“These days, many of us spend more time online than we do in real life.” Lectures, conferences, and birthday parties all take place in confined rectangles. And, after a long day of looking at a screen, a lot of us switch to a different computer.
This is thrilling entertainment in the new digital era.” Simply said, digital life is real life. The reality of living with tech, particularly in computerized/digital form, is sometimes referred to as a stoked reality (Jurgenson, 2012a), which suggests that digital technology has significantly enriched, or stoked the landscape.
This happens all the time for those who live in technologically advanced cultures. However, prior to the period of robotization, life had been fueled by technology.
From the beginning of time, mortal creatures have produced tools that allow them to build harbors, utilize fire, inhabit the natural environment, communicate with one another, and protect their homes — in essence, to do whatever it takes to exist.
As discussed in Chapter 2 of Superconnected, the emergence of spoken and written languages enabled humans to make less sense of the raw marvels they faced every day and to communicate in increasingly abstract and complicated ways across time and distance. People have long employed tools and technology to build and strengthen their communities. All types of ICTs facilitate the propagation of generalities and ideas in modern society.
A lot of the original excitement around social media platforms over the last few decades arose from a rather idealistic notion of their capacity to facilitate interactions that would otherwise be difficult or impossible. Individuals can use social media to “meet,” connect, and work with others in organizations and countries that would otherwise be inaccessible. Microblogs, for example, facilitated certain political activities in the Middle East during Arab Spring in 2011, while social networking sites allow people with uncommon medical disorders to share information and support. Online contacts are at the root of the establishment of new organizations as well as the emergence of fresh social links among existing communities.
Online experiences, as well as the social connections and settings made possible by digital technology, are key components of modern techno-social life, in which people’s reactions are authentic, meaningful, and frequently deep. Our minds and bodies think, feel, and behave when we are online. We may feel physiological exhaustion or discomfort, worry or be thrilled, make a friend or become embroiled in an argument, strengthen or break a connection. What a person does online has an impact on the rest of their life because it is a part of their life, not something distinct from it.
It is also critical to think about and characterise this environment in ways that emphasise its authenticity—for example, do not refer to the face-to-face realm as IRL (which means “in real life” and incorrectly supports the notion that the face-to-face sphere is more genuine than the digital).
I heard several stories of how unexpectedly deep and honest these ties may become in my interviews with people who locate and create friendships through the internet. For example, a member of an academic online community told me something that I’ve grown to recognise and occasionally really enjoy.
This has nothing to do with spelling, mental acuity, or even the depth of one’s religion. I guess what attracted me to some of the folks here is their sincerity and openness to be flawed. Even those I don’t really care for have touched my heart to the point where I worry about them and wish I could reach out to them over the computer and aid them in some way. It’s astonishing how real some of these remote, invisible, and usually nameless message board posters have become. They are, of course, genuine! Chayko (2002), p. 114.
There is a long-held, widespread myth that social media-enabled online interactions replace, compete with, or otherwise decrease traditional relationships (Wang & Wellman, 2010). One prevalent issue is that kids are not gaining crucial communication and social skills since they exclusively connect through social media features such as pokes, tweets, and SMS. Similar issues have been raised concerning social gatherings in public places such as restaurants and parks when people are present but ignoring one another because they are distracted by their mobile devices. Such tales reinforce the notion that online social media interactions may replace and harm offline engagement and relationships.
Although there are circumstances in which social media networks permit new and/or replace offline interactions, it is more frequent for online relationships to supplement offline ones (Wang & Wellman, 2010). In the 1980s and 1990s, studies of online communities, email, and discussion forums suggested that social media-enabled online relationships were poor substitutes, associated with dysfunctional interaction behaviors (e.g., flaming), loss of identity cues, feeble relationships with family members living under the same roof, smaller friendship groups, and increased levels of depression and hopelessness.
The genuine and intensely specific quality of the connections and communities developed in digital places has been a recurring topic throughout my investigation. Somebody also told me that they believed they could get to know people very well merely by meeting them online, without any face-to-face interaction. One young woman wondered in answer to my request for a description of the “specific” character of the internet connection,
How can it be specific? It appears to be so. “Oh, gosh,” somebody exclaimed. “Oh well, I met him properly,” I wouldn’t say. “Oh sure, I know him,” I’d say. Chayko (2002), p. 86
Because online social relationships are commonly perceived as totally genuine and highly personal, it’s just a matter of time before we view digitally met persons to be present. The internet and digital media lubricate our perception and experience of proximity and presence in ways that go beyond the tangible. Those with whom we engage online are usually regarded to be “truly there.”
