The Negative Impact Of Social Networking Sites On Society [Opinion]

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negative impact of social networking sitesI have accounts on several social networking sites, and spend far too long on them writing my own updates and reading the updates of others. I enjoy doing so, being able to interact with friends, family, and random strangers online in a controlled environment. For someone who works at home, this is a big positive.

However, social networking sites aren’t a wholly positive influence on the world. In fact, if you delve just a little into how they have changed the world you find there are some potentially negative impacts social networking sites are having on society as a whole and each of us as individuals.

Friends?

negative impact of social networking sites

The idea of ‘friends‘ was once very simple. If you knew someone, hung out with them regularly, and liked their company then they were a friend. While the people who still fit that description are still your friends, so are the people you have connected with on social networking sites apparently. Whether you talk to them, care about what they’re up to, or have any interest in them whatsoever, they’re still listed as friends.

This has muddied the waters considerably. I know several people who have thousands of friends on social networking sites. Do they really? Or do they in fact have a dozen real friends and hundreds of people they have met once and then added to their Facebook or Google+? I suspect future generations will be unable to distinguish between meaningful relationships and casual acquaintances.

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Self-Centered Attention-Seeking

pros and cons of social networking

We all like to talk about ourselves or the things which interest us, which is the most basic reason social networking sites work. Those who shy away from doing so are unlikely to be on Facebook or Twitter, or if they are, their accounts will likely be sitting unloved and untouched. But there is passing on important news and telling anecdotes that will interest people, and then there is detailing every single aspect of your life, no matter how dull or uninteresting it may be.

Social networking sites bring out this side in many people, turning them into crashing bores who will detail what they ate for breakfast and the manner in which their body expelled it several hours later. Youngsters especially could become convinced that they are more important than anyone else, and that what they have to say should be read and responded to by a wider audience. There is also vaguebooking, which is a crime in its own right.

Short Attention Spans

pros and cons of social networking

If you’re anything like me you will have noticed your attention span shortening in recent years. I can safely say that since the arrival of the Internet, and of social networking sites in particular, my mind flits between things at a faster rate than it once did. There is so much information to consume that we rarely spend any time exploring any of it in great depth.

All social networking sites add to this information overload to a certain extent but Twitter is the main culprit. People are condensing everything down to 140 characters or less, so when it comes time to actually read anything longer than that, it takes a change of pace and a change of mindset to do so. I suspect you’re even skim-reading this article. I’m not offended, we all do it, but it’s another way in which social networking sites have had a negative impact on society.

Causing Distraction & Harming Productivity

pros and cons of social networking

I work from home as a freelance writer. I love my job, but sometimes it’s hard to stay focused and on track. Especially when you work on the Web and cannot help but be surrounded by sites trying to seduce you into wasting time. Social networking sites are some of the worst offenders. Purely because they’re a constant stream of news and views from people who, for the most part, you want to listen to.

Then there are the games, such as Angry Birds, Facebook Scrabble, and Zynga Poker, which tempt you into playing for five minutes and end up consuming your whole afternoon. If you have a whole afternoon to spare then great, no harm done. But what about those working or studying? The distraction is harmful to productivity, and isn’t going to do society any good in the long term.

Breaking Up Relationships

social networking sites advantages and disadvantages

Reconnecting with old friends from school may seem a nice idea, and in many ways it is. You have a lot to talk about, stories to tell, reminiscences to bond over. But you may reconnect with someone you once adored from afar. And now that you’re all grown-up you may get the urge to explore feelings that went unrequited 20 or 30 years ago. If you’re already in a relationship this could spell disaster.

It isn’t just old flames, either. People use social networking sites to hook up. Even if it’s a hook up of the extra-marital variety. I hate to think of the number of relationships and even marriages that have ended as a result of social networking. And when they do, where is the first place people share the news? On that same social networking site, of course.

Over-Sharing & Loss of Privacy

negative impact of social networking sites

This is perhaps the biggest impact for the worse that social networking as a whole is having on society. The very concept of privacy seems to be inexorably eroding, and at a fantastic pace. Those of us who are connected to the Internet are connected 24/7, and we have immersed ourselves in an extension of society in which privacy is not treated with the high regard it is offline.

