Some Dangers of Online Social Networks, Essay Example

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Words: 1683

Essay

Summary Section

In the article “Why Facebook Might Not Be Good for You: Some Dangers of Online Social Networks,” The author argues that social network use can be detrimental to the development of young people. The author uses the abbreviation OSN, to define online social network. He uses a 2006 study to demonstrate the prominence of social online networks in society. Gardner’s mentions a study done by the Pew Internet Project, in which the group examined the social impact of the Internet and found “that 55 percent of online teens have created a personal profile on OSNs and that 48 percent of teens visit social networking Web sites daily, with 22 percent visiting several times a day (Gardner, p1).”

Thesis Statement:

Gardner’s main argument is that OSN’s are detrimental to young people developing social skills because they deprive them of being able to communicate through alternative means such as facial recognition and body language; but while I agree it poses a threat, I disagree with his explanation for why this happens as he fails to acknowledge forms of communication are currently done online through web conferencing tools like Skype and Facebook video chat. This leads me to believe that Gardiner’s position is outdated, and lacks relevance to modern times.

Response Section:

Gardner establishes the prominence and significance of social networks in society and makes them a valuable topic for discussion. I believe he does a good job at  expressing the obsession adolescents have with Facebook. He refers to it specifically as “Facebook trance,” and I am familiar with what he is referring to, as I have seen it before. It’s true that sites like Facebook put users in such a euphoric states that they lose track of time. Gardner says, “With the use of OSNs increasing among young people, the term ‘Facebook trance’ has emerged to describe a person who loses all track of time and stares at the screen for hours (Copeland) (Gardner, p2).” I think this data brings to question what are the negative effects of Facebook and other social network use?

Anything that demands enough of one’s attention for them to lose track of time, must be assessed for educational and social value, or its lack thereof. In his article Gardner addresses the overall benefit of social networks. He acknowledges that OSNs do have a social benefit; but he says they also have downsides like the effect they have on grades. One study he mentions shows a direct connection between the amount of time spent online on OSNs and a decline in grades (Gardner, p3). The research mentioned involved a study conducted on students that attend Fresno State University that found that, “for some users ‘over-dependence on online relationships may result in significant problems with real-life interpersonal and occupational functioning’ (381).” I found this study to be interesting, and even more interesting that he mentions the negative effect it has on occupational performance. Looking deeper into this concept, I found an article by Christine Rosen that supports Gardner’s position that social networks can have a negative impact not just on adolescents in High School but on adults in their occupations as well.  In her The New Atlantic Article, “friendship and new Narcissism,” she suggested that there are professional risks for putting too much information on the social network sites. A survey conducted in 2006 by the researchers at the University of Dayton found that “40 percent of employers say that they would consider a Facebook profile for a potential employee as part of their hiring decision, and several reported rescinding offers after checking out Facebook (p25).” Both studies mentioned by Rosen and Gardner are very telling. I think they make it very clear that social networks pose a threat to professional and academic success. I actually do not oppose this view. What I do disagree with is Gardner’s explanation for why this happens.

It is Gardner’s view that the aspect of isolation that social networks impose on individuals creates a reality where there is no authentic engagement between them and the real world. Gardner notes studies, “finding that face-to-face friendships are more rich and divers in quality,”  this leads him to the conclusion that OSN relationships are of lesser value due to their lack of alternative communication outlets. The author goes on to point out a study that finds that 65 percent to 93 percent of “the total meaning of communication” is established through non-verbal interaction (p4). The simple fact that people on OSNs, according to Gardner, only chat through text, means they are lacking almost 93% of communicative substance in their social interactions. This makes it very easy for me to understand why Gardner suggests that individuals who rely solely on social networks for interacting have severely malnourished communication skills. Once again I look deeper into Gardner’s message and find Rosen supports the notion of individuals losing touch with reality and natural human engagement. In Christine Rosen’s The New Atlantis Article “Image Culture,” she suggests that the mass production of digital photos in contemporary society has diluted the natural ability of human beings to analyze images, and corrupted how people perceive themselves. This includes what is means to be adult, but also what it means to be human.  She notes that images once perceived as shocking are now mundane in a society oversaturated with enhanced and doctored photos all ranked and measured based on their shock value (Rosen, p27). This view supports Gardner’s position, by suggesting that these sites prevent young people from developing adult identities.

