By Kenneth Ma
As the information technology has improved a lot in these recent years, access to internet become easier to people nowadays than before. Social media sites and applications such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are significantly gaining attention of the public. In the introduction, we will give a brief background information about the social network platforms and define the important concepts about social networks. We will present our argument through the thesis, which is the increase of number of social networks, including social platforms such as Instagram has changed the way of people connect and establish relationships in the internet society. Providing support evidence with some academic research related to the Social network showing how people get connected using social network sites and applications. The difference of the way people connected and create relationship. The counter arguments will focus on the disadvantages of using social networks to establish relationship and get connect with other people by exploring the contrast perspectives and problems raised by social networks.
Social media use has been a widespread phenomenon in the society. With the development of smartphones, smartphone users have rapidly increase year after year. People can easily get access to the social media platform using their own smartphones instead of using the computer at home. Social media apps such as Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram have been launched for people to download on the smartphone. In 2020, around 76% of smartphone users are recorded in advanced economies such as America, Russia, and Japan etc. (Pew Research Center 2019). Research indicates that 81% of people in Australia owns a smartphone. And around 67% of people in advanced economies use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (Pew Research Center 2019). Facebook is the most popular social networking site in the world containing 2449 million of active users recorded in 2020 (J. Clement 2020) and around 1 billion of monthly active users are using the popular photo-sharing app Instagram. These social network platforms have changed the practices and behavior in the process of social development and establishing relationship. The people in the world are more interconnected than in the past. Because of this, there could be a perception that the relationship between people are getting better than before as people are easily get connected due to the development of Internet. But is it true? In this paper, we will discuss about the advantages using social network to establish relationship by looking into Facebook and Instagram as an example. We will also investigate the difference between making new friends or meeting new people in the real world and in the virtual world in terms of identity difference, performance behavior and social interactions. Counter arguments that will explore on the disadvantages and potential problems of using social network such as privacy problems, cyber-bullying, identity deception and degeneracy of social skills in real world.
People have different identity in the real world and in the virtual world. With the improvement of internet, people can easily get access with the social network sites. Unlike the past, simply download an app on their smartphone and create an account. Social networks such as Facebook has changed the way people connected and form relationships in the digital world. Facebook is an American online social network platform created by Mark Zuckerberg. Users can post comments, like, upload and share photos and videos, provide status updates, check-in locations, repost links, texting others etc. But there is a large difference about the meaning of adding a ‘friend’ on Facebook and establishing a friendship with someone. Users can simply add a friend on Facebook by simply send a friend request to someone or click the ‘accept’ button of someone’s friend request. But it doesn’t mean that a friendship has been established between these users. For example, the users might add their project group members or someone you might know at school through the social network site, but it doesn’t mean that they will hang out for dinner or go out to watch movies together. The meaning of “friend” might closer to someone you might know more that actually a ‘real friend. “Even though social media provides significant communication opportunities, time is a constraint that limits face-to face interactions. The lack of face-to-face interactions makes it difficult to invest in a relationship for maintaining an essential level of emotional intensity.” (Amit 2016 , p.2). The rapid growth of social network has led to the redefinition of “friend” in terms of the exclusive bond between two individuals, who provided emotional support, shared common interest and connected in the physical realm.
Moreover, users of the social network sites allow to edit their profiles freely. Some users may upload their own photos for their own profile picture, some may upload some celebrities’ photos use as their profile picture. Their identity on social networks might be different to their real identity. Users can shape their own identity on social network by uploading photos and writing descriptions. “Digital identity is attitude norms that are blended with technology, including displaying ethical and appropriate attitude while using digital services and receiving information on internet” (
Istanbul 201711-13). “Digital identity should make an impression that can criticize, has an idea about ethical results of initiatives conducted in interactive environment (Istanbul 2017), can establish an ethical interaction and does no abuse informatics, virtual environment and social media while using social network sites. 15”
The performance of friendship is different online and offline. With the development of social network applications, the way of ‘friends getting connected has changed. In the past, people get connected by calling each other or sending SMS. Verbal information and simple text information are transferred between two individuals. Using Facebook as an example, users can make a post by uploading photos to let the followed users checking what is happening in their life. Besides making post, story is another function which is introduced in these recent years. Unlike making post, users can upload a photos or videos on their stories and allow others to look at it in a short period of time. As many users are concerning about privacy and exposure of themselves on social network sites, stories become more often choice for users to expose themselves through the network (Raymond et al. 2017).
