I was intrigued by the article, “The Creep of Social Media Raises Big Questions” by Sherry Turkle. After reading it, I acknowledge that Turkle points out some valid criticisms of social media and their detrimental effects, yet I do not fully agree with the way she prefaces her argument. Basically, she points out how negatively social media is affecting society and more specifically, the social skills of mankind. She doesn’t necessarily encourage us to stop using social media but rather to question and evaluate their impacts.
Turkle begins by discussing the appeal or attraction of social media and how it has roped us all in. She points out the ease of “hiding” from others through social media because, let’s face it, communicating through the internet is easier and faster than face-to-face communication. Additionally, she suggests children may not be developing appropriate “negotiation skills” as well as general social skills that are acquired through communicating in person. It’s much easier to say things in a text message than face-to-face sometimes. Nowadays, everything is instantaneous; we expect immediate responses and become impatient when they don’t come. We also gauge our successes on our social media sites; some people believe how many Facebook friends or Twitter followers a person has correlates with his or her popularity. Whether that’s true or not, when we post on our social media sites, we expect others to like or respond to our posts. We are always waiting for the reactions and responses of others, which may not be healthy.
Turkle also points out that privacy is the foundation of democracy; obviously, social media has made privacy harder to come by. Others can have access to your photos, who you are friends with, where you work, and where you live. The issue of privacy is definitely not new to the discourse surrounding social media. What information should we be posting online? How do we know if a person is who they say they are? Privacy concerns have been one of the most publicly discussed topic in regards to social media. I’m sure we’ve all been warned at some point or another that that good-looking guy who follows us on Twitter could potentially be a fifty-year old man. Danah M. Boyd and Nicole B. Ellison discuss this issue of privacy in their article, “Social Network Sites,” where they explain the “privacy paradox” as teens not fully understanding how public the online world really is. Though, they go on to reveal that statistics show the majority of teens have profiles that actually are not viewable to everyone.
It’s interesting how throughout her article, Turkle seems to discuss social media as their own entity, independent of any human control. More specifically, in the first paragraph she personifies social media as some sort of lover who we are “smitten” with and is growing more and more attractive as time goes on. Immediately, I drew a connection between this article and Nancy Baym’s principle of Technological Determinism. Turkle is giving the technology itself all the power and assuming we cannot change its influence on us. While social media undoubtedly have an enormous impact on our lives whether we like it or not, her argument neglects the fact that we control social media. We created these sites and although they have become larger than life, we ultimately can control the way in which we use them. Turkle treats social media as an inevitable part of our world that could potentially harm us or bring us down. Sure, social media and their effects are inevitable but there are enormous benefits that have arose from this new era that we are living in.
When I think of the benefits of social media, the video, Anthropological Introduction to Youtube comes to mind. It portrays one of the most positive aspects of social media: communication with anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. Videos like, “Numa Numa,” go viral and transcend geographic boundaries. Whether I want to email someone sitting in the room next to me or on the other side of the world, it will still be immediate. The beauty of this instantaneous communication is that information can spread so quickly and effortlessly; if you have internet, you’re in the loop.
While I see what Turkle is getting at in her article, she neglects the fact that humans have an effect on the technology; it’s a two-way road. Social media are an integral part of our lives and have shaped the way we live but we are constantly changing technology to cater to our wants and needs. This dynamic is best known as Baym’s Social Shaping theory. We may spend more time these days staring into a screen but that’s not all technology’s fault because we, as humans, have created it.