How Technology & Social Networks Changed Our Lives Forever

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updateThe Modern Age has come on the backs of many technological advances. And just like all the other before, there are those who view the change as bad & evil, while others can’t get enough of the cutting edge. Life would be extremely different without TVs, Cell Phones, the Internet and Social Networks. Some would say that our lives would it be better without this technology, but I am of the opinion that it would not. I have a lot of opinions on the topic of whether our society is too connected, but what do the experts say? I will show that the technology and connectedness are good things for society, but with most things it needs to be taken in with moderation.

As with most things, the life you live at home is different than the one you have at work. In my day job I create web technologies and interfaces that entice users to do an activity. I study usage data and determine the best way to keep you interacting and accomplishing the goals of the particular activity you are on. This can be things from how to get someone to sign-up for a newsletter, to donating to a charity, to downloading an app to your device. Now that we have you on the device, what can I do to make sure you don’t need to leave my app, or maybe how to get you to click my ad at the bottom of that app? I enjoy watching the statistics of a campaign in effect, all the while knowing I am just a responsible for my wife playing Facebook Games on her tablet at the house while I am trying to unplug. I understand both sides of the fence here, understanding how useful and fun the tech can be, but also understanding the importance of getting out and seeing the world around you.

I began my research reading a book called “The Internet in Everyday Life” that explored the topics of how people have used the internet & social networks in their lives, and how not having access can negatively affect your ability to provide for yourself. They concluded that, “Many Americans report substantial benefits from being connected. Well over half of all internet users say that the Internet has improved their connection the family & friends Three-quarters of them say the Internet has improved their ability to learn new things.” (Wellman 71) The ability to use the mini-computer in your pocket to access information, just about anything you could ever want to know, in the blink of an eye has made it extremely important to evolving our culture and educating the masses. Information that was once never accessible to anyone who could not afford an Ivy League Education, can now be discussed on an open forum with contributors on 5 continents, allowing for more in-depth discussions with multiple ideas & ways to approach the solving the issue. The popular phrase that my Mother used to say was, “2 sets of eyes are better than 1 for sure, but Son; a dozen sets of eyes are better still, to solve your problem.”

One of the greatest advances & adoptions of technology is in the youth of society. If you have ever handed a 2 year old an iPhone or iPad, you know what I am talking about. Educational Institutions all over America are aware of this, and are adapting their curriculum and classes to help students succeed. “Students who say it is hard for them to express themselves in writing, have found blogs as a way to share their poetry, or talk about ideas with other students. And because they get comments on it, from friends they trust, it encourages them to write even more.” (Greenhow 1:07) Teachers are tasked with making sure that students get a firm understanding of language, because “traditional print literacy takes on increasing importance in the computer-mediated cyber world as people need to critically scrutinize and scroll tremendous amounts of information, putting increasing emphasis on developing reading and writing abilities” (Critical Literacy 1) With every webpage, app, and device these students touch for the rest of their lives, will contain screens and User Interfaces to interact with.

fishEducation on the internet does not have to come in the form of structured education classes. YouTube, iTunes, Pinterest, Wikis, and so many other places offer tutorials on just about any subject you may want to learn. When asked in an objective study, researchers found that “only 1% of the respondents did not agree that the internet is a source of education.” (BBC 2) This tells us that even those who do not fully understand the technology, they do understand the enormous benefit to knowledge that the internet provides. You can learn in any manner that works for you, as you can find a video to watch, or instructions with diagrams, or written text, or even picture montages. The best thing is that if you find a better way to do it, or something that should be added, the internet makes for easy sharing of that knowledge. “There is also a potential change in the focus of agency for learning, as students take on productive and interpretive authority. New conceptions of learning in Web 2.0 environments emphasize sociality: collective intelligence; interactions among peers and distant audiences; and a new consciousness of and facility with always being connected to information, people, and places”. (Transforming English 5)

In the same study from above conducted in the Middle East found that, “38 per cent of the people use the internet as a source of news.” (BBC 2) The instant publish options most people’s cell phones have, have made us a society of amateur reporters, with the ability to take video and upload it to a social network almost instantaneously. It is so fast that “New Yorkers received tweets about an east coast earthquake, 30 seconds before they felt it.” (Qualman 2:50) It is creating a dangerous environment, where News Organizations are trying to compete in this instant notification market and in some cases relaxing their standards of verification, to try and be timely in response to the public tweets & Facebook posts about incidents. The air plane crash in San Francisco is just one example, where in an attempt to be first in reporting information, they did not verify crew lists before publishing or making sure that notifications had been done to family. A huge mistake was made and lot of apologies had to be issued from the station.

