For the first week’s reflection post, I wanted to talk a bit about the influence of social media and internet culture on the formative years of the average person’s life. As discussed in Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out, I do feel that social media offers many opportunities for young people to perform social exploration, share interests, and forge friendships. Growing up as a shy and socially awkward child, it was my experience that online interaction came much easier than conversing face-to-face. