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How Does It Influence Us?

Social Networking in Modern Day Society: How does it Influence us? Social networking in our current society boasts some impressive numbers. A study conducted in July 2010 found over 500 million people are now signed up with social networking giant Facebook. These users were found to have shared more than three billion pictures every month and sixty million status updates every day (Cooke 2007; Carpenter, Green & LaFlam, 2011). These staggering figures only grow when other social networking providers are included in the picture. Twitter, MySpace, AOL and the new Google+ all have millions of users, spread all over the world.

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Social networking has proven itself useful in a practical sense, such as Facebook and Twitter being used by natural disaster victims to communicate with the outside world, and YouTube proving helpful in war torn countries where dictators have tried to suppress images of war from the watching world. As well as being useful in a practical sense, social networking has been shown to satisfy all of the basic human emotional needs – communication, continuity and support. Social networking satisfies all these basic needs, all the while remaining instantly accessible and unlimited by barriers of geography, finance or class (Cooke 2011).

Popular culture and politics of the current era are also heavily influenced by social networking. By the start of 2010 there were more politicians tweeting than blogging (Research shows it pays for politicians to Twitter on 2010). Barrack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign made use of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other sites to campaign, garner support and fundraise. The success of his campaign will always be remembered (Cooke 2011). Music, Television and Film all utilise social networking media to promote upcoming artist’s work.

Radio and record label executives are no longer able to dominate the market, as new artists can spread their music online without a recording contract or a great deal of money available to them. This has revolutionised the entertainment industries (Cooke 2011). American comedian Steve Hofstetter holds the record for having the most Facebook and MySpace friends with 600,000 in total. This is an extreme case and researchers have found that the average person has 120 Facebook friends. This number is much closer to the number of friends that experts believe humans can fully cope with.

The theory is based on the size of the neo-cortex, which is the part of the brain used for thought and language. The size limit restricts the number of friends we can cope with to 150, with friend being defined as someone you care about and contact at least once a year. They also found that social network users with friend’s lists running in the thousands still only maintained an inner circle of 150 friends. However when friendships can be formed with such ease at the click of a button, it becomes easy for a friend’s list to fill up with non-genuine friendships (Cooke 2011).

A recent study found that people with a high curiosity about other people’s minds and openness to experience generally used Facebook to manage their real life social lives and communicate with genuine friends. The study also found that people who were overly defensive about other people’s opinions tended to form romantic and platonic relationships solely over Facebook. The study concluded that differences in personality accounted for whether or not people used Facebook to embrace their friends, keep others at a distance or both (Carpenter et al. , 2011). So when does it all become too much to handle for the average human being?

As we worry about the stimulation and socialisation implications of social networking on children, relationships and friendships, we are simultaneously lured in by the lack of boundaries and ease of use of modern social networking. A 2010 study by an online PR and social media firm found that 30 million United Kingdom residents had visited at least one social networking site in the last four weeks, and that an average of six hours a month was spent on social networking media (Cooke, 2011). There is a line that can be crossed however, into the dangerous territory of internet addiction.

When your time spent online interrupts or restricts your lifestyle and ruins your close relationships with others. Internet addiction is a rather new phenomena and needs more research done in the field. Some studies have shown that the shyer a person is the more likely they are to become addicted to the internet (Chak & Leung 2004). How does age factor in to internet use and social networking styles? Younger teenagers have been found to create a more elaborate highly decorated stylistic online presence, where older teenagers favour more plain profiles with many links to friends and interests.

This shows that with age teenagers become less interested in what others think of them and more interested in forming genuine relationships (Livingstone 2008). And what of the older generation? One writer quipped that the younger generation were native speakers of all things technology and that the older generations were like second language learners, speaking the new language well, but never losing the accent (Cooke 2011). Social networking will always be a parallax of full inclusion and welcome to all into a seemingly exclusive club.

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