Social and Individual Effects of Online Social Network

Online Social Networks are everywhere in our life. Online social networks generates numerous social problems such as cyber bulling, real-life distraction and reading ability declination. This journal investigates the reality of online social network consumption behavior and people’s self- cognition of it. Consequential social and psychological impact of online social media is examined.

Online social network (OSN) is defined as platforms in which Individuals and groups create user-specific profiles for a site or app designed and maintained by a social media service that facilitate the development of social networks online by connecting a profile with those of other individuals and/or groups. [1] In the fall of 2003, as Business Insider depicts: “Harvard seniors Cameron Winklevoss, Tyler Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra were on the lookout for a web developer who could bring to life an idea the three say Divya first had in 2002: a social network for Harvard students and alumni. The site was to be called HarvardConnections.com”. [2] Mark Zuckberg designed the Facemash as a college sophomore at Harvard during the time when the three were looking for ideal talent to build up their social network platform, and Mark was then recommended to them after his self-developed network site receive impressive popularity and even triggered alarms of the Harvard authority. The four college students changed the name of the platform to be Facebook but limited the access of registration to Harvard student only. Months later, however, registration was expanded to all the Ivy League schools, Stanford and Boston University. The great popularity that it achieved overnight marked a milestone of a revolution of modern interpersonal communication. After Facebook’s popularity, business investors and technology industry professionals started to explore the unlimited resources in online social networks. Developers designed all sorts of platforms that prompt people to share their life in any way possible. Brief words for Twitter, photos for Instagram, quick-selfies and short videos for Instagram, voice recordings for sound clouds, and even professional career connection for Linkedin. Within ten years of Facebook’s success, numerous online social platforms mushroomed.

Online Social Networks connect people in unconventional ways. According to the statistics from Facebook users, the average Facebook user now has about 338 friends[3] and about 15 percent of the users have more than 500 friends. According to the research conducted by Professor Dunbar, however, the average size of people we can remember is 179.6[4], indicating that about half of the friends on Facebook we connect are actually virtual acquaintances that The ceiling for Facebook friends, interestingly, is 5000 people, equal to the population of Milton, Wisconsin. OSN has also generated a brand new information market that lacks necessary monitor and supervision. Problems such as cyber bulling, information leakage and adult information exposure that come along with people’s addiction of OSN are of great concern. How have their social life changed? Why is OSN always under controversy and depicted as a double-edged sword? In what way is it switching our lifestyle and is it positive or negative? This journal will examine the social and psychological impact on people both on a group and an individual basis through interview and surveys.

In 2014, Anna C Squicciarini, Jules Dupont, Ruyan Chen published in Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on World Wide Web about a study on the abusive usage of Online Social Media and the negative psychological consequences including Deny (encouraging self-harm to others users, promoting violence), Disrupt(distracting provocations, denial of service, flooding with messages, promote abuse), Degrade(disclosing personal and private data of others without their approval), and Deceive(spreading false information, including supplanting a known user identity).[5] To determine the hazardous nature of some certain behaviors on OSNs, researchers studied and designed an structural algorithms named the OSN Model. In the OSN Model, graphical social relationship between Twitter uses are measured by a set of matrix and then analyzed with the twits they generated themselves and they forward. After data is collected with that model, data engineers model the direction that twits general flow from and toward. The results of the graphic model demonstrate that every single victim of cyber bullying can be directed to a “mastermind” online. The masterminds are typically either influential public figures or hackers who steal and spread out personal information without consent of the owner.

The distance between the people being attacked online is much shorter than we assume. A “masterminds” casual or unintentional mistake online can undermine a person, or even numerous people’s lives. That is called the The Butterfly Effect on Online Social Media.

Similarly, educational researchers from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria have been studying the behavior pattern of students with frequent usage OSNs.[6] Case study and surveys were conducted for this research. The study shows that most college students use social media as an entertainment that is attractive and serves a good way to release pressure. However, the lack of self-discipline and the shallow understanding of the pros and cons of OSNs cause problems to the online social behaviors of students. OSN platform has greatly extended to the time for academic and real life activities. Statistical data in the research demonstrates that OSN usages are negatively related to students’ academic performance, especially those courses that involve reading and writing.