It isn’t just social networks that are to blame for this, but Facebook has led the way in showing how powerful a tool it can be in coercing people to happily give up personal information. Most of us list our full name and birthday, reveal who our family members are, share our work history, our hobbies and interests, and even what we like and dislike. And we’re doing so without any kind of prodding or pushing.

Most people would rightly refuse to walk around with a billboard attached to their front revealing all and sundry to the world. Yet we do just that on social networking sites. A dream for advertisers and marketers, but a nightmare for the rest of us.

Conclusions

Do you still think social networking sites are, at worst nothing to worry about, at best wholly positive influences on humanity? If so then I’ll be amazed, but I would love to hear your reasoning about these negative impacts of social networking sites. Will any of this make me delete my Facebook and Twitter accounts? Of course not, but it does make me a little more cautious about how (and how often) I use them.

Image Credits: Beck Tench, Marion Doss, Todd Dwyer, woodleywonderworks, underminingme, Cosmic Kitty, Sean MacEntee

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34 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Humza

Being “unable to distinguish between meaningful relationships and casual acquaintances”, that’s quite a strong point.
Liked your opinion. As always :)

Dave Parrack

Thanks, Humza. I’m glad you enjoyed the read :)

Gabriela

A be ne e covek da si go kaze mislenjeto ako kazvua site velat deka mnogu go tupi ili deka se zaglavil vo nekakvi klsea Naj golemite kriticari ustvari usta ne otvaraat koga treba da si go kazat svoeto mislenje se dodeka ne se vo sostojba da go isplukaat nekogo So eden zbor KRITICARI ve molam za sopstveno mislenje!

Reply

Clark

Excellent article. Nothing good can come from a person’s self worth being determined by the size of a number under the word “friends”.

Dave Parrack

Thanks, Clark. I agree, it is just a number. It’s impossible to maintain friendships with so many individuals.

luffy-san

I do like your comment, no one can maintain all of these friendships :D

Ricardo

Hey man, I’ve been watching your tutraiols for a few months now, and seeing this new video gave me an idea. The newbostin should do music lessons as well. I would love to do tutraiols in music and music theory for you. I know all of it, and took a few classes for it myself. I was a private tutor for over a year, and am now looking to? the Internet to teach people. Message me back to tell me if your interested or not, and what you think of this idea

Novelie

Actually, if you use this social neroitkwng sites for your advantages it would be much wiser. Especially when owning a small business. This place will be perfect for you to promote and get exposure for your company.

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jack

very valid points indeed. although there are some very good uses of social media such as the revolution in Egypt and other countries. it also helps news spread faster than ever….but then again this is social media, so most of it will be pointless.

Dave Parrack

There are definitely positives. I’ve already written an article taking the opposite viewpoint. I didn’t mention the various uprisings though because it risks turning into a political debate. But it’s a valid point :)

human person with a brain that functions normally

who says these uprisings are good? it looks like just a bunch of violence to me. just transfering power. egypt didn’t benefit, they’re implementing sharia (spelling) law. that is the opposite of liberal, if that is what uprising supporters are. besides, one day some other group will just overthrow them and that generation will call it “good”.

human person with a brain that functions normally

who says these uprisings are good? it looks like just a bunch of violence to me. just transfering power. egypt didn’t benefit, they’re implementing sharia (spelling) law. that is the opposite of liberal, if that is what uprising supporters are. besides, one day some other group will just overthrow them and that generation will call it “good”.

Reply

Outre

To me the problems with social networking are the same problems that happened with ANY online “community” that was mainstream.

Advertisers pushing big bucks at whichever it most popular NOW to control where/what/how users are allowed to interact.

We’ll NEVER know how social networking could have evolved without the influence of big business dollars.

Some day some bright young thing will figure out how to let the users be users while using advertising dollars to improve, but not control, the medium.

Dave Parrack

Are you referring to one social networking site in particular? I must admit I don’t even notice the ads on Facebook these days. My mind has evolved to tune them out.

