This research was supported in part by a grant from the Sample Grant Program under any special circumstances under which this research is being done and considered.
The importance of social media effects on families and communities has been determined by the research findings based on the investigation of existing literature. The principal objective of the study is to examine the influence of social media on our everyday life. Besides, another investigative goal is to identify possible consequences that social media may bring. Therefore, this study implies the utilization of both secondary research and primary research approaches. The expected findings of the literature have suggested that there are not only positive effects of social media on families and communities, but also negative ones. The primary research will prove/disapprove the existence of the problem and its importance in the present time.
Key words: social media
With respect to the aims and objectives of the research study, a combined approach consisting of primary and secondary research methods are utilized. The secondary approach will allow this study to gather opinions of experts while analyzing previous research on the issues to develop a general background of the influence of social media in everyday life. Journal articles, reports, statistical data, blogs, and other research data will be comprehensively analyzed and examined to get preliminary information on the positive and negative effects of social media on families and communities.
A primary approach will be utilized to receive the data through an in-depth interview with the university students. Random sampling will be done to choose samples from the interviewees represented by the first-year students. A sample of thirty students will allow this study to analyze how they feel the influences of social media effects them and their families, and, as a consequence, on communities. Comparing primary and secondary research results will allow this study to make a conclusion about this subject matter.
Statement of Purpose & Rationale. Social media has become part of the daily life and routine for most and has made its way into the fabric of the larger society, as a whole. It has, in many ways, changed our communication and lifestyle. Today, it is an effective tool used by commercial companies to promote their products and services. Through charitable and international organizations, the promotion of their ideas to deliver their message to a wider audience is possible and effective through social media. Politicians are able to get closer to their voters and attract new ones through social media. Obviously, social media has become one of the most popular sources of information and a very powerful tool of communication. It has allowed people to connect with friends, family, acquaintances, and colleagues. These applications give us the latest news about current events, our favorite celebrities in entertainment, revolutionized our ability to share photos, videos, our any thought, provoking or not. Yet, with all above-mentioned advances it has made in internet technology, the negative impact that social media has on our society is a cause for great concern, particularly for our young people.
With respect to the fact that social media is a complex phenomenon, the research study intends to examine the social media effect on families and communities and its and identify its consequences. In this regard, the research statement is “what are positive and negative effects of social media on families and communities and its consequences”. Bearing that in mind, the main focus of the research study will be psychological and social aspects of social media influence. The research also aims to identify possible consequences of negative influence the latest positive trends of social media in regard to families and communities.
In general, the information collected will illustrate how different types of social media has already changed our lifestyles and communication and what it may lead to in families and communities.
Statement of Qualification. From a personal perspective, social media has a strong influence on our lives, including mine. It has been personally observed, that the ability to use social media in a proper and thoughtful way will bring only benefits. Its use does not have to warrant a negative experience and does not have to affect a person to their detriment. It can and should be helpful too that does not replace our family or community, but should bring family and community to a closer level of connecting with one another. Therefore, I can carry out the background study and/or a focused research on the assigned task in a proper way and successfully. Having the pure understanding of the examined problem, I enhanced my knowledge on the issue and better understood how our society functions today and what it needs.
Participants. The survey research activity had a total of 30 participants with 13 of them being females and 9 being males, plus 8 respondents who did not indicate their gender. While the respondents ages ranged from 16 or younger and then up to 66 or older, the majority of them were within the 25 to 55 age range, with only one respondent who is either 66 years old or older. A large number of the respondents are divorced, and most have 3 or more children. About 33% and 26% of the respondents have an associate degree and bachelor’s degree respectively, one who holds a master’s degree and the rest have lower educational attainment. The majority of them are skilled workers, followed by specialists, entrepreneurs, head of their own enterprises, and employees without higher education. There are also a few who are either a housewife, unemployed, and one who is a student. Of the 30 respondents, 18 answered that they belong to the marketing sector, while 12 left the question blank. About 33% of them are not employed and are not looking for employment. Twenty percent are retired while 16% who are employed and are working for 41 hours or more per week. Thirteen percent are employed and are working for 40 hours or less in a week with another 33% who are not employed, but are looking for work. Three percent are disabled. The use of questionnaire is the main research instrument used in this survey activity. It was conducted online using The Survey Monkey, thus ensuring that the questionnaire was answered independently. The following pie charts, outlined below, shows the socioeconomic categorization of the respondents as provided in this paragraph:
Figure 1: Marital Status of the Respondent
Figure 2: Employment Status of the Respondent
Figure 3: Social Status of the Respondent
Data Collection. The research was conducted using questionnaires that consist of 28 questions sent out to respondents through the Survey Monkey, which is an online survey development cloud-based company. The questionnaire was designed to gather descriptive information such as the socioeconomic status and other questions that asked for the opinion of the respondents. An analysis of the data resulted in the claims per the following discussion:
Like everything in life, social media have two sides: the positive and negative. The benefits of using social media seem endless. But one of its most viable and beneficial traits is the fact that it helps people to stay connected to people. That connection to people has the potential the enhance our relationships that we have with friends and family members. It is a connection that even helps us to find old friends and meet new ones. Staying connected gives us the ability to keep up with current events and even follow the latest news of personal friends. It has revolutionized our ability to share photos, and even voice our opinions. In this age, we cannot ignore the influence that social media has made in politics. People have become more engaged with the political process through the various platforms (e.g. Facebook). Social media’s most positive trait is its impeccable ability to unite people with almost any community.
The social media uniting function has vividly and effectively rendered an advanced way to communicate and connect with people in times of difficult circumstances. These kind of situations, particularly in the event of tragedy, like a natural disaster, a need for fast information can make the difference between life and death, limb or loss. It is a resourceful tool that helps people to check on the status of their relatives and friends that may have been affected by such tragedy. Getting information on those who have survived, where to go to get assistance, community updates on relief and recovery efforts is imperative. Having the ability to update people with information about how to give on donation sites and about what their needs are is most useful .
As mentioned previously, social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) encourages people to become politically-engaged. Some surveys illustrated that in the U.S., thirty-five percent of social media users have encouraged people to vote via sites such as, Facebook and Twitter. Almost the same percentage of users posted their own thoughts or comments on political and social issues, then reposted content related to political or social issues that were originally posted by someone else .
As for positive social media influences on families, according to some surveys, over forty-six percent of parents said that social media has a positive effect on their children and only a little over ten percent said that social media has a negative effect on their children. The remaining statistics prove to have a neutral (McAlone, 2015) disposition on the matter. The benefit is that it provides a platform for socializing and communication, while providing access to various types of information (e.g. educational and health care) that parents and children most often need . Many families find themselves using it to help with homework, write papers, and teachers even us it to post assignments and materials sometimes.
Moreover, social media has influenced the mental health of some children. Finding show that it has the potential to help children to avoid depression, offer a ray of hope, and somehow influence mood through the support of others experiencing similar mental health problems .
The conducted research showed that negative effects of social media on families and community are serious and challenging. First of all, an increased number of cases of cyber bullying is rooted in social media. Social media has made this problem far more serious than it was earlier, giving a real power to the initiators, allowing children to gang up on one person, easily. This issue is a grave one as it allows predators/bullies to prey on their victims, making their whereabouts much more difficult, allowing them to get away with it according to “Social Media Bullying Has Become a Serious Problem” . The National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted in 2013, estimated that about 2.2 million students went through cyberbullying in 2011 .
Additionally, the negative effects that social media has had on families and on our communities that is worth paying attention to is its ability to cause an unhealthy level of social media dependency. Researchers agree that today’s internet users risk attaining an unhealthy dependency that can leave one’s mental health hanging in the balance. This kind of dependency has been given a specific term called “Facebook depression". While not limited to the facebook platform, “Facebook depression” is considered a mental health disorder. According to some dependency theories, those addicted to using social networking sites have the same symptoms as those who suffer from addictions to drugs, harmful substances or other deviant behaviors .
Moreover, positive and negative effects of social media have consequences, just like anything that our society has found useful. Automobiles are useful, but are consequentially effecting the air quality and environment as a whole. Fast food, at its start, helped families to eat on-the-go, but has consequentially contributed to the epidemic of obesity in children and adults across the nation. The consequences of social media are no different from the aforementioned examples when its newness rendered hope and excitement. These consequences range from privacy issues and the digital footprint that young people often leave on the internet to identity theft and cyberbullying. Young people, in particular, are unaware that they are jeopardizing their reputations, not realizing the impact that online behavioral has on social media users. These users are potential clients, employers, and maybe even fans of their future. Oftentimes, one’s online presentation is other’s first impression of them, using it as an aid to form their opinion about them. With social media’s expansion in society, there's a positive trend that studies have found in that, internet users tend to be even more connected to their offline relationships than nonusers . This consequence can be both positive or negative, depending on perspective.
