Social Media- a Mixed Influence: an Analysis on the Influence of Social Media on Our Personality and Lifestyles

9 September 2016

Introduction Human beings are walking toward an era of network sociality, introduced by Andreas Wittel in his essay ‘Toward a Network Sociality’ as a contrast to “community” which represents belonging, integration and disintegration (Wittel, 2001). Social media have been transforming human’s lives and relationships in an unprecedented speed. This essay will explore and analyze this influence. It will be divided into three parts, each describing and analyzing social media’s impact on one of the three above-mentioned spheres.

I assert that social media is a mixed force, both positive and negative, whose influence has changed the way people stand in the world and connect with each other, the way people work and do their business, and the way people live and entertain themselves. 1. Social Media’s Impact on Individuality and Human Relationships 1. 1. Social media’s impact on individuality Societies and communities have existed for so long that even thousands of years ago, archeologists learnt that people everywhere, be they Amazon hunters or African shepherds, formed their own communities, with different but similar societal patterns (Van Loon, 2000).

Social Media- a Mixed Influence: an Analysis on the Influence of Social Media on Our Personality and Lifestyles Essay Example

Social media have been greatly shaping our individuality and our relationship with others, so that today the notions of society and community have achieved new meanings and thus are different from what we believed before. With the help of social networks, people today tend to be more individualistic, as they make friends and establish business relations depending more on their own choices and decisions, rather than on the pre-determined social principles and connections. Beck (1999) argues that “individualization” presumes a removal from historically prescribed social forms and commitments.

In a new environment where social networks dominate, human beings are faced with a wider range of choices of connections they are going to form, of things they are going to learn or to buy, and of information they are going to garner, which entails more individualism on the part of human beings. Under the influence of network sociality, human beings’ individuality is more and more emphasized today, and in fact, equipped with the mighty cyberspace, people are able to handle more complicated tasks than before. The common practice of selling secondhand goods on eBay or other e-business websites would imply seem imaginable for people of decades ago. As a matter of fact, selling things online is not limited to enterprises, stores or professional salesmen. Thanks to social networking, everybody can have an online business. At the same time, the sellers can better do their business by linking this page of their products to their blogs and advertise there, or posting on their Facebook or Twitter pages a piece of news promoting the products. In this way everybody can be a boss and salesperson, thus achieving more individuality. 1. 2. Social media’s impact on human relationships

In real life (as in contrast with cyberspace,) there are various ways to divide people into different groups, according to their ages, sex, income, geographic positions, or their faiths and values. However, people in these groups or communities are something like sand- they seem to belong in a certain group, but in fact they are still separate maintaining their individuality. If these “grains of sand” are to put together and mixed so that they can form an affectionate, tightly-related community, the input of “water” for bonding will be necessary.

The above metaphor and induction is to show that it is by no means an easy job for people to form valid communities, since on the one hand, the frequent communication is troublesome with a high cost, and on the other, there are many obstacles and hindrances in establishing such relations. For example, the age gap may be a problem when a group is founded on the basis of geography, and likewise, the income gap may be in the way of forming a community around gender. Luckily, virtual communities came to our rescue, as network socializing is speedily changing this status quo.

The beauty of network sociality lies in its low cost as well as its high efficiency- sometimes it takes only a few clicks of the mouse to form a virtual community. These communities can be based on their members’ same hobbies, common interests or mutual benefits. Scott Kurnit once stated the importance of creating virtual communities and forming relationships in them (Kurnit, 1999 cited in Wittel, 2001). As Andreas Wittel (2001) mentioned in his “Toward a Network Sociality” (2001), the new human relations present some distinctive characters under the impact of social networking: broad, quick, ephemeral, intense and fast changing.

In social networks, everyone congregates on a certain occasion with a more a less particular aim, either finding a date, getting to know potential clients, forming new business relations or something else. In today’s network sociality, a person is dealing with many people all at the same time. One of the most remarkable persons great at making friends and communicating with others is Carole Stone, who maintains friendship with more than ten thousand people by regularly holding parties and salons (Stone, 2001).

In fact, with so many friends to keep and care about, surely Stone does not have enough time to go too deep in each of this friendship, thus an example to show the shallowness of today’s human relationship. Nowadays a relation is quickly formed on the foundation of common interests or a shared purpose, but after a project is finished, this relation comes to an end and a similar one with different person(s) is formed just as quickly, thus indicating the transience of relations between people shaped by social media.

Under such circumstances, however, today people join in network sociality not only to find social identification and compassion, but also for the sake of getting more rewarding and enduring social capital and net resources (Wasserman and Faust, 1999: 11). 2. Social Media’s Impact on Our Business Pattern 2. 1. Social media: what makes our work more playful Social media have made people active creators and producers rather than mere recipients. The traditional content-centered virtual community has now turned ‘individual-centered’, thus making people more individualistic, independent and interdependent at the same time.

This influence on human personalities and relations, as has been mentioned in Part 1, has expanded to the sphere of the way we work and do our business. Wittel (2001) argues that in network sociality, professional ties become increasingly playful, as today people do their work with so much assistance from the social network, and our business relations are so deeply rooted in ties formed online, that the borderline between work and play is very much blurred and less tangible.

