Thursday, May 31, 2012

The impact of Social Networks on humanity

When social networks change what it means to be human you would think we would turn our backs on that perceived threat and look inwards for who we are, our identify, family and friends. Instead, Facebook boasts almost a Billion members. But, of course this isn't just a Facebook thing.

Professor Sherry Turkle from the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says there is a "shift" from an analog world in which our identities are generated from within, to a digital world in which our sense of self is intimately tied to our social media presence.

The always-on social media world, our solitude has been replaced by incessant online updates, which both weaken our sense of self and our ability to create genuine friendships.

The shift from the private to the public self has been said to be a possible contributor in the rise of narcissism particularly in younger people. A vicious cycle is setup - because the more we self-broadcast, the emptier we become; and the emptier we become, the more we need to self-broadcast.

Social networks compromise our privacy as individuals. And it's not just our kids who are revealing everything about themselves to their many "friends" on Facebook. Sultan and Miller note in a piece (St Louis Post-Dispatch), "Facebook parenting" our obsession with posting data about our kids - is "destroying our children's privacy."

Based on interviews with 4,000 children, Sultan and Miller argue that we've created what they call a sense of "normality" about a world where "what's private is public."

Kids are growing up, they explain, assuming that it's perfectly normal to reveal everything about ourselves online. "And our children will never have known a world without this sort of exposure. What does a worldview lacking an expectation of privacy mean for the rest of society?" 

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