Outre

Not particularly.

I started on the Internet back when it was just Compuserve, Prodigy, and Delphi. And remember, we paid for access back then hourly and then $9.95 for five hours on AOL until they went flat-rate in 1996 with the $19.95 a month plan.

As soon as AOL hit our rural area I was on it and witnessed the changes from a fluid and vital community into a stagnant morass of “rules” where the breast cancer survivors couldn’t even use the word “breast” in their stories, and users were denied the ability to start forums of their own unless “sponsored”.

It was “sponsors” and “advertisers” who changed it – from the view of a USER – for the worst.

So many sponsors and advertisers just cannot get the SIMPLE truth through their thick skulls.

It’s about the end USER stupid

The worth of their stupid glitzy ad campaigns, contests, dinners, parties, etc., etc. ad nauseam, are really only interesting to their niche, their tiny little world of product or brand marketers.

The continued “think” to treat consumers as ATM machines for companies, or, as serfs who dump all of their earnings into corporate pockets (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marketing) is what ruins many good services that may have evolved and in turn – evolved people.

Dave Parrack

I’m not sure how many social networking sites are controlled by advertisers and marketers. Sure, it exists, but control is a strong word.

It would have been interesting to see how the Web developed without money entering into the equation but it clearly wouldn’t be the behemoth it has evolved in to.

Outre

Advertising dollars have been controlling media since the 40s.

Who are YOU trying to fool?

I am so sick of the “elders” who think they “know what’s best” outright lying to the younger people.

And yes, your misrepresentational talk IS lying.

The following statement of yours is just ridiculous in it’s falsehood…

“It would have been interesting to see how the Web developed without money entering into the equation but it clearly wouldn’t be the behemoth it has evolved in to”

The web was a behemoth BEFORE big money entered the picture. It was out of control and that scared a lot of people. Politicians for obvious reasons and corporations because they were getting behind.

Big industry in fear? Let’s try the music industry who had pretty much sewn up how music got created and distributed before the Internet.

The Internet scared them so badly their mission became to brainwash the young so completely into thinking they “needed” them to “make big bucks”, except, the artists NEVER make big bucks from companies like Sony, No, instead artists are indentured SERVANTS to the music industry.

The Internet could and is setting artists free to make their own way and the hell with big vampirish corporations and the people that invest in them.

You sir, need to get a tiny shred of integrity and honesty. Stop lying to protect your pitiful interests.

Dave Parrack

I can safely say I have never been compared to The Man before. I am merely a working prole, I’m not trying to fool anyone, I don’t assume I know what’s best, and I’m not lying. I merely have a different opinion than you.

The Web, and the wider Internet, would be very different without advertising dollars. MakeUseOf wouldn’t exist for starters. Everyone has bills to pay and cannot afford to create thoughtful content as a hobby.

The Internet has shaken the system up, especially when it comes to the big corporations in charge of music and movies. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing.

Yunita

Razgovor v skype ne moje da se podslushva, moje samo da se rarbzee sourse i destination IP, Chat v skype syshto ne moje da se sniff taka che spokoino, no moje naistina da se collect info na izprateni failove. Ako niakoi polzva Internet za neshto neredno, nishto niama da mu struva da prochete za 1-2 chasa kak da si Crypt infoto, koeto syotvetno da stane nevyzmojno za prihvashtachi , Iskam da kaja kakvo predstavliava internet na gospodata policai Vrata nasred poleto !!! tova e internet, taka e zamislen i e kysno da se promenia kakvoto i da e. Router + Storage Server za kanal 100 Mbita za archives na celia traffik 6 meseca nazad spored men o pochti milion US$ Za izpylnenie na proekta za ciala Bulgaria parite sa nevyzmojno mnogo. Situaciata e Absurdna taka che za men lichno cialata patardia e prosto medien shum i nishto poveche, neznam s kakva cel.

Reply

Alexandra

you guys suck…all i want to do is get on fb thats all!!!