Another huge aspect of the internet for that past decade has been social media. With Facebook King and Twitter the most popular way of communicating of people under the age of 25, social media is here to stay. When used correctly, social media can be a very useful tool for networking friends, family, colleagues, and other connections. “Social networking isn’t for everyone, but it’s now such a part of all our lives, whether we accept it or not it can no longer be ignored.” (Eris 2:40) Most likely even if you have never used one of these services, you know what they are and what people use them. They have a huge reach, and “even impacts our offline behavior, 1 in 5 couples meet online.” (Qualman 0:45) It also has the benefit of allowing people to learn and explore places on the earth they will never be able to travel to in person. Tools like YouTube allow people to “explore new culture from different countries, Learn new language,” (Eris 1:58) and connect to people they would never have interacted with before technology made it possible. Educators are using this technology to allow their students to learn in ways that were impossible before. “The Internet introduces new dynamics for the exchange and dissemination of knowledge. In the field of education, for example, teachers and students have started to create their own materials online, sharing experiences on where to find the most up-to-date information on special topics and making connections with others around the world.” (Internet, Global Aspects of 6) The other aspect of social media is social change & awareness of Human Rights issues. “The massive expansion of the Internet has been seen by many as a way of promoting freedom, transparency, and global justice.” (Internet, Global Aspects of 4) This is probably one of the most important and positive things the internet and social media is used for. Spreading the word and making sure those injustices are not committed in silence. Speaking their stories, survivors make sure justice is served and that others understand they are not alone in their tragedy.  It helps create an atmosphere of understanding and support that is crucial to healing. It also helps make sure that it does not happen to others, by making them aware of the issues and removing the wool from their eyes.

The most crucial place for this is when it comes to how we present the worked to our youth. Getting them involved in social change early is the only way to make sure that they stay politically engaged. “Critical engagement attends to complicated relationships between children’s and adolescents’ popular media desires and gendered, raced, and classed identity expectations, whereas critical literacy teaching all too often ends in reproducing rather than transforming stereotypical identity performances despite curricular social justice goals.” (Critical Literacy 4) The internet and social media can help break down the communication barriers and allow stereotypes to be torn down, by helping people gain knowledge of each other, without prejudice attached.

inspireThe people of the Arab nations recently decided to take to social media and affect change on their governments. The world has been forever changed by those events. “According to the study published in Abu Dhabi, in the past 15 years, the Arab region witnessed major transformation as a result of the introduction of electronic communication technology. This led to major changes in business transactions, governance, and economic development in the Arab region.” (BBC 1) This ability to communicate openly in a once very controlled part of the world, eventually make people want to stand up for themselves of their communities.

There are a few things that are not so positive with the always on connections that smart phones. People are constantly bombarded with updates 24/7 with notifications of comments, likes, posts, etc of connections on social media sites. There is also the fact that “crimes involving Facebook have increased by 350%.” (Eris 0:22) From identity theft to cyber-bullies creating an environment of fear, people can use the same instruments of good for evil. “Another increasingly commonly diagnosed disorder among gadget addicts is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).” (Daily Mail 2) The constant screen usage and short bursts of information is changing the way people think and interact. Professionals recommend taking downtime to unplug and relax. Being connected all the time keeps people in a sense of stress waiting for the next update or interaction. This is why most people preach moderation in things they do, but they tend to forget that includes their communication devices.

After all this, I still believe that technology and the internet have improved our way of life. You can experience and learn more than ever before in history. If you choose not to embrace this, you are losing out on the opportunity of your life. When used in moderation and to the benefit that the open community, in the way it was invented for, it can be an amazing tool. It can enhance your life in ways that you have not even considered yet. Technology is going to continue to evolve and invade our lives; it is how you choose to use it that will define if it runs your life or helps your life.


Works Cited

“Critical Literacy, Critical Engagement, and Digital Technology.” Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts. London: Routledge, 2011. Credo Reference. Web. 18 July 2013.

Eris and Kevin of Temple University “The impact of social networking” YouTube. (Nov 7, 2012) Video. 20 Jul 2013

Greenhow, Christine. “Social networking sites have educational benefits” University of Minnesota: YouTube. (October 2, 2009) Video. 18 Jul 2013

“How Gadgets & the Internet are Turning Us Into a Nation of Basket Cases.” DAILY MAIL (London). (July 19, 2012) LexisNexis Academic. Web. 21 Jul 2013.

“Internet, Global Aspects of.” Encyclopedia of International Media and Communications. Oxford: Elsevier Science & Technology, 2003. Credo Reference. Web. 20 July 2013.

Qualman, Erik. “Social Media Revolution 2013” YouTube. (April 23, 2012) Video. 20 Jul 2013

“Report on rise in use of social media platforms, impact in Arab world.” BBC Monitoring Middle East – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring. (May 26, 2013) LexisNexis Academic. Web. 18 Jul 2013.

“Transforming English Language Arts in a Web 2.0 World.” Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts. London: Routledge, 2011. Credo Reference. Web. 21 July 2013.

Wellman, Barry, and Caroline Haythornthwaite, eds. The Internet in everyday life. Wiley. com, 2008. Web. 20 Jul 2013.


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