, in fact, give the feeling of being social by definition and as such potential to affect the social loneliness for sufferers but long term, it is seen as not always produce consequences entirely positive.

One of the first conducted surveys on social networks and which involved a large number of individuals was performed by Australian Psychological Society. They were interviewed 2.3 million people taking a sample composed of both members involved in the use of partner networks both by people with no online presence. The survey, conducted in 2010, revealed the following…

  • The social network affects people of all ages (97% of respondents)
  • 70% of respondents spend less than two hours a day online
  • 28% had at least a negative experience
  • 52% say that social networks have increased the potential for contact and interaction with family and friends
  • 26% saw an increase in its participation as a result of increased sociability
  • 25% between 31-50 years old met a soul mate or a new partner online
  • 21% (25%) of the meetings gave rise to intimate relationships in real life.

Interesting data have emerged from the analysis of the frequency of prolonged social networking sites. 77% of respondents indicated that access a social network on a daily basis, 51% several times a day and 26% once a day. The most frequent access, 59%, is made up of young people, followed by 36%, from the adults (32-50 years) and older ones, 23%.

Further research has also highlighted what are the reasons that lead to the use of social networks, identifying mainly 5…

  • Social inclusion, i.e. the need to belong to a group.
  • Maintaining relations, online communication allows you to stay in touch with their friends even with those not so far reached.
  • Meeting new people
  • Social compensation, that is, the tendency to compensate communicative problems in the face-to-face communication with online socialization
  • Fun

Recent studies have also revealed another significant fact. While extroverts seem to use social networking sites to further improve their social position, introverts seem to use this medium to offset their relationship difficulties.

Both positively correlated with motivation increased use of social networks. The social network acts as a deterrent and means of escape for people in real social life experience poor socialization Due to character traits such as shyness or social isolation situations, the use of new technologies and social networks seem to become a prime source of emotions and satisfying sensations and intense, albeit arising from the size of all virtual. The Internet can thus be a means of escape from everyday reality and take refuge in an illusory and rewarding world where the virtual element will overcome the difficulties and constraints that may characterize the actual interactions.

As says McKenna, social contact through chat and community can become a useful tool to overcome the difficulties of communication and face-to-face interaction that can occur in everyday life. The survey conducted by the Association of Australian psychologists shows in fact, among the positive effects of social networks, the presence of more personal contacts (less insulation) and relationships (less loneliness). Although there is also a high number of negative online experiences, the majority of respondents do not seem willing to abandon social networks.

By analyzing this literature emerges as the more attracted age group from ‘use of social networks is definitely that relating to adolescence. Research carried out in 2008 made by the association Save the Children in collaboration with the CREMIT investigated the significance that the Internet takes for adolescents and adopted attitudes against the possible risks of the virtual world. The result shows that among the surveyed boys prevail the idea that the Internet is useful, manageable and not particularly dangerous, although many admit to having taken at least once transgressive and provocative behavior, or have lived risky situations.

But the benefits and perceived benefits are not given away for free. The illusion to connect with the world through social networking platforms can push people to become individuals who are isolated from real life and replaced it with a superficial and illusory sociability.

You can refer to two explanatory hypotheses to investigate the relationship between the communication that takes place through social networks and the psychological well-being that goes with it, especially about the adolescence, the disengagement theory and that of stimulation, which show a very different view of the consequences that the excessive use of new technology can produce.

The disengagement theory emphasizes that online communication has a negative effect on the psychological well-being because it takes time that could be devoted to existing friendships reducing its quality. The tendency of children to establish relationships with strangers, often short-lived, would not engage in meaningful relationships. In support of the disengagement theory it is possible to mention the international research called HomeNet, which notes that greater network stay is associated with decrease, modest but statistically significant, the social activities in the off-line life such as communication within the family, the number of visited friends in his spare time and an increase in feelings of depression and loneliness. Kraut and colleagues (1998) propose the expression Internet Paradox to highlight the fact that this technology, even when used as a communication tool, actually reduces social involvement and psychological well-being of the user, providing an alienation from real life.

This could be explained by taking into account two aspects: the permanence in the network takes time away that could be used in social activities, also through the use of the Internet the kids tend to substitute meaningful social relationships with friends and weak, not very demanding and time-limited that though they may be to the satisfaction does not really provide a real emotional support and tend to create isolation from real life.

Some research fact emphasizes how kids tend to judge even the best online friend as less significant and friendship same as less durable. The virtual friendships tend to become emotionally intense in a too short period of time without there being sufficient confidence in the binding. The relative anonymity of online interaction ultimately favors the tendency of subjects to lie, to openly express negative emotions or stop abruptly communication when there is a conflict without the concerns that typically characterize the face to face communication.

The stimulation theory emphasizes, on the contrary, as the online communication allows an enrichment of the relational context of the subject and encourages the growth opportunities and adapt to the context. Recent studies believe that the network will tend to build the same contexts and to relate in a way similar to what you do in life offline with some more possibilities: the anonymity, the possibility to discuss more intimate matters with less embarrassment, lack of information related to their physical appearance, age, gender, ethnicity or social status.

The network would seem easier to reveal the most intimate parts of themselves: the process then favor a caring, appreciation and mutual trust, which in turn would improve the quality of friendship itself. Internet friendships between children of different sexes would be stronger and deeper than those intimately in life it not virtual for the minor embarrassment that comes in reference to the sexual nature of the relationship and its public presentation. Research has also shown that children with social anxiety problems or otherwise tend to themselves, they feel like the most real and intimate virtual relationships and are able to better integrate their online life with the offline.

It has been proposed two main hypotheses about the relationship between friendship behavior in offline life and the content and quality of friendships on the Internet. The first asserts that the soft skills of the subject in the off-line life provide the prototype of subsequent reports on the net, favoring subject self-knowledge, good social skills, and better emotional regulation. A complementary view suggests how, during development, interactive skills are generalized alternately from offline life to that network.

Ultimately, this allows literature to outline how new technologies, particularly social networks, affect the way we think about our daily practices, on our relational models, and on our communication.

Communication and socialization mediated by technology, in fact, interact synergistically with life offline, especially for young people. The data collected from Baiocco confirm how few times the use of these means of communication involves a positive side, while other times it can be very harmful. For this reason, it is appropriate to ask, and to evaluate such boys and under what circumstances, the Internet can be seen as a little creative or even dangerous, in what other circumstances can be seen as a highly positive context.

The research seems to suggest that those guys already competent at the relational level, with good levels of self-esteem and cognitive abilities, are able to maximize the positive aspects of social networks: the network interpreted as a social technology can be a tool that serves as a scaffold to improve the way It handles relationships, entertaining speeches, expressing different aspects of himself.

But, as Kraut says in his research, one cannot but consider that for the most fragile personalities that barrier between real and virtual is even more subtle and confusing. Lately, it has shown the increase of depression among adolescent’s users of social networks. Individuals who feel less included in the circle of peers and who see the company a way to redeem himself socially may face a failure. The creation of a new idealized profile will bring the subject to a fictitious social realization and to a true alienation from what is the real world.

In fact, the reports also quickly create with people who do not even know, if not virtually, creating a sort of superficial and degrading socialization: you do not get more friendship to intimacy achieved by the time the enrichment of ‘common experiences, too unless you communicate with friends that you attend in reality.

In conclusion, it is now clear that social networks have become a cornerstone and in some essential ways of communication in modern society but, like everything around us, perhaps it would be to handle them with care.