Can Social Media Make You Lonely?

26 Apr

Whether or not social media make users feel more isolated has been debated at length recently in the mainstream media.  Sparked by an article in The Atlantic and an op-ed in The New York Times, this discussion has become fodder for almost every talk show, blog, and newspaper these past few weeks.  The question: Does using social media really makes us feel more lonely or is this just another example of how new technologies often get blamed for experiences that existed well before they were invented?

Certainly anecdotal evidence supports the theory that social media like Facebook and Twitter make us feel more isolated.  Sherry Turkle, a professor at MIT and author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other, enumerates various examples of technologically-induced disconnection in her op-ed.  “At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail,” exclaims Turkle.  “At work, executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates.”  She continues, “We expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship.”


Turkle expands upon the premise of her op-ed in this recent TED Talk.

In his Atlantic piece, writer Stephen Marche also explores anecdotal evidence of this loneliness phenomenon, but he cuts to the heart of the matter towards the end of his article:

“Loneliness is certainly not something that Facebook or Twitter or any of the lesser forms of social media is doing to us. We are doing it to ourselves. Casting technology as some vague, impersonal spirit of history forcing our actions is a weak excuse. We make decisions about how we use our machines, not the other way around.”

Many rebuttals to the theory that loneliness is caused by social media have been published recently. They argue that the web simply reinforces behaviors and habits we already possess. In fact, according to an article by Mathew Ingram, “If anything, online connections tend to spark or promote real-world connections.”

What are your thoughts on the matter? Does the internet cause feelings of isolation or do lonely people simply spend more time online?

How Has Social Media Changed Our Lives?

19 Apr

We already have discussed how social media has changed the way we are hired, how we connect with friends and family, and how businesses interact with customers.  Our daily lives, however, also have been changed in many less dramatic ways as social media has become commonplace in our society.

1. Bad Table Manners

Look around any restaurant and you will see diners with their faces illuminated by the glow of their smartphone screens, checking e-mail, taking pictures of their food, or Googling a fact brought up in conversation at the table.  In our connected world, it seems cell phone usage has become acceptable at the dinner table, sometimes to the detriment of face-to-face conversations.  Unless we are celebrating a special event (usually an anniversary), so many of us keep our cell phones face up on the table during a meal.  This practice has become so commonplace, The Los Angeles Times recently published an article detailing how restaurants either discourage or embrace the ubiquitous phone on the table.

2. Effortless Birthday Greetings

Gone are the days of sending a friend or family member a $3.29 Hallmark card through the mail to acknowledge a birthday.  Over the past few years, Facebook wall posts have become accepted as adequate expressions of birthday wishes.  Facebook also ensures special days aren’t forgotten by helpfully reminding us of upcoming birthdays.  The practice of Facebook birthday posts has become so widespread, a recent article on Social Media Today has detailed the proper etiquette of responding to the dozens of birthday greetings a typical Facebook user receives each year.

3. More Online Stalking

Before social media, a person might feel compelled to file for a restraining order when told they were being stalked by “friends” online.  These days, many awkward social interactions occur as a result of knowing too much about an acquaintance — but feigning ignorance to appear less like a creeper.  Sure, social media facilitates covert reconnaissance missions to learn more about an in-class crush.  In many cases, however, actual cyberstalking occurs, endangering the lives of those being watched.  The Guardian recently published an article enumerating these potential hazards.   Facebook check-ins and other “digital footprints,” for examples, might expose the locations of victims of domestic violence who are hiding from their abusers.

These are just a few ways our everyday lives have been transformed by social media.  Please share your examples in the comments below.

The Google+ Redesign: #whitespace Edition

12 Apr

Yesterday, Google unveiled a dramatically redesigned Google+.   The site now features a Facebook Timeline-style profile picture, a navigation “ribbon” on the left side of all pages, a new Explorer page that highlights trending content, and, most notably, a ton of white space.

The redesign has generated a hilarious reaction to a large amount of white space to the right of the friend feed: the meme #usesforwhitespace.

Senior Vice President of Social at Google, Vic Gundotra, has stated that Google has future plans for the the white space, but, contrary to speculation, that this space will not be used for advertisements. According to Gundotra, the redesign “accelerates our efforts to create a simpler, more beautiful Google.”

What do you think of this redesign? Does it entice you to finally join and use Google+?

This Post Brought to You By My Graduate Capstone!

5 Apr

The Antisocial Behavior blog will return next week, following the completion of my capstone project.  In the meantime, enjoy this meme!

Wish Facebook had a “dislike” button? Try EnemyGraph!

29 Mar

A new Facebook app, EnemyGraph, has been launched that allows users of the social network to declare people, brands, places (anything or anyone with a Facebook page) as “enemies.”

