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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Social networking devices create portable social spheres

Social networking is the latest and greatest Internet trend, and it is not going away anytime soon. Websites like Twitter and Facebook have transformed how information is shared and organized. Political protests and social movements are organizing faster than ever, and that is all thanks to social networking.

I, like many other students, have an addictive relationship with the wired world. If I find myself cut off from the Internet for more than a day I start to feel disconnected, not only from the Web, but from my friends and peers.

As someone with an interest in foreign language and culture, I keep up with more than 30 contacts from around the globe. Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter make it possible for me to have exchanges with my long distance friends on a regular basis.

A scary thought — that the majority of a person’s social interaction could take place behind a monitor, but this is a reality that many are comfortable living with. Some people may have a knee-jerk reaction of fear to the thought of a wired social world. These people see someone tinkering on a laptop or cell phone and see a person talking to a screen. They fail to see the person on the other side of the screen, the potential to connect to billions of people worldwide.

As a former exchange student in Japan, I have seen first-hand how technology can impact socialization. Social networking in Japan is, as I see it, the future of the United States. Japanese students are almost always connected to the Web through cell phones; constantly perusing networking sites.

The train ride between Hirakata and Kyoto was always completely silent because everyone’s attention was glued to their phones. While on face-level it may have seemed to me like the Japanese people were anti-social or not a talkative bunch, the reality of the situation was that everyone was completely absorbed in their own social spheres.

This is a trend that is beginning to pop up on Western shores now that more advanced phones like the Blackberry, iPhone, and Android have surfaced.

In general, people gravitate towards others that share their interests and ideas and social networks provide an easy outlet for people to find that similar peer group.

Even if separated by a monitor, there are some that prefer establishing social connections by Web-based means over dealing with the people that populate their daily life. This is undoubtedly the reason why dating websites like OkCupid are so successful — users can instantly match up interests and personality types without the trial and error of building relationships from the ground up.

This can be problematic, especially since there is a potential to sever pre-established relationships by distracting users from their immediate peer community. It can also discourage face-to-face social interaction. The infamous Facebook break-up is a classic example of this kind of social deterioration. Social networking distorts social behavior by allowing people to hide from negative reactions and formulate responses in advance.

However, the overall effect of social networking is beneficial. It allows for interaction on a global scale and helps develop social connections that could not flourish otherwise. Instead of distracting from people’s social lives, I would argue that these applications are creating a more socially involved community.

As cell phones and other portable devices begin to utilize social networking applications, people around the globe are becoming connected more than ever. Social networking is not a passing fad, and it will have a lasting, positive impact on how people communicate, organize, and share information. 

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