Dave Parrack

No one is stopping you getting on Facebook. But it’s worthwhile at least considering the effect sites such as Facebook are having on society as a whole.

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Ryan Dube

Great article Dave – I think you hit on all of the most important factors that really can make any social network harmful. For me I’ve seen just how severely it can wipe out productive time – sometimes “Facebooking” can make an hour or more melt away. It’s like spending too much time at the water-cooler and realizing you’ve got a ton of work left to do and not enough time to do it. FB really is for people with the discipline to know how to use it, and unfortunately, not many people have that discipline.

Dave Parrack

I certainly don’t have that discipline. Social networking can be very addictive. Thanks for the comment, Ryan.

Omar

I have actually pleyad internet pool on yahoo and met a really good guy for a bit. Then internet poker on facebook (that was good). But my friends have found eharmony to be good if your into paying. You can meet good guys everywhere you just need to be open. However be careful there are bad guys out there so be on the watch out.

Reply

the-social-nerd

I love this article! Impacts on society in a nutshell. Are you familiar with a TED talk that pretty much addresses this issue too? it’s basically how technology and indirectly, social media has made us less connected?

http://mashable.com/2012/03/01/social-media-less-connected/

I truly fear that technology& social media will further encourage the ego and will eventually further demoralize us.

Dave Parrack

Thanks for the link. There is certainly something in that. The more time I spend online the less comfortable I become in normal social situations.

Reply

Abhineet

I have never vaguebooked. The article has its valid points. But look, I use facebook as an e-mail account more and to reach people in common lot. I am more of a blogger, use tumblr more often. And yes, displaying likes etc did bother me a lot too!

Dave Parrack

It’s good to hear you have never vaguebooked, Abhineet :)

Reply

Tinni

Both.Hindrance:No one seems to want to meet in person anymroe to talk because there are things such as FB, Skype, MyYearbook, and things such as that.Advantage:Easy connection with people that you haven’t talked to in a while. You merely have to type in a person’s name and can typically find them on one of the social networking sites that you frequent, meaning that if you lose someone’s number or address, you can still keep in touch.

Reply

Udari Gamage

Absolutely they are sort of time waster for everybody.

Reply

Jo

Dave,
Good article. Is it social sites or the internet in general
that is causing our distracted society? I believe that being
connected constantly is the problem be it Facebook,Twitter,
texting or any other online activity. As far as Facebook is
concerned I am not a member but my wife is and constantly
updates “friends” on what we are up to. So much for my
privacy!

Dave Parrack

Social networking sites tend to have high engagement levels so they’re probably the worst offenders. But the Internet as a whole isn’t blameless.

That’s an interesting point, you have actively opted out and yet you still lose your privacy thanks to your partner. There’s very little you can do about that unfortunately.

Reply

MUO Fan

I’m a shy person by nature. But I find more and more that people I try to connect with in “the real world” won’t even bother with anyone who doesn’t have social networking sites, which I don’t. Seems sad and kind of ironic, since weren’t these sites the product of lonely Lambda Lambdas like me whose number of friends ranged between 0 and 1? ;-)

Nobody calls anymore, writes letters or heartfelt notes, and few people if anyone even email — it almost seems like people have e-mail these days just because you need one to sign up for social network sites (do people even use IMs anymore?). Seems like a misnomer to call it social when this isn’t really socializing; it’s “info dump.” Years ago this stuff used to be called spam; now, Facebook is probably sponsored by Spam — boy, talk about a meat market. Paging Dr. Seuss: “I do not like Angry Birds and Spam, I do not “Like” them, Scam-I-Am.” ;-)

The other misnomer is that Facebook calls one part of the site a “news” section — really, “Fido is at the hydrant, Fluffy is at the litterbox and I’m in the can” is news? Huntley and Brinkley must be rolling in their graves! I guess people who don’t post to the news feed for a day or two must need more fiber in their diet? ;-)

Reply

Aseem Sharma

Mr. Parrack
Do you mind if I use your views as a reference and an acknowledgement in my presentation that’s going on? Hoping for a reply that’s positive. thank
you.
Sincerely,
Aseem Sharma

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