I don’t disagree with either author in terms of the possibility of Facebook being the cause for social isolation and lower academic and professional performance being the effect. My problem with their arguments is that they fail to acknowledge technological advancements that allow for alternative forms of communication. I believe that in many ways social networks enhance and create social interactions in areas where, before their inception, there would be no communication. Many of my good friends who I haven’t seen for years, I still talk to as though I just recently spent time with them in person. The reason I feel so close to them is because I can chat with them online and see their photos. It keeps their memory and presence in fresh in my life and mind. The authors also don’t acknowledge the power that video chat has on social interaction. Many companies are now doing web conferencing and higher employees through telecommute methods globally that they otherwise might not have been able to hire. In this way Facebook is creating more opportunities for people professionally as opposed to limiting them.

Gardner believes that studies show social network users do not really communicate with friends online, but fight for attention and popularity, which is a completely different form of relationship building. “Melissa Ludwig states that OSNs have ‘gone beyond touching base with friends to an arena where people vie for the most digital friends, the best videos, the coolest sites, and the biggest audience’ (Gardner, p5).” This form of communication is more a of a media to audience engagement than an interaction. The users are projecting their views in the form of content onto their audiences, with no real regard for feedback. Gardner notes, “the popularity of OSNs is partly the result of young people’s finding an online way to express their narcissistic tendencies. The sites may contribute to self-expressions more than connection and friendship (Gardner, p5).”The final danger Gardner identifies as the placing of certain content on social network sites that users later regret. Gardner points out how some college athletic teams are already starting to ban the use of social network sites by their players. Gardner concludes his argument with the assessment that young people can solve the two main problems he identifies as the pitfalls of OSN use, declining grades and competing for attention, His final suggestion is that, to benefit from online social networks and avoid pitfalls associated with them, “use them as an advanced e-mail type communication tool rather than as a place to loiter and waste valuable hours that they will never get back (p7).” Much of Gardner’s argument stems from a belief that there is no way for OSNs to provide the type of non-verbal communication normal human interaction offers. This is only true if one disregards the newly incorporated trend of video web-conferencing incorporated into online social network communication. As web conferencing was not as popular of a trend, when Gardner wrote his paper, and Facebook had yet to establish its use of video chatting as it has now, it’s understandable why Gardner would have overlooked this factor. This oversight by Gardner also does not explain why OSN users have a decline in grades. It is my position that Gardner does not incorporate the use of new age technology, such as web conferencing into his argument, which suggests his research is irrelevant and outdated; this is especially true since Gardner identifies the lack of visual communication as a core reason for OSN being a weaker form of communication, but web conferencing negates that argument.

In sum, the article concludes that while online social networks have their obvious benefits, the downside is not so obvious, but can be significantly detrimental to adult development. Stunting the psychological and emotional growth of individuals using the sites is just the half of what can become of individuals who use these sites. Another negative aspect is the lost time, Gardner suggest the individuals will never be able to retrieve.  Gardner suggest it results in the inability of individuals to develop into adults. On one end his perception is supported by popular research. Gardner does however fail to acknowledge the development of certain web-conferencing tools that are re-incorporating much of the non-verbal communication which Gardner targets as the problem. This minor details suggests that Gardner’s research was based on the current trends of the time, and as times have evolved his position might be outdated and less applicable.

Works cited:

Gardner. “Why Facebook Might Not Be Good for You: Some Dangers of Online Social Networks,”

Rosen, Christine. “Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism” The New Atlantis. p27-46 Fall 2005http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/virtual-friendship-and-the-new-narcissism

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