In spite of the advantages afforded by social networking sites they can have potentially harmful effects. It is undeniable that social networks have a lot of advantages; still they also have several disadvantages. It is common knowledge that many people, especially young people, have heard about or belong to at least one social networking site. Social networks’ users rely on these sites to maintain their social relations and entertain themselves. It seems that these networking sites offer many advantages for their users both at a social and at a personal level.
So it is normal for these users to spend long hours using the wide variety of applications that the sites have. However, this does not mean that spending so much time logged in will not have adverse effects on the users’ social and personal well being. Many youngsters are not aware of the negative effects that the overexposure to these sites may cause. Despite all the benefits provided by social networking sites, their excessive use can affect young users’ social relationships and health in a negative way.
It is reasonable to acknowledge that social networks are beneficial for young users because they allow them to make new friendships and maintain the old ones. Besides, the sites are a really useful and helpful way for keeping in touch with friends or relatives living abroad in the sense that it is much easier, faster and cheaper than communicating via telephone. Apart from that, these networks are very practical in academic and working environments since they make it easier to share information among peers. It seems that these sites with their so varied opportunities benefit people in several ways.
However, spending long hours using social networking sites is said to undermine youngsters’ interpersonal relationships in such a way that it may end up leaving them in total isolation. Of course, there are some who claim that these networks are an excellent opportunity for young people not only to maintain their bonds with their friends and peers but also to expand their social relations. Nevertheless, many experts insist in the fact that this type of communication through computer screens promotes poor interpersonal communications.
One of the most important factors that leads to this problem is the lack of face-to-face interaction. You get things from personal encounters that you can never get online, such as physical contact (kmc1111: 2009). This means that giving a hug to a friend or a handshake to a person you have just met is not the same as sending an emoticon or saying a formulaic expression, since that may seem a somehow mechanized behaviour and not really intended to be affectionate or polite. Furthermore, the distant nature of online contact also raises the issue of how what you say is interpreted (kmc1111: 2009).
Body movements and facial gestures are also taken away in this type of communication. This may also be a major problem in the sense that the lack of these features can lead to the misinterpretation of the real meaning someone is trying to convey and because of that many relationships might be ruined. Therefore, more and more young people feel alienated. Another important reason for relationships to be ruined lies in the fact that the more time young users spend on social networking sites, the less time they spend with people they regularly see.
For example, many parents claim that their children do not talk to them about their lives and the only way they have to know what their children are up to is by checking their Facebook personal profiles. Besides, it has become customary for young people to choose social networks as the best medium for communicating information among peers or expressing their ideas, because in that way they avoid being questioned or laughed at. It seems that young people feel extremely comfortable at talking online since they can count on “the luxury of time to think of what to say that technology provides” (Derek Opina: 2009).
So, by spending so much time logged in, relationships among friends or couples might go wrong and new relationships may not even begin. Consequently, if youngsters keep on spending so much time on social networking sites rather than with their acquaintances, these users might end up living in total isolation. On the whole, it is evident that even though social networks help people communicate with each other, they foster people’s alienation. Furthermore, spending a great amount of time on social networking sites might be detrimental for youngsters’ brains and bodies.
As stated by Chris Davies (2009), young people benefit from learning to take responsibility for their lives online, in the sense that they use their computers as the focal point for many other things they do each day. Nonetheless, there is strong evidence to believe that social networks are harmful to youngsters’ health. On the one hand, it is said that these networks infantilize the brain of their young users by shortening their attention spans and changing their way of thinking.
As suggested by Susan Greenfield, if the young brain is exposed from the beginning to a world of fast action and reaction, of instant new screen images flashing up with the press of a key, such rapid interchange might accustom the brain to operate over such timescales(on Mackey: 2009). Youngsters’ brains are being infantilized into the state of small children who are attracted by buzzing noises and bright lights and who have a small attention span (Susan Greenfield on David Derbyshire). This implies that young social networkers are accustomed to the so great speed at which everything occurs in social networking sites.
As a result, they not only lack the ability to concentrate when they are not in front of their computer screens but also the possibility of thinking because they have all the solutions available at the click of a mouse. On the other hand, young users’ physical conditions may also be negatively affected. Social networkers who spend many hours logged in are prone to weight problems because they usually do not devote enough time to take exercise. Besides, online networking could increase the risk of health problems as serious as cancer, strokes, heart disease, and dementia (Dr. Aric Sigman: 2009).
It is evident that social networks might be far more harmful than what their users may think. All in all, no matter how good social networks are for users to take responsibility of their lives, constant exposure to these sites might be critical for users’ health. Social networking sites offer a wide variety of advantages such as allowing their users to be on frequent contact with their acquaintances or to meet new people and also letting them to take responsibility for their lives. Even so there are a lot of downsides when it comes to social networking sites and interpersonal relationships or health.
In relationships matters, youngsters bonds with friends and family members might be weakened and no new relations may be established if the sites are excessively used, which may lead these users to live in complete isolation. With respect to health, both the mental and physical conditions of social networks’ users might be badly affected by overusing those sites. So for many people the easiest thing to do would be to lay the blame on technology, but as a user of social networks, I believe that it is a matter of commonsense. Actually, it is not technology which is wrong; it is us, people, who do not make a good use of it.