Exploring the good, the bad and the ugly of social media


“It’s time to unplug,” said Randi Zuckerberg, the sister of Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in an interview with CNN on March 7.

With society being so heavily immersed in using their media devices, is it affecting how we think, feel, and interact with one another?

Andrew Rudd, professor of communications, said, “I don’t think technology has ever changed the way that we have done things. Often technologies intensify or speed up tendencies that humans already have.”

Lent may be a helpful incentive to get social media users offline for a while. (Photo by Cammera Archie)

“It is definitely changing the brain and the ways of thinking,” Ebenezer de Oliveira, associate professor of psychology, said.

“When someone says to unplug, it seems a little radical,” de Oliveira said.

But perhaps social media users today do need to be a little radical.

Research headed by Dr. Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, says, “Samples of U.S. college students found a significant increase in scores on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI).”

Narcissism is generally defined as the excess of love for oneself. The NPI was developed for the measurement of narcissism as a personality trait in social psychological research.

de Oliveira said with technology names like the iPhone, Myspace, and My T-Mobile, technology’s language is evidently based on the idea of self.

“You tend to see yourself as the center of everybody,” de Oliveira said.

The widespread and constant access to all forms of social media may be more addictive than users realize.

Carrie Miller, freshman social work major, recalls the recent day when the SnapChat app was not accessible to Malone’s Wi-Fi users.

“Everybody I talked to that day would be complaining about it, especially at work during our break, saying, ‘Why doesn’t SnapChat work?’ and they would be freaking out about it,” Miller said. “And if we rely on it that much, is that good for us?”

Lent may be a helpful incentive to get social media users offline for a while. Lorne Strausburgh, freshman biology major, considered giving up Facebook and Twitter for Lent this year, but then something made him reconsider.

“I was actually thinking about giving it up for Lent, because I feel like a lot of times it is a distraction,” Strausburgh said. “But I decided not to, because there are positives to it too. I follow a lot of people who tweet things about exercise or science and things like that, so it is beneficial for me.”

Lynsey Trusty, freshman early childhood education and intervention specialist major, agreed that there are benefits for these technologies as well.

Trusty said, “I think social media is worth having, because it seriously has made everything faster. If you need to look something up, or if you need to contact somebody, you can contact them really easily.”

[pullquote]While it is convenient and useful at times, social media has also been redefining the word “friend.”[/pullquote]

When using Facebook and social media sites, individuals may connect with people they might not otherwise on a day-to-day basis.

“But it comes with a cost of making relationships less personal and more superficial, and more fleeting,” de Oliveira said.

“Attending to our influences and habits is the mark of a well-educated and spiritually-engaged human being,” Rudd said. “So unplugging from all of our technologies for a while seems like a fruitful way to understand what is influencing us and what our habits are becoming.”

During this time of Lent, or during finals week just around the corner, maybe students could use Randi Zuckerberg and Rudd’s advice and unplug.

Simone Kiebler is a contributing writer for The Aviso AVW.

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