In the present day, social media may be regarded as a fundamental part of people’s everyday lives. In general, the term social media is related to computer-based technology of virtual networks built in order to share information, ideas, and thoughts. In other words, it refers to applications and websites that focus on interaction, communication, content-sharing, community-based input, and collaboration in multiple areas. The most common forms of social media include forums, social networking, microblogging, social curation, and social bookmarking. The majority of individuals, especially young people, all over the world use social media to interact with families and friends, receive news, learn, share information and communicate with various communities. A prevalent number of businesses currently use social media to promote products, create brand awareness, and develop customer attachment. In fact, social media allows people to create and share content efficiently, quickly, and on a real-time basis. In addition, it has become more accessible due to mobile applications. At the same time, the issue of the impact of social media on people’s social and cultural life attract the particular attention of scholars. That is why the purpose of this paper is to evaluate how social media influence modern society.
Affordances of Social Media
In recent years, with the general development of information technologies and the proliferation of social media, interpersonal communication has considerably changed. People spend less and less time communicating in real life and gradually delve into online interactions. As a matter of fact, there are multiple affordances of social media, however, these technology affordances influence people’s engagement in online conversations and contribute to the popularity of social networks to the greatest extent:
- Seductive affordances. In general, these affordances are related to social media addiction which is characterized by the uncontrollable and compulsive use of social media for long periods of time.
- Imaginary affordances. It relates to the interdependence that emerges between people’s attitudes, perceptions, or expectations and the functionality and materiality of technologies.
- Meta-voicing. It may be defined as the engagement in the online conversation “by reacting online to others’ presence, profiles, content and activities” (Majchrzak et al., 2013, p. 41). Multiple forms of meta-voicing traditionally include commenting or voting on someone’s post or comment, retweeting, and “liking” a profile.
- Triggered attending. It is the engagement in the online conversation without direct involvement in the conversation or content production “until a timely automated alert informs the individual of a change to the specific content of interest” (Majchrzak et al., 2013, p. 42). A substantial number of people currently subscribe to mobile, browser, or e-mail notifications from their favorite social networks in order to check any updates.
- Network-informed associating. It is the engagement in the online conversation informed by content and relational ties. In the present day, social media “provide the capability to see how people are connected to other people, how other people are connected to content, and how content is connected to other content” (Majchrzak et al., 2013, p. 44). Consequently, this opportunity increase the time spent by people on social networks.
- Generative role-taking. The final affordance is defined as the engagement in the online conversation “by enacting patterned actions and taking on community-sustaining roles in order to maintain a productive dialogue among participants” (Majchrzak et al., 2013, p. 45). This term is traditionally used to describe social actions emergently taken by individuals in order to facilitate their dialogues.
Pressure to Live a Perfect Life
As a matter of fact, almost every person aims to become a visible and legible citizen of the contemporary world. Social media allows individuals to introduce themselves to other people across the globe even from the most distant and unreachable places of living. However, according to Gray (2015) who has spent several years investigating the interaction of young people from the rural areas of the United States with the Internet, social media does not make individual lives easier. In general, media “is always tethered to the particularities of physical locations, material contingencies, and the passing of time” (Gray, 2015, p. 2). At the same time, the inclusion in the global online community provides an opportunity to influence public mood, create trends, promote particular ideas, and share them for other users to follow. Consequently, people start to compare their lives with lives promoted by influencers in order to stay modern, and this tendency results in considerable tension when the same lifestyle is unreachable.
In the present day, an unwritten rule concerning how people should look in their pictures presented on social media, and a substantial number of people experience stress and anxiety when they face criticism or feel that someone posts better photos. According to the latest surveys, one in three young women “feel under pressure to present themselves as having a “perfect” life on social media” and mention that their most considerable worry online is the comparison of themselves with others (Marsh, 2017, para. 1). This situation exists despite the obvious fact that images maybe not be realistic.
As a result, the pressure to show a perfect life to other mass media users contributes to the development of a curatorial view of social media when people choose pictures only of what they want to show on social media and write appropriate texts in order to create a better image of themselves. In addition, status-building and impression-management typical for social networking sites have already led to the necessity of strategic self-promotion and the creation of a particular activity, called social media curation (Scolere et al., 2018). In the present day, the creation of a platform-specific self-brand in the context of targeted audience and platform affordances is mainstream not only in the sphere of business and marketing but among ordinary people who aim to become influential with the help of social media, as well. Moreover, a considerable number of companies currently afford such services as social media curation. In other words, customers will be provided with curated caption templates and lifestyle photos in order to create an appropriate image on social networks.
On the other hand, there are not only disadvantages of a curatorial approach to social media but considerable benefits as well, for instance in relation to information acquisition. Basically, social media “allow users not only to read news, but also to evaluate, reconstruct, and share it” forming a significant news use behavior called curatorial news use (Park & Kaye, 2018, p. 1103). According to the recent research conducted by Park & Kaye (2018), this approach has a considerably positive association with internal political efficacy, substantial political knowledge, and both online and offline political participation. That is why it is possible to conclude that social media has both positive and negative impacts on society.
Social Media Addiction
As a matter of fact, scrolling through network platforms and content checking have already become highly popular though time-consuming everyday activities for people all over the world. Despite the fact that the majority of individuals use social networking sites without substantial problems, some users develop social media addiction that may be defined as “the irrational and excessive use of social media to the extent that it interferes with other aspects of daily life” (Hou et al., 2019, p. 1). According to recent reports, almost 12 of social networking sites’ users are affected by social media addiction (Hou et al., 2019). It is traditionally associated with the person’s relational, emotional, performance, and health problems. Multiple studies dedicated to mental health and social media usage discover that the use of social media for a long period of time is positively associated with depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health problems (Hou et al., 2019). At the same time, social media addiction may be directly connected with social media pressure. In other words, users may become highly influenced by others’ self-presentation and a better lifestyle, and this impact substantially reduces their self-esteem. In the combination with the dependence on people’s opinions, low self-esteem results in constant and time-consuming efforts to prove self-significance online and related mental disorders.
From a personal perspective, it goes without saying that social media substantively affects people’s social and cultural life. At the same time, it is impossible to give an unambiguous answer whether its impact is positive or negative. In general, social networks are an immeasurably powerful instrument of control, and the right ideas may be quickly spread throughout the world. At the same time, social media make people alone together, contribute to the development of mental health issues, create the illusion of a united and helpful community, and increase multiple insecurities, including reassurance-seeking, upwards comparison, envy, and perfectionism.
Gray, M. L. (2015). Putting social media in its place: A curatorial theory for media’s noisy social worlds. Social Media + Society, 1(1), 1-3. Web.
Hou, Y., Xiong, D., Jiang, T., Song, L., & Wang, Q. (2019). Social media addiction: Its impact, mediation, and intervention. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace, 13(1), 1-17. Web.
Majchrzak, A., Faraj, S., Kane, G. C., & Azad, B. (2013). The contradictory influence of social media affordances on online communal knowledge sharing. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 19, 38-55.
Marsh, S. (2017). Girls and social media: ‘You are expected to live up to an impossible standard’. The Guardian. Web.
Park, C. S., & Kaye, B. K. (2018). News engagement on social media and democratic citizenship: Direct and moderating roles of curatorial news use in political involvement. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 95(4), 1103-1127. Web.
Scolere, L., Pruchniewska, U., & Duffy, B. E. (2018). Constructing the platform-specific self-srand: The labor of social media promotion. Social Media + Society, 4(3), 1-11. Web.