No "dislike" button on Facebook... yet.

For years, Facebook users have been clamoring for a “dislike” button to balance out the ubiquitous “like” button.  Since Facebook has remained steadfast in its refusal to create a “dislike” feature (perhaps to keep Facebook from becoming anti-social), Dean Terry and a team of his students at the University of Texas at Dallas decided to create the next best thing: the enemy list.

Trending enemies on EnemyGraph

According to its creators, EnemyGraph is a critique of the social philosophy of Facebook.  “One thing that has always struck me is the enforced niceness culture,” Terry told Mashable.  “We wanted to give people a chance to express dissonance as well.  We’re using the word enemy about as accurately as Facebook uses the word friend.”

“Most social networks attempt to connect people based on affinities: you like a certain band or film or sports team, I like them, therefore we should be friends. But people are also connected and motivated by things they dislike,” Terry said.  So EnemyGraph alerts you when a Facebook friend shares your dislike of something or someone.  Interestingly, the app also alerts you when a friend “likes” something you have declared an “enemy,” and vice versa.

Critics of EnemyGraph say it will increase incidents of cyberbullying and give advertisers a new category of personal information that might be more telling — and, therefore, more valuable — than the list of things you like.

Will you be using the EnemyGraph app?  Wish the app also included a “frenemies” list?  Share your thoughts!

Interview + Facebook = Illegal?

22 Mar

Perhaps it’s because I’m in the midst of a job search myself, but when I read a recent AP story about employers asking prospective employees to sign into their Facebook accounts during interviews, it really struck a chord with me.  Apparently, it also struck a chord with the ACLU.

The AP article tells the story of job hunters encountering this new practice:

“Bassett, a New York City statistician, had just finished answering a few character questions when the interviewer turned to her computer to search for his Facebook page. But she couldn’t see his private profile. She turned back and asked him to hand over his login information.  Bassett refused and withdrew his application, saying he didn’t want to work for a company that would seek such personal information.”

“Back in 2010, Robert Collins was returning to his job as a correctional officer at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services after taking a leave following his mother’s death. During a reinstatement interview, he was asked for his login and password, purportedly so the agency could check for any gang affiliations. He was stunned by the request but complied.   ‘I needed my job to feed my family. I had to,’ he recalled.”

According to a statement by attorney Catherine Crump of the ACLU, “It’s an invasion of privacy for private employers to insist on looking at people’s private Facebook pages as a condition of employment or consideration in an application process.”  For this reason, Maryland currently is considering an ACLU-backed piece of legislation that would make it illegal for employers to ask you for log-in information for personal online accounts; a similar legislative measure also was just introduced in Illinois.

Many employers argue that giving them Facebook account information is “voluntary.”  However, as Lori Andrews, a law professor at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, states in the AP article, “Volunteering is coercion if you need a job.”

Ironically, it’s technically against Facebook’s Terms of Service to share a password.

This trend comes as more and more companies are using third-party applications like BeKnown to scour the Facebook profiles of job seekers.

How would you respond if a potential employer asked for your Facebook username and password during an interview?

FRIDAY UPDATE: Facebook’s chief privacy officer, Erin Egan, has responded to the controversial practice: In recent months, we’ve seen a distressing increase in reports of employers or others seeking to gain inappropriate access to people’s Facebook profiles or private information.  This practice undermines the privacy expectations and the security of both the user and the user’s friends.  It also potentially exposes the employer who seeks this access to unanticipated legal liability.”

How… Interesting!

9 Mar

While the headline dominating the technology world is the recent surprise unveiling of the “New iPad,” one of the biggest stories in the social media world—hot off the presses—is a new Facebook feature: interest lists.

The interest list made what looked like a premature debut a few days ago, but the feature officially launched just a number of hours ago. What are interest lists? In a blog post, Facebook explained it this way: “Interest lists can help you turn Facebook into your own personalized newspaper, with special sections—or feeds—for topics that matter to you.”

Interest lists allow you to create and subscribe to feeds based on any number of topics, a feature which greatly resembles Twitter lists.  Much like creating a photo album on Facebook, the platform will guide users through a number of steps, from choosing their friends, pages, and subscriptions, to adding people and pages recommended by Facebook.  Once you create your first list, an “Interests” tab will appear on the left-hand side of your newsfeed.  There will be the option to keep these lists private… or however private something you post on Facebook can be!

As this online article points out, Facebook users have the potential to become annoyed by the increased frequency of page updates that appear on their main Facebook newsfeeds.  The author cautions that Facebook users will need to limit their subscriptions lest they become overwhelmed with content.

Facebook will be rolling out the interest list feature for users in the next few weeks.  Will you be using it?