Congratulations to Alyson Hampton, the winner of our 2014 scholarship essay contest! Alyson attends Southern Illinois University where she studies Social Work. Alyson’s winning essay is below.
Thank you to all of our scholarship entrants – we have enjoyed reading your work and we wish you the best of luck with your education.
Is social networking good or bad for society, and why?
Social Networking: Saving Grace or Giant Debacle?
On August 21, 1995 Bill Gates unleashed Windows ’95 on the world, an operating system that came standard with AOL 3.0 which is one of the original facilitators of the Internet. In its heyday, AOL had over 30 billion subscribers who spent hours upon hours surfing the web daily. The program introduced some of the basic concepts of today’s social networking sites with chat rooms and instant messaging systems easily accessible. From that moment on, the way people communicate and interact with the world has been forever changed. Now, 19 years later, the Internet has moved beyond the home computer and is accessible everywhere. By touching an icon on a cell phone or tablet screen, access to websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace (although it is severely outdated) are instantaneous. The world has reached a landmark moment in time. With all the technological advances regarding the Internet, there are a multitude of applications. Specifically, the ever growing demand for social networking sites.
Social networking is a virtually inescapable medium in today’s society. Five years ago it was Myspace, which was then surpassed in popularity by Facebook. Now, Twitter is gaining fame as celebrities broadcast their daily activities, which further feeds the flame of the public obsession with superstars. Is social networking good or bad? There’s so much gray area in this question, and dependence upon the person, that a definite answer is difficult to determine. On the one hand, social networks bring people together in a way that wasn’t possible before. Families and old friends can reconnect across miles, and more people have access to the everyday lives of both intimate and public relationships. Conversely, with this increased attention to detail there can be a host of problems, which includes a basic lack of privacy and potential for virtual abuse.
One of the most basic constructive uses of social networking is the ability for quick and easy communication. Be it through Facebook, Twitter, email, or instant messaging systems, communicating with people across any distance is both instant and simple. Personally, I use email and Facebook multiple times a day to talk to people I don’t get to see regularly. For example, my mother lives in North Carolina and travels on a consistent basis. As a result of this, I only get to see her a few times a year. However, by using email I am able to talk to her on a regular basis and therefore keep our relationship close. Not only that, but since I am not originally from this area most of my close friends live in the Belleville and St. Louis area and it’s a journey to get out there to see them. By hopping on Facebook I can easily post thoughts and comments to their page, as well as send them private messages to keep in touch with them.
In addition, the application of social networking can be beneficial on financial and career oriented levels. Many professionals use the social network site LinkedIn in order to facilitate communication between potential employers. Companies also use the network to post job listings, as well as post profiles of various individuals within the company, such as the hiring manager. Also, the website can be used by job seekers in order to find a mutually satisfying place and position of employment for both the prospective employee and the hiring director.
Regrettably, there are many downsides to the advent of social networking. In addition to the ever increasing issues of privacy infiltration, cyber bullying has become a real social problem. Kids as young as ten and eleven are now ganging up on their peers and going out of their way to make the lives of others a living nightmare. Thanks to the increased communication opportunities afforded by the Internet it has now become easier and more efficient to torture the ‘weird’ kids in class outside the classroom. In 2003 Ryan Halligan, a thirteen year old boy from Vermont, was bullied to the point of desperation. Sadly, after months of constant criticism he succumbed to his depression and killed himself. In an article titled “Cyber Bullies are Always with You…” by English author Phil McKenna, the author states, “A study last month by the Pew Internet and American Life Project based in Washington D.C. Found that one-third of US teenage Internet users have been targets of cyber bullying” (25). With the increased popularity of social media websites like Facebook bullying has become a less personal activity. When facing a real person it is infinitely more difficult to taunt and insult than it is sitting in front of an Internet box in the comfort of your own home. USA Today published an article by Sarah Zay who writes, “The computer masks faces– and the majority of insults, threats, and taunting go on without repercussion” (25). Sadly, such occurrences are only going to continue, since there is no actual way to stop it. The primary options currently available are discouragement and increased awareness of the dangers, which have so far been relatively ineffective.
Furthermore, social networking can cause a serious reduction in basic privacies. Many, especially teenagers, do not realize that what is posted on the Internet is forever out in cyberspace, and can be accessed with the right tools. For example, an 18 year old posting a Facebook status along the lines of, “Got wasted last night, woke up with no pants on and no cell phone. Epic fail” will be accessible for years to come. Ten years down the line, when the now 28 year old wants to get a job on the police force, something like this could come back to haunt him.
Also, social networking cuts down on the basic ‘human’ factor in relationships. It is now possible to maintain a relationship, oversea, with someone on a daily basis. Yes, this is a wonderful advance for men and women in the military to communicate with their loved ones, however it lacks the personal intimacy of a true human connection. Not only that, but there are many out there that maintain unhealthy relationships with people they met on a social network sites, such as Facebook, that only serve to keep them confined to the house instead of forcing them to venture out into the world to have human interaction.
Another use of social networking is dating sites. There are those that will say that they met the love of their life through these sites, or that there are so many interesting people to talk to and they just know that they’ll find “the one” through a site such as E-Harmony, or Match.com. However, in my opinion, it is a realistically ineffective way of meeting someone and establishing a successful intimate relationship. It is so easy to stretch the truth on sites like that, when all that is required is a basic profile that can be typed from the anonymity of a living room.
To conclude, there are many positive and negative aspects to the relatively new concept of social networking sites. Ideally, they are used for positive communication between friends, family, and others. This also includes professional and career oriented individuals attempting to find a new job. Also, the dating sites that are gaining popularity are seen as a welcome change to attempting to meet people outside the home. While these are positive attributes to social networking, the negative elements are increasing. There is a responsibility of the networking user to use discretion, as well as common sense, when using social networking sites. Unfortunately, it is my belief that in the long run, social networking will eventually deteriorate human interaction to an irreparably low level, leading to a clear disconnection from reality in future generations.
McKenna, Phil. “The Cyber-Bullies Are Always with You…” New Scientist (London, England) Vol. 195 No. 2613. July 21-27 2007: 26-27. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 18 Apr 2013.
Zay, Sarah. “What Sticks & Stones Can’t Do, Facebook Will–And More!.” USA Today (Farmingdale). Mar 2011: 56-57. SIRS Issues Researcher. Web. 18 Apr 2013.