A survey titled “Online Social Network with its social impact” was designed on Google Form. The survey aimed to explore the factual evidences of the impact of online social network on people, especially working adults. Key aspects of investigation included transition and switch of lifestyle, different span of time through out the day, and the change of time on in-person social networking. Not only personal experience of target research group will be collected and analyzed, but also groups not of targets will be investigated and analyzed for the affluence of input for insights and perspectives. The survey adhered to the University of Denver’s IRB approval guidelines. All participants of the survey remained anonymous and some sensitive questions are optional. Participants of the survey had the right to terminate, or not to turn in the survey at any point. However, filling out the questions and turning it in mean the participant agrees to the privacy terms of the DU IRB approval guidelines and datas collected from the submitted are subject to research accordingly. Target survey group include college students and adults working in industries. The survey are delivered mostly electronically through Facebook Messenger group chat and WeChat (A Chinese online social networks platform). Members of the Pioneer Leadership Program, Chinese Students and Scholars Association. Reward mechanisms were included in order to receive a greater amount to feedbacks. During the distribution of survey through WeChat, I incorporated a new functionality of this social network called RedBag. RedBag is a special functionality of WeChat that can distribute random amount of money to participants of certain activities. In this case, RedBags were used to reward those who filled out the survey for motivating more participants to join the research. About 100 survey invitations were delivered and 39 people in total responded. The low respond rate may attribute to the length of the interview as well as the limit of fund for reward as an entice for participation.

Interviews were also conducted with two citizens of Littleton, Colorado, who moved from a foreign country to United States about 30 years ago. The interview was conducted under consent of both of the interviewees and a brief letter of statement of purpose for research was delivered prior to the interview. The two interviewees, M. Fifor and L. Fifor are seniors at Littleton who recently retried. Each interviewee were asked questions regarding their traditional social life and their understanding of online social media along with their usage habits such as “What is your opinion on the rapid development of online social network and how are you influenced by that?”, “Do any of your children frequently use online social network and what is your opinion on that?” and “Have any of your traditional social life style changed with the availability of information and shortened distance between people?”. The interview was conducted jointly with the two interviewees in person and lasted for half an hour at the Littleton Bemis Public Library. A debrief form was given to both interviewees after the interview.

According to the result analysis of the Google Form, the most popular social network platforms are Facebook(71.8%), Instagram(64.1%), Wechat(61.5%), Snapchat(51.3%), and Sina Weibo(46.2%). More than a half (53.8%) of the participants believe that their public profile on OSN is important. The majority (69.2%) of the participants use the social networks more than 5 times a day, and the most popular medium of access to those OSNs is cellphone(84.6%). Responses indicate a high level of replacement to traditional in-person social life by OSNs. 35.9% of the participants agree that more than a half of the traditional social life is replaced by online social network; 41% believe that about a quarter of it is replaced. Most people, according to the results, are severely distracted by OSN when they are not supposed to, such as during eating and family gathering. For teenagers of the survey participants, education for OSNs seems not taken seriously enough. 33% of the college OSNs users state that their parents or teachers never decline them with their OSNs usage. 17% admit that they are addicted to the positive feedbacks from others on OSNs and consider it as a key factor for them to use OSNs. The majority (79.5%) of participants agree that after the invention of OSNs, their desire for new information is increasing exponentially and only half (41%) of them believe they have good control over that desire.

M. Fifor and L. Fifor both agree that technology is rapidly changing the way people understand and expect information. Online messaging, comments and posts sharing are bringing convenience as well as problems due to the lack of appropriate monitor on user’s behavior, which lead some of the serious problems on them. Although the couple never experienced the negative consequences of technology, they have been witnessing their children and people of that age who are overly addicted to OSNs. For instance, M. Fifor stated that she has been annoyed many times by her children busying texting on the dinner table instead of talking to the family around them. L. Fifor claimed that many teenagers are mentally prepared for the exposure for the information on the internets, such as malicious attacks and , despite their already astonishing level of addiction to absorbing information of such sort without being aware of it.

The survey was designed and delivered through Facebook and Wechat. As a result, most of participants of the survey are already users of at least one online social network. Therefore, the survey sample might not be representative of the whole population, especially those who have no access to the information technology or those who are not able to afford them. Meanwhile, the survey was delivered mostly through personal connection and groups of networks which makes the sample biased, both age and ideology wise. Students who come from same university with similar age are generally expected to have similar ideas due to the shared educational background and the social atmosphere they live in together.

The interview has limited perspective and should be evaluated critically due to the fact that both interviewees did not grow up with the technology of online social networks. Lack of personal experience might lead to some limit of subjectivity and inclusiveness.