Some people hold that in this information age, professional knowledge is not so vital as social networks, resources and worldly wisdom. And this kind of capability to win business relations and broaden friend circles needs to be gained on social networking occasions. For example, people meet their colleagues and potential partners or clients at parties thrown in a more high-sounding name but with clear aims. If seen from the perspective of the founder or organizer of this program, this is again an instance of adding playfulness to work. Wittel 2011) In addition, many blind dating websites around the globe, which draw millions of single men and women, collect their profiles and information, give each of them most suitable matches and suggestions, are also a combination of pleasure and work. The workers of these websites probably have fun playing the role of “Cupid” and seeing so many interesting people and their stories. This is their work which secures their income. 2. 2. Social media’s impact on e-business pattern Speaking of social media’s great impact on our business patterns, electronic business is one of many examples.

E-business is one of the most lucrative business patterns online (Jackson, Harris and Eckersley, 2003). Numerous successful corporations such as e-Bay, Amazon and Alibaba can serve to illustrate this point. In the past, people sold and bought things in the real market, where everything related to the transaction, including bargaining, picking and paying money, took place. This process could be very time and cost consuming, as the simple act of purchasing entailed many auxiliary acts such as greetings and small talk between the buyer and the seller.

However, the rise of social media and networks has greatly changed this old-fashioned pattern. Tons of business transactions can be made every second in every corner of the world with just a click; employees sitting in front of the computer screen form business relations with a lot of companies in no time; people can even choose to stay at home to fulfill their work and make friends, thus embracing more freedom and easiness. One thing noteworthy here is the change of women’s position and status in e-business world thanks to social media.

Among networking groups, which aim at promoting e-business, there have recently appeared some women’s networking groups with the purpose of striving for some space in the so-far men dominated world of business (Wittel, 2001). A successful and influential virtual community is the iPod Club, which boasts hundreds of thousands of members from all over the world spontaneously circling around iPod products. In this club, women are encouraged to engage more with consumer electronics, something considered to be men’s exclusivity (Ellwood and Shekar, 2008: 56). In this way, social edia, and their practices make today’s women more independent and proud and enable them to better contributing their effort to society. 3. Social Media’s Impact on Our Lifestyle 3. 1. Social media mix private and public life Apart from human characteristics, our relationships, working style and business patterns, social media also exert remarkable influence on our lifestyle. Network sociality is the blurring of the boundary between private and public space, or we can say that under the impact of social networking, private and public space are penetrating into and melting into each other.

Take portable media for example. In the book Mobility, it is said that Kopomma describes that with the use of portable communication devices, the ‘private bubble’ is now inflated outwards. He also argues that mobile terminals such as cell phones are trying to eliminate the borderlines between private and public life and playing as a medium bridging and transforming them (Kopomma cited in Adey, 2010). On the one hand, using cell phones- a private possession- in public place, is inevitably a public conduct.

On the other hand, using cell phones during a up public occasion, say, when engaged in a conversation with business partners, engages him/herself in a new conversation with someone else (Wittel, 2001), which means a privatization of the public space. A mature and rational network sociality should be a perfect combination of private and public space. While online private space such as blogs and Myspace serve as harbor for people to pour out their emotions, mood and feelings. Online public space such as forums is more like a platform for people to share, communicate and get together, each drawing what they need.

Social networking websites are a mixture of both privacy and publicity. In a word, social media create a new environment for people’s communication and spreads information, thus leading to the deconstruction, recreation and combination of private and public space. 3. 2. Social media mix real and virtual world While some believe that there is a demarcation line between a so-called virtual world and a real world, Wittel (2001) holds that the online world and the offline world are closely related indeed. Today, the ‘virtual’ etworking world has penetrated into reality and every part of our lives, including work, leisure, entertainment, etc. As was mentioned earlier, now the line between play and work is somewhat blurred and social media, once considered as another sphere, has entered into the ‘real world’ and exerted its influence on the latter. For example, at China’s Renren. com, a social networking website (the equivalent to Facebook), there are some games in which virtual commodities such as cars, houses, vegetables and fruits are sold.

Now they have become real bestselling commodities at Taobao, the equivalent to e-Bay. This is an instance to illustrate the influence of social media and, the so-called “virtual” and “real” worlds. Conclusion With the development of science and technology, as well as the progress made in the respect of social networking and communication, we are now very much in the era of social media based more on the producing and sharing information rather than just getting information.

They have greatly impacted every part of our lives, such as our personality, values, relationship with others, lifestyle, working styles, business pattern, etc. This essay tries to explore how social media have changed our lives from the three main perspectives, i. e. social media’s impact on individuals and their relationship, their impact on our ways of working and business patterns, and last but not least, their impact on our lifestyle and entertainment.

Social media have made their effects on human beings: people become more independent and individualistic; human relations are quicker and easier to form but less enduring than before; our work, mixed with social networking element, becomes more playful; women’s status has been raised in the business world; private and public life intertwine and the ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ world are melting into and influencing one another. Reference Adey, P. (2010) Mobility. Oxon: Routledge. Beck, U. (1999) Individualization. London: Sage. Ellwood, I. and Shekar, S. 2008) Wonder Woman: Marketing Secrets for the Trillion-dollar Customer. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. Jackson, P. J. , Harris, L. and Eckersley, P. M (eds. ) (2003) E-business fundamentals. Oxon: Routledge. Stone, C. (2001) Networking: The Art of Making Friends. London: Vermilion. Van Loon, H. W. (2000) The Story of Mankind. New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation. Wasserman, S. and Faust, K. (1999) Social network analysis: methods and applications. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wittel, A. (2001) ‘Toward a Network Sociality’, Theory, Culture and Society. Vol. 18(6): 51-76. London: Sage.

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