On the other hand, social networks allow users to browse others’ profiles, sending friend request and accept of decline request from others. The system often gave recommendations of the people you might know in the friend list with links and photos of them. For example, there is a group of people which are working in a same company. By adding a person in that group, there is a high chance for the system of recommending his or her colleagues in the same company. The visible chain of friendship suggested the social networking sites promote people to select friends based on the information they provided to the system.
Furthermore, some voices argue that social network sites help strangers to connect online and they worried about the safety of adding friends online (Boyd and Ellison, 2007) . Ethical and privacy concerned has raised due to the increase of users on social network sites. Privacy settings allows users to set whether their information is post in public or only share to specific people. Facebook allows users to set the photos and videos in private and only allows their followers to get access of it. Users can choose to accept of decline the follower request to prevent strangers getting access to your photos and videos. Therefore, this reinforces the notion that social networks have changed the way people establishing friendships due to increased visibility of one’s profile and social network consumption practices. However, this also leads to ethical concerns such as privacy issues. Increasing visibility will lead to the reduction of privacy. The way of people connect and establish relationship has changed due to the development of social networks.
The social interactions are different between in real world and in social platforms. With the publish of social network sites, users can interact more easily than before. In Facebook, users can create events which are held in physical locations by sending invitations to users in a same group or friends. This function has been widely used in the society. As a result, people are getting more interacted than in the past as they can gather more easily.
On the other hand, video conference applications such as Zoom allows a large amount of people to make video calls. As the world is suffering in Corona Virus, many offices and schools had closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The demand for social network site has increase rapidly in these few months. Students are told to attend lectures and tutorials online by using video conference and workers in different companies are told to work from home. The social networks sites and applications helps people get connected while they can’t go out for school or go to work. With the help of social networking application, teachers can still teach their classes by using video conference and can keep track on the learning progress of each student while they are staying at home. For other business firms, the boss can still keep track on their employees while they are working at home as the office are closed to prevent the spread of virus. It can reduce the amount of economic loss for the society. If social network sites do not exist, teachers can give out their teachings online and the students will have to defer their studies while they are staying at home. The employers also cannot keep track on the employees to check on their working progress while they are working from home. There will be a larger economic loss and human power loss.
In contrast, some people may say that social network is not a good way to establish relationship between people. Firstly, privacy concerns are raised when using services online. On social platforms, there are many cases of deception about cheat people on monetary or sexual issues. There are a lot of scammers online and their target are usually focus on teenagers or elderly. Deception crime is very hard for legal department to keep track on it. One of the most common deception crimes on social network sites are money scams. Using Facebook as an example, users can upload photos or make post freely online. They can also sell stuff or buy stuff using Facebook as a platform. The most common way that the users can money cheated is they make money transfer using a third-party system. The cheaters usually create some new accounts and create some post to sell stuff on some trading groups in Facebook. They usually ask people to make bank transfer or PayPal if someone is interest on their selling items. After they receive their money, they will quit the group and delete the account. Concerns about the safety of using Facebook has raised about the legal conception of privacy. For example, do police offers have the right to access content posted to Facebook without warrant? Or is it ok for the government to monitor every single post or message on Facebook? Voices have been raised about the privacy concerns on using social network sites
Another concern about using social network sites is the disconnection from the real world. People may get addicted on using social network sites to make friends online due to the convenient of internet. However, the social skills online are different from the social skills offline. A person may be very ‘talkative’ online by sharing or texting one social network platforms, it might be opposite in real world. Using social network platforms may affect the social ability of a person such as the way to talk, body language, eye contact etc. Although raising ethical and safety concerns for social network users, is this perhaps plausible for a participant to create a fake profile and remain anonymous online. There is often little or no verification of people when they sign up to join most networking sites which people are very easy to create false persona online. There is a contrast of people getting connected if the information they provided on social network site is not real.
Social network has changed the way people connect and establish relationship online. The definition of “friend” is different between in real world and in virtual world. The counter arguments show that the potential problems of using social network sites to establish relationship. However, it depends on the way of people using social network sites. It remains debatable topic of how will social networks and communication technologies impact users’ relationships in the future.
Amit Chowdhty 2016, “Most Of Your Facebook Friends Are Not Your Real Friends, Says Study”, <https://www.forbes.com/sites/amitchowdhry/2016/01/30/most-facebook-friends-are-not-your-real-friends-says-study/#516016145757
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J. Clement, 2020, “How many people use social media in the world?”, <https://www.statista.com/statistics/278414/number-of-worldwide-social-network-users/>