Unfriended and Unfollowed – How social networking has changed relationship management

facebook

(Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

by Anastasia Maillot

Social networking has been the center of controversial discussions and criticism since the concept was born. In her review of Facebook, titled “Face Value”, Mary L. Gray mentions that Facebook users will create bonds on a very loose basis, such as one common interest, and will therefore assume they know the person well enough to “Friend” them. This brings up another rather problematic aspect of Facebook: defriending. Or, when talking about Twitter, unfollowing. This concept has, in my opinion, changed how people, especially younger generations, manage their relationships.

Since the birth of social networking, getting in touch with people has obviously become much easier. A Facebook user has nearly unlimited access to other profiles that can be friended or defriended. Creating ties with extended family or friends or even strangers around the globe has never been this simple. The frightening part is that cutting bonds with those you never want to be involved with again is also much easier. In fact, it is perhaps the most powerful and feared tool in social networking, as it provides no explanation to why you decided to unfriend or unfollow someone. The fact that it’s quick, easy, simple and doesn’t require you to come face to face with the person erases any guilt that might come along. It is also fundamentally different from deleting a person’s phone number, because some social networking sites will notify the user if someone decides to unfollow them. In short, it is a virtual slap on a person’s face, a wordless message that expresses disapproval or rejection.

Moreover, social networking and Internet in general tremendously helps us forget that on the other side of the computer screen is another human being just like us. In other words, Facebook helps us reduce one person into a name written on our computer screen, a pixel object that can be deleted at any time we wish. It is tempting to forget that each day we are dealing with real people, because it makes defriending morally much more acceptable.  But we forget far too often that the Internet is not a separate world, as Barry Wellman states in “Connecting Communities: Off and Online”, but is tightly connected with our real lives and the people around us and can greatly affect our future and our relationships. Whatever happens online will definitely have an impact on our daily lives outside social networks.

At the same time, as we are encouraged to forget we are dealing with real humans, we are also seduced by Facebook into thinking we have solved whatever problem we were having by deleting a friend. We refuse to look deeper inside and think about the real issue in a relationship, because it is too much hassle and requires too much of our energy. Hence, we are not providing other human beings the respect, devotion and honesty they deserve, that we would most likely give them should we communicate with them face to face. These days, however, hectic everyday lives have caused us to forget the importance of true communication in a relationship and has turned it into a “chore” that Facebook helps us take care of, either by ignoring, blocking or unfriending.

The 21st century has brought about many new interesting inventions. Information, friends, family and co-workers are closer than ever to us thanks to social networking. While the positive aspects have been tremendous, it can’t be ignored that the quickness and simplicity of Internet and Facebook have caused us to grow passive and impatient with our relationship management. Relationships are cut off and created on a whim without further thinking and consideration of what we are really doing, undermining the very meaning of friendship and family that once existed. This development is both frightening and alarming and it remains for us to see whether we can preserve our respect for other humans an our relationships even with the increasing development of social networks.

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Globalization through Social Media, Any Dangers?

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...

English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Ji Soo Kim

The time when globalization was done ‘one-way’ by television, radio, films and newspapers has passed. Social media, which refers to interaction among people in which they create, share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks, has developed and extended to every part of our living. Through social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., I can share, agree, or ‘like’ the news and ideas shared around all over the world and shape my own beliefs through the exercises. It became my daily routine to check the ‘Newsfeeds’ when I wake up in the morning, and ‘Like’ friends’ posts.

The advantages of globalization through social media are countless. We can participate creatively and actively to share our own opinions in media. Free communication discloses different information, and benefit from its speed and variety. Then, here comes the question. Did everyone benefit from the expansion of social media use? Can it be explained only as benefits to our society?

My criticism by answering this question is that globalization through social media leads to selected globalization. Globalization through Social Network Services (SNS) sets a barrier to the poor, the elderly, and is unilateral globalization from the West.

As Facebook is ranked as the most used SNS, I will explain my opinion with using Facebook statistics. Facebook users reached 1.11 billion in March 2013, which is a huge number. It seems like significant proportion of population is communicating through Facebook. Let’s look at the details. (The statistics are from Wikipedia and are based on the end of 2012.) Can we say social media is a true medium in which everyone can freely communicate? 52.9% of the US population utilizes Facebook, while 5.2% of Indian population uses it. In India, due to poverty, Internet users account for 11.37% out of the entire population. This means that the other 88.93% do not have any idea what is happening on the internet world, and thus are excluded from a world which only the rich can afford. Looking at other less developed countries, the situation is not different. Facebook users constitute 8.9% in Bangladesh, 3.9% in Nigeria and 4.2% in Pakistan. These countries are more isolated from the world because they do not have access to Facebook.

It is not only the poverty that restricts people from online communities. Since internet availability is more difficult compared to televisions or radio, and is harder to use, people aging 50 or more suffer from adopting it to daily life. I asked 13 friends, aged 21~23, whether their parents have Facebook accounts. Only 2 responded ‘yes,’ saying that one of their parents has an account. A father of my friend, Younghun Lee (51) answered, “It seems complicated. I have enough people to talk to in real life world. I get annoyed when my son stares into smartphone checking new stuff on Facebook on dinner table. If I want to check news, I turn on TV, If I want to chat with people, I do in face-to-face.” To many, SNS is complicated compared to what we have been using so far, TV, radio, and newspapers. Also, for teenagers, or young adults, social media could be a special zone where you could be free from parents, and express your feelings, but for the parents, it is a zone that sets them far apart from the children and the world.

Reaching my final point, social media was developed mostly in the US. Although Facebook now became a ‘global’ online community, Western citizens still consist the majority of Facebook users, and are the ones that lead online globalization. Developed Asian countries such as Japan show that only 13.5% of the population uses Facebook. South Korea’s Facebook users also remain 20.95%. Statistics support that Western countries use SNS more than other countries. The other countries in Asia and Africa are following the ‘trend’ slowly, trying to catch up with the rest of the Western world. Globalization occurs in Facebook, but unfairly. It is not an intercommunicating globalization, but rather globalization from the US and Europe to other countries.

Social media is considered to be one of the greatest benefits new technology had brought to humanity. That is why the dangers and disadvantages of it is underestimated and left ignored. Disadvantages must not be hidden under the shadow of the advantages because the bigger the dangers grow, the fiercer the dangers become. The online globalization through SNS draws a line between people who can freely use new technology, internet, and those who cannot. We are the young generation who are included in online community, but those excluded cannot have their voices heard to us because they do not have means to share their voice. Those who cannot afford to gain access to internet, find using SNS complicated feel isolated for being unable to participate in the new world. Also, while true globalization is resulted from multilateral interactions, currently, it is done unilaterally from West to the rest of the world. Such dangers SNS has brought to us must not be overlooked, but thought carefully to be examined thoroughly by us, the young generation.