Social Networking Sites and How They've Changed Us
It has been said that the eighties generation, or Generation X, represents a transition generation. Of course, society is always in transition, but, in recent years, there has been a dramatic shift in the way that people interact with one another. This change is not only unprecedented, but has enormous social implications.
Members of this transitional generation can look back to, and remember a time when people got together for dinner at each other’s homes, wrote physical letters with ink and paper, took group vacations, had summer barbeques on the weekends, used the phone for speaking to people, and ate dinner together as a family. It's not the first time that things have changed, nor will it be the last, but there is a significant difference between the generation immediately before and after this transitional generation.
Increasing numbers of people are joining social networks such as Facebook and Twitter; finding old college roommates, high school friends and old co-workers there. People use these networks to organize reunions, share jokes and videos, post pictures of their family, and even share what they had for breakfast that morning.
As the members of Generation X are beginning to enter middle age and realize that time seems to pass more quickly than it used to, they find these networks present them with opportunities to reminisce about the days of their youth. But, the popularity of sites like Facebook shows that this age group has become the first truly disconnected-connected generation; a fascinating contradiction. While users log into this medium and post their current status, likes and dislikes, their favorite shows, no one is actually talking to each other.
Gone is the era of picking up the phone and calling someone to have a conversation, replaced instead by emailing, texting, online chats, or having distracted conversations with someone on their cell phone - usually while they are in line at the grocery store, driving, or worst of all, in the bathroom.
It’s futile to fight change, as it's inevitable and mostly good. For instance, in recent years, technology has allowed the combination of direct deposit and a debit card to replace going to the bank every week to cash paychecks and the need to carry around a wallet full of cash for groceries, gasoline and other common expenditures. But, how many people actually have a teller that can identify them? There is also the great convenience in the ability to immediately find a recipe, a book, a movie, a map, or other information online. But, something has been lost, and the members of Generation X are probably the last generation that will even notice it.
There is a different quality to social interactions today. The online community is anonymous, inherently disconnected, and is a poor replacement for the true community that existed in the days when most families would sit out on the porch for long hours on summer nights and actually talk to each other. Neighbors were friends, who would say hello to you and lend a hand while you worked on your car or keep you company while you trimmed the hedges. These things still happen sometimes, but it's different than it was. Connections are more tenuous than they were, and it’s highly likely that your next communication will occur via email, text message, Facebook post, or blog entry…
Daniel J. Foytik: Social Networking Sites and How They've Changed Us
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