This impression that the other is “really present” is referred to as social presence. According to communication researchers John Short, Ederyn Williams, and Bruce Christie’s social presence thesis, a communication medium might give its druggies various ways to become fearful of one another’s presence. They can become acquainted with one another’s rates, traits, and inner nations, and they can begin to recognise and observe one another as socially present ( Short, Williams, & Christie, 1976).
This notion, which predated the internet and digital media, has now been simplified to describe the various ways in which individuals may utilise modern technologies to be cognitively present to one another even when they are physically apart (see Chayko, 2002). Perceived propinquity refers to feeling the nearness or presence of individuals across distances (O’Leary, Wilson, & Metiu, 2014), while electronic contiguity refers to when electronic medium helps the connection ( Korzenny, 1978; Walther & Barazova, 2008). Professors of business Michael O’Leary, Jeanne Wilson, and Anca Metiu established in a large-scale international investigation that associates working hundreds of long hauls separately from one another communicated as frequently, on average, as associates who were located in the same office.
Furthermore, colleagues separated by distance reported the same sensation of cognitive and affective intimacy as those who worked together in the same location. Individualities at work, according to the experimenters, can create strong links while being separated by similar commodities that have been set up when popular culture acts as an intermediary between physically separated people. Addicts who have shared interests in a TV show, movie, or style of music can develop a strong feeling of personal identity and community.
They, too, may begin to believe that they share a social world with one another. Artistic items and votes that might generate comparable participation among drug users have a high probability of becoming popular. Professor of communication and media Henry Jenkins refers to this as “the art of world-making” ( 2006,p. 21; for further on this, see Chapter 9 of Superconnected).
Close relationships are defined by greater self-disclosure and the exchange of personal facts over time. However, the lack of face-to-face connection affects verification of the information transmitted. Individuals can therefore easily construct false or misleading representations of themselves, supply false or misleading information, or purposely omit particular facts to reap personal gains. Some social media platforms are even designed to conceal an individual’s genuine identity. Individuals in Virtual Worlds and other virtual worlds, for example, are represented by avatars whose visual image is purely fictitious. However, whether deliberate or unintentional, lying regarding self-identity can have negative consequences in the context of relationships. As a result, deception – which is easy to accomplish on social media networks – may result in the relationship being terminated.
Time spent online frequently has a personal, emotionally rich dynamic. Intimacies and emotions are freely and nearly quickly communicated online. In fact, they operate as a “glue” for the connections that develop there. This “emotional glue” is especially vital when there is no “physical glue” provided by face-to-face engagement. Digital settings and the events that occur inside them may be incredibly, and perhaps unexpectedly, intimate. Humans are incredibly creative in locating and developing connection, particularly in digital environments, as social animals that want interpersonal proximity.
While a wide range of connections may emerge online, encompassing the gamut of human intimacy, even the most transient of interactions can be incredibly intimate when individuals engaged reveal a great lot about themselves and believe they have come to learn a great deal about the other person as well. Personal transparency and understanding, as well as the good evolution of a relationship (even if it does not turn out to be particularly long-term), are what make it intimate and meaningful. Short-term relationships may be as intimate as they are casual.
Ending a relationship on social media requires no effort or direct interest. However, the reasons for ending a virtual relationship are generally less likely to be related to problems between relationship partners. Conflicts involving personal dispositions (e.g., one of the parties being inconsiderate) or particular actions (e.g., being late) may be less important in social media platforms, however excessive engagement might be regarded as unpleasant and lead to the dissolution of a relationship. Individuals are also more inclined to stop a relationship formally as a result of information overload produced by a partner’s intensive communication activities, such as a steady stream of Twitter messages or Facebook updates.
The human urge and desire to develop intimate relationships is so strong that it occurs frequently and easily online. Smartphones and social media play an important role in this. Because many individuals carry cellphones with them everywhere they go, they may utilise brief moments to check in on others and/or share updates, whether through Facebook, Twitter, or another social media site. Surprisingly, this is also how intimacy develops face-to-face—in little, everyday moments of connection as well as major gestures and events.
And, with a device to connect and network constantly at hand, it has never been simpler to stay in touch with others, even a huge number of people, and to discover that closeness has formed, sometimes very unexpectedly and quickly (see Chayko, 2002, 2008; Fortunati, 2002; Fox, 2001).
Analyzing the use and impact of social media networks, on the other hand, demands realising that human communication is not a single mechanical activity. What information is conveyed, what contact happens, and how that information sharing influences individuals and their behaviour are all influenced by the connections that people have with one another. Social media use and the connections it fosters exist alongside family relationships, professional ties, partnerships, acquaintance relationships, and friendships.
Understanding social media platforms’ full potential, influence, and limits involves an analysis of how they are affected by and effect human connections. Social media networks are crucial for more than simply information transmission because of the ways they leverage and reshape connections.