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Social Media and Communication

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There can be no argument that technology has had a major impact on the world and how it communicates. The accessibility that one has to the internet through smart phones, tablets, computers, and other mobile devices has made accessing information and connecting with people a touch away in some cases. For better or worse, people are communicating almost all day every day through texting, e-mail, and the ever-expanding social media. Because it has had such a recent explosion in popularity and usage, social media has become the new norm when it comes to communicating everything from huge life events like engagements and the birth of children to minute details like what one ate for dinner. Social media has had one of the most significant impacts on how people communicate within the past decade.

Introduction to Social Media

The social media explosion includes several different sites. Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, blogs, and Pinterest are among the more popular and widely-used media sites that have significantly changed communication for people in the 21st century. They all have unique qualities and attributes that attract different types of users, but all allow people to connect, network, and socialize with others who they otherwise would not had there not been a site to do so. For example, before the social media frenzy, it would not be uncommon for one to graduate from high school or college and lose contact with friends. Families, who lived on opposite sides of the country, and possibly even the globe, would have to spend money on long-distance phone calls or patiently wait for mail to be delivered. Military families would also go longer periods of time between communications. With the media websites listed above, not only can they communicate through chat and messaging, they can also share pictures and videos.

Facebook and MySpace

Facebook allows users to send and accept "friend requests" which will enable others to access their page to view status updates, pictures, videos, and where the user has "checked in" recently. When it was originally created, one had to have a valid college e-mail address in order to sign up for an account. Over time, the requirements have changed and pretty much anyone who can use a computer can create an account and start adding friends. When reading through one's News Feed, there are options to "like" and comment on someone else's statuses and photos. The user has the power to remove any unwanted comments and can even report someone for abuse should cyber-bullying occur. Of course, each user can control who he or she is friends with, how much access they have to his or her page, and who can even search for them.

MySpace is a social media site that allows users to create their own profiles and network with others. It has three distinct functions in the bulletin board, blog posts, and music applications. In the blog posting area one can write your own post without hosting a blog, and can also add music to his or her profile. Anyone can access a user's profile, and while the user can control who he or she is friends with, there isn't as much security as anyone can access your basic information. MySpace has declined in popularity due to Facebook's arrival, even though the two are very similar.

Facebook and MySpace have changed the way that people communicate in a variety of ways. To begin, it has allowed people to keep in contact with those that time and distance may have otherwise kept apart. Just by providing the opportunity and opening that door, communication with others has improved the line of communication that may otherwise have been lost. It also allows people to update others on their lives in a quickly. For instance, if someone gets engaged announcing it is as simple as updating a status or even just changing their relationship status from "dating" to "engaged." At that moment, every person who one is friends with knows the news. It is same with sharing any piece of information. With the click of a mouse friends and family can be up-to-date on the happenings of those they care about. This has broadened the scope of how quickly communication can happen between loved ones. According to research, "although online communication can lack characteristics of traditional face-to-face encounters, such as physical proximity and personal appearance, people in online arenas are still able to reduce uncertainty about individuals they encounter over the web" (Palmieri, Prestano, Gandley, Overton & Qin, 2012).

Both of these sites also allow people to chat instantly. If one or more of a user's friends are online, they can quickly type each other messages back and forth, much like they would converse if they were texting. This allows for a more personal conversation than just posting on someone's wall for the world to see. This type of communication can be done quickly and is much like a conversation would take place. Much like texting, messaging can have its own language with abbreviations like "brb" for "be right back," 'ttyl" for "talk to you later," and of course, "lol" for "laughing out loud." These terms have even become mainstreamed in the English language in some social circles. There is no question that chatting online has impacted the way that people communicate with one another.

Some would argue that these changes are not good, and are actually detrimental to communication. As with anything that is written, sometimes a person's tone does not come through in what he or she writes as a status update, comment, or through chat. Someone could make a comment that they mean to be taken as a joke, only for it to cause hurt because the intent was unknown. People can also abuse the fact that so many people will see what is written on a post and use the platform to hurt other people. The Journal of Media Research states that "social networking sites are also increasingly becoming sites of social anxiety, manifested in the prominence of news related issues of online privacy, violence, personal and financial risks, but also fears connected to company and government intervention and interference in the world of social networking" (Vincze, 2011). While these sites have made it easy for people to share big news quickly with a lot of people at once, it takes away from the personal connection that comes with telling someone good news face to face. It can also be hurtful to learn something personal about a family member along with the rest of the world. While allowing for the expansion and accessibility of communication, the argument can be made that it has also made communication impersonal and devalued.

It could also be argued that Facebook



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