“Social media is changing the way we communicate and the way we are perceived, both positively and negatively. Every time you post a photo or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and personal brand” . This quotation belongs to Amy Jo Martin, an American author, speaker, founder, and CEO of Digital Royalty. She is one-hundred percent correct, as indeed, our lives have been changed since social media entered into the fabric of every culture and every nation. It goes without saying that it influences the way we communicate and behave. It is important to take notice that today, we can be judged not only by our real-life actions, but by our images and online reputation. We have the power and privilege to use our "digital footprint" and "personal brand" to influence the way others perceive us to be. We would be wise to present ourselves, in the world of social media, with our future in mind. It is no wonder that today, a person can fail to gain employment because of his or her reputation on social media.
What is more eye-opening is how social media has influenced our habits and the way we do things. It has effected the way we shop, the way we research, and the way we attain information about other people, whether we actually know them or not. It has even influenced the way we form our relationships and connect with other people, events, and things. In a way, it is the determinant for our daily actions, providing a seemingly endless list of possibilities. Needless to say, social media has brought both positive and negative effects to our lives in a very profound way.
In addition, one can only agree that, in current times, many start their day browsing the latest news on Twitter, Facebook, and check-in for updates on LinkedIn, for example. Social media, for most people, eventually becomes a personal realization that many find difficult to live without during the course of a day. It serves as a reliable, often viable, real-time resource where millions of people receive their daily news. In addition, not only can one catch up on current events, they are able see what their own friends are up to and what the latest is on them, their family members, co-workers, and associates. The general population has access to people, able to promote their own events, campaigns, or whatever their interests are.
Moreover, social media has gotten so savvy and connected that a person’s favorite apps communicate with each other about a person’s favorite things, interests, and such. Because simple actions such as, browsing new photos uploaded by Facebook friends shared on Instagram suggests the marketing power that it has, promoting certain goods or services. If we go into details here, we will find out that there are even special applications that allow attracting a certain number of followers per day, thus contributing to the promotion of the brand. The previous litany of how social media holds our attention and keeps us connected to the things and the people we love represents the positive, beneficial characteristics it holds for the enhancement of life.
However, not everything is so perfect with social media. What can be somewhat alarming is the lack of preparation that people have when the first realize the number of people that they are, virtually, surrounded by. But, what can be a bit daunting are the number of people that are constantly walking around, seemingly stuck to their cell-phone, not noticing anything around them, constantly checking their Facebook or Instagram for messages and “likes” every other minute. Moreover, meetings with friends sometimes are not so comfortable and pleasant, as you may found yourself with a smartphone chatting with people when your friend may be sitting in front of you, in the flesh, attempting to share his or her latest news about his or her life. You already don't hear from him or her, making the expected meeting so uncomfortable. Those facts made me think critically about social media as a complex phenomenon, in particular about its impact and consequences. With respect to the fact that social media is complex in its nature, this research paper assumes that social media has both positive and negative effects on families and consequences. In this regard, the main goal of the research, in this paper, will be to study psychological and social aspects of social media influence. The study will illustrate how different types of social media have already changed our lifestyles and communication and what impact it has on families and communities.
Social media is not new. While it seems like a modern trend, social media represented by Facebook and other well-known social-networking sites, is a natural result of quite a long social media development process. According to Hendricks’ (2013) “Complete History of Social Media: Then and Now”, the social media birth goes back to the1800s when the telephone and the radio were invented, technology making it available to transfer messages from long distances . Furthermore, social media roots are connected also with the earlier use of the telegraph and the introduction of postal services (Hendricks, 2013). However, the traits of modern social networking sites appeared in 1978 with the creation of the Bulletin Board System, or BBS, which allowed computer users to exchange data with others through the phone lines. It was the first system that offered the possibility of interaction with one another via the internet. In 1994, another social networking, known as Geocities, followed, allowing users to create and customize their own websites. They could then group them into different ‘cities' based on the site's content.