According to the samples that the survey covered, most of the survey subjects age from 18–30. 100% of them are users of at least one OSN platform. Most of them agree that their life is negatively influenced by the OSNs, such as academic distraction, impact on norma social behavior (eating, in-person greeting, interview, etc) and reading habits. Online social networks users are more curious for short information even though they are aware that these feeds are educationally less valuable to them. Conventional media such as radio, television and newspaper are being replaced at such an unprecedented rate that most of the users are not ready for the upheaval that it brings. Because of the fast-paced nature of OSN, people’s reading habit are being “fragmented”, a metaphor for reader’s chippy and shallow information absorption. Such behavior change might cause the decrease of reading ability, as examined by the study in the Ahmadu Bello University.

OSN generates a giant market for information to absorb people’s attention. Every technology company is managing to keep their costumers on their platforms. Such incentive, nonetheless, is not always benevolent. Technology companies investigate people’s social behavior pattern and attract people with continuous updates. Because curiosity and generators of the OSN information are enticed by the desire for sharing and the positive feedbacks that they can predict. An invisible loop is created on the platforms in which readers endlessly brash for new feeds while writers endlessly share as much as possible to meet that need. According to research conducted by scientists from University of Bergen, social networks are easily addictive because they require much less effort for sharing and absorbing: a trigger for OSN can as be simple as loneliness, boredom, or stress; an action can be as easy as logging in and slide through the feeds; participation can be as accessible as typing, pasting and posting. Brain scan of active social media users showed a higher level of activation of their amygdala and striatum, resulting from long-turn trigger by the news from OSNs.

What makes OSN terrifying is not simply peoples abusive usage of it, but that it is changing the way people expect and interpret information unconsciously. During the interview with M. Fifor and L. Fifor, they admitted that from they perspective, younger generation are generally much less patient on reading and writing. They prefer short, brief and fast-paced news and feeds instead of content-rich and informative research journals or literature; they are much more diligently looking for updates from their peers than from the leaders and the elites of their era; their role models are typically shaped by the online social network celebrities; their literacy in expression and comprehension display sharp decline with the ironical affluence of information availability.

Meanwhile, the little effort it takes for OSN users to share ideas give too much freedom for users to abuse the platforms. When it comes to news in actual life, users of Online Social Media can save, forward and comment on any information they feel compelling, anytime, anywhere they want, some of which might not be morally legitimate. One of the most significant example is Tyler Clementi’s suicide.[7] As a college freshmen at Rutgers University, Tyler was videotaped by his roommate when he was being intimate with his male partner. The video was spread without his consent and consequence was devastating. Tyler experienced numerous vicious comments and judgement, leading to his suicidal mentality. After his suicide, the Tyler Clementi’s foundation was set up to assist those who experience cyber bulling and struggle with it. Cyber bulling’s incontrollable spread and its vicious nature

It can be unfair to completely negate the effectiveness of social technology and the convenience it brings to human being. Positive instances such as Distance Education and Medical, online donation, and missing children platform are playing active roles in social justices and human welfare. However, it is of necessity to keep alarmed of the double-sided property of OSNs. Appropriate educational guardian on children’s online behavior can be effective means to cultivate a health habit on OSNs. Furthermore, governmental regulation and social power on problems such as cyber bullying and network phishing awaits improvement.

Works Cited:

Obar, Jonathan A., and Steven S. Wildman. “Social Media Definition and the Governance Challenge: An Introduction to the Special Issue.” SSRN Electronic Journal SSRN Journal (2015) Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

Carlson, Nicholas. “At Last — The Full Story Of How Facebook Was Founded.” Business Insider. Business Insider, Inc, 2010. Web. 20 Apr. 2016.

“Do You Have Too Many Facebook Friends?” Big Think. 2014. Web. 21 Apr. 2016.

Person, and Mona Chalabi. “How Many People Can You Remember?” FiveThirtyEight. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2016

“Discouraging Abusive Behavior in Privacy-Preserving Online Social Networking Applications.” Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on World Wide Web. Web. 25 Apr. 2016.

Hussaini, Suleiman, Abdulfatah Abdulrahim, Goshie Rhoda Wusa, Jimoh Amina O, and Hayatu M. Musa. “Utilization of Internet as a Communication Media among Postgraduate Students of Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria.” IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science IOSRJHSS 19.6 (2014): 58–65. Web.

“Tyler’s Story.” The Tyler Clementi Foundation. Web. 26 Apr. 2016.

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