Changing Society, One Friend at a Time
Currently, there are 750 million Facebook users worldwide spending more than 700 billion minutes per month on the social networking site. That statistic is staggering to me. What did we do with our time before Facebook?
With that many people connected through just one social networking site, it’s bound to have an impact on our global society. But just how has new media changed us?
Now more than ever, we crave the connectivity that social and other emerging media provide us. At its core, social media is designed to create and foster more intimate relationships, yet it is actually changing the way we relate to each other.
According to Dr. Rachna Jain, a psychologist and social marketer, social media is changing our interpersonal psychology and relationship styles in important ways.
On the positive side, we can connect with more people from all walks of life. Our social network can include people we would normally not be able to meet in person, which exposes us to new ideas and resources. It is easier than ever before to extend our social circles and grow our sphere of influence. This is great news for marketers – social media has become Word-of-Mouth Marketing on steroids!
On the negative side, we can mistake “digital intimacy for true intimacy. We can become so seduced by the ease of connecting with others online that we begin to think that these relationships are more intense, more committed, and more complete than they really are.”
Having 687 friends on Facebook – now that’s living! :-)
Furthermore, social media can make us more susceptible to the “emotional contagion effects” in which the moods of our social networks affect how we feel. In other words, if a friend feels lonely, we’re more likely to feel lonely, too. As we are increasingly linked with each other, we can become more prone to “social media moodiness.”
Finally, with our social media relationships, we tend to compare ourselves more with others. With so many people telling us how they are living their lives, it is easy to feel like we can’t compete. Our successes become less important, and our failures seem magnified for everyone to see.
Is it possible that we can be too connected through social media? Could these downsides ever turn society away from social media?
In my previous post, I said social media is here to stay, but maybe I’m not looking far enough into the future with my crystal ball?
About five or six years ago, I attended a marketing conference in which the keynote speaker discussed the theory of “The Pendulum,” where society’s values were tracked for more than 400 years, and every 40 years our worldview swings from “Civic” to “Ideal.” Currently, we are living in a “Civic” society, which is characterized by the desire to share our personal experiences and keep things real, e.g. reality TV, social media, consumer product reviews. Over time, the “Civic” society becomes “too real” and “too confining” with too much information and connection to each other. Eventually, we want to break free and we move into an “Ideal” society, which is characterized by individualism and idealism.
What do you think? Will the social media pendulum ever swing the other way? Will it ever lose popularity?