In 1997, the precursor of modern social networking sites, like SixDegrees.com, was born. SixDegree.com gave users the opportunity to create a profile and chat with friends. Thereafter, the internet was inundated with applications like Friendster, Classmates, and Hi-5, just to name a few.
Then appeared MySpace.com. MySpace.com gave users more freedom than previous social media sites. They had access to music, videos, and a much more “hip,” online environment. Another successful site is LinkedIn, introduced in 2003, turning its focus on the professional, streamlining one’s ability to keep track of their professional contacts. In 2004, Facebook changed the situation with social media sites, surpassing MySpace.com and Friendster, providing a wider set of customized functions .
The history and development of social media only shows how it's gradual effects have been incorporated into our everyday lives, rendering a plethora of new functions and possibilities that, not only affect the social component of our lives, but our professional lives, as well. Obviously, with the development of technologies it has occupied quite a great part of our life, having a powerful impact on us and changing the way we communicate and perceive other people, the way how we behave in the family and in the society. Taking into consideration the positive image of social media built during its development history, it should be admitted that social media eases our life, offering entertainment, great tools, being a large source of information, enhancing communication in the families, or uniting communities. For example, the function and ability for social media applications to unite is extremely vividly and works effectively.
In circumstances of tragedy such as, a natural disaster, Schraeder (2013) social media unites to make sure that certain communities are informed with the issue that will have to face. Based on his own experience, Schraeder describes in detail, how effectively social media works in the above-mentioned situation, giving people information about their relatives who might have suffered from the disaster, or about relief and recovery efforts being made in the community. They even provide information about donation sites and signals about the needs of people who are suffering because of a disaster (Shraeder, 2013). Using social media as a tool, it should be said that it is widely used in the political context, making people more politically-engaged, providing for political issues as a platform to promote their activities, encouraging people to share their views. Furthermore, readers are able to contribute to their image and reputation.
According to some surveys in the U.S., thirty-five percent of social media users have encouraged people to vote in government elections through the use of social network sites and Twitter. Rainie et al (2012) provides survey results, stating that almost the same percentage of users posted their own thoughts or comments on political and social issues, then reposted content related to political or social issues that were originally posted by someone else . Shurgin O'Koffee et al (2011) are sure that social media serves as sort of platform for socializing and communication, giving access to various types of information (e.g. educational and health care) that parents and children most often need. Bearing in mind the above-mentioned information, it might seem that social media has the only positive influence on both families and communities, giving to people endless opportunities. However, it is not really true, as the conducted research shows, negative effects of social media on families and community exist and they are quite serious and challenging. First of all, it causes dependency. Usually, it is called "Facebook depression”, as previously mentioned, when a person almost transfers his real life to a social networking site. Affirming how it is now considered to be a mental health disorder. The symptoms of this disease are often compared with symptoms that feel those who suffer from addictions of substances or other behaviors . However, it is not only the result of the excessive usage of social media, it is also the result of the development of both social media and technology together, which makes the access to social media even more accessible. Its usage is made easier with each, annually, upgraded devices such as, laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.
Point A: Social media helps to ease socialization and communication. The data analysis’ research survey for this study requested respondents answer a number of questions. They were asked whether they think that different social media helps in easing the process of socialization and communication. Various studies have been conducted to determine what effect social media has on socialization and communication. In a study conducted by Baruah on the effectiveness of social media as a communication tool, he found that “social media has the potential to fundamentally change the character of our social lives, both on an interpersonal and community level.” (Baruah, 2011). Another study also found that social media has become a tool to assist in the exchange of information among scientists (Osterrieder, 2013).
The survey revealed that more people perceive social media as a helpful tool in easing the process of socialization and information exchange. Social media serves as an effective tool in promoting social campaigns because it reaches a broad audience. The wide ranging scope of social media allows people to share and exchange information across communities. Social media also provides teenagers with an avenue to express themselves and eases any social anxiety
Respondents were asked whether they think that different social media helps in easing the process of socialization and communication. Just over half of the respondents agreed that social media assist with socialization and communication. Figure 4 indicates these findings showing tha over fifty percent of the respondents answered in the affirmative. More people believed that social media is helpful in easing the process of socialization and communication than those who did not.
Figure 4: Social Media as a means of Easing Communication
Point B: Information on social media is more positive than negative. In the survey, Respondents were asked whether they found the information on social media to be more positive than negative. The data revealed similar results as past studies that have been conducted to determine the impact of social media . These studies have revealed that the use of Facebook and other social media are said to help in the promotion of “social campaigns and share positivity, engaging others and encouraging them to do the same” (6 Ways Social Media Helps People Help People, 2012).
The information proves that social media has more of a positive effect than a negative one. This finding is in line with the results in the literature review suggesting that social media has helped ease our lives by becoming a great tool, not only for families, but also the community. Moreover, another study indicated that the use of social media is helpful in maintaining connections with family and friends, with about sixty-seven percent of users who believed that this is the primary purpose of social media (Fraustino et al, 2012).
Figure 5 shows how the respondents view the nature of social media information. In the case study, it was found that 72.41% of the respondents indicated that they found the information disseminated by the social media to be more on the positive than the negative.
Figure 5: Nature of Social Media Information
Point C: The negative impact from social media can be turned into positive outcomes. In the survey, Respondents were asked whether they agree that understanding the nature of social media platforms can turn the negative impacts into a favorable outcome. While there is fear about the prevalent use of social media among teens, it was found that they are in fact “cognizant of their online reputations and take steps to curate the content and appearance of their social media presence” (Madden et al, 2013). However, many teens have encountered cyberbullying through the use of social media.
The negative impact of social media can be turned into a favorable outcome for the parents and their children by each gaining a thorough understanding of the nature of social media platforms. Many teens are making the decision to not post things online due to the concern that these postings will eventually reflect badly on them (Madden, et al., 2013). Moreover, adults can do so much to positively influence the youngsters in the responsible use of social media.
The popularity of social media, especially among the youth resulted in several negative implications. However, balancing the use of this tool can lead to positive results in the end. According to the result of the conducted research as shown in Figure 6, a large majority (90%) of the respondents agree that understanding the nature of social media platforms can turn the negative impacts into a favorable outcome.
Figure 6: Understanding the Nature of Social Media
Expected Findings and Implications. The examined experts' opinions, reports and other literature illustrated that social media is an organic part of everybody's life and it is something people cannot just turn off and get away from, in the general sense. Being a platform for communication and socialization is a powerful tool for providing information, uniting people and promoting certain ideas. It has a great influence on families and communities, both positive and negative.
This research study is an illustration of how different social media have has affected and changed our lifestyles and the ways we communicate. It is a reflection of how social media has impacted our connection to our friends, families, and communities. Bearing in mind the fact that the influence of social media continues to grow and that it will bring certain consequences and further changes to the society, it is extremely important to understand the nature of social media. Making the distinction between positive and negative use of these platforms is paramount. Identifying the positive and negative effects that social media has on families and communities is important, giving users the power to gain proper knowledge on how to use it properly. Gaining such knowledge can eliminate risks posed by social media, and develop and benefit from its positive aspect.
The research analysis for this study used sampling based on marital status, occupation, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The general consensus is that people from all walks of life, a wide range in ages, and from every continent, are using social media and the internet as a whole. The positive effects of social media include obvious characteristics such as, the ability for friends, families, and associates having the ability to connect with each other on advanced or higher level. This connection has the ability to enhance the ‘in-person’ relationship people have or may not have with each other. If the ‘in-person’ does not exist, such a relationship has the potential to ensue as a result of the social media connection. Ultimately, the power that social media has is its ability to connect people with other people. This phenomenon is not limited to the social aspects of connecting people. Additionally, social media connect people by providing information in regards to event. This is vital, particularly, in times of tragedy. The ability for users to gain information in regard to any current events foreshadows the longevity of its effectiveness and existence.
Like anything that has the global presence of social media, there are negative components that come with the positive ones. The negative aspects of social media include the misuse of it by young people, in particular, posting pictures and images that will reflect other’s perceptions of them in a negative way. Another negative component is the ability for predators to gain access to information on any potential prey that they feel attracted to. It is important for users to use social media with caution, taking security risks and the knowing the potential for the damaging of personal character should always be considered. Posting cute pictures of children is a component of increasing security risks and is a phenomenon, within itself, that could garner further research as it pertains to social media and the use of the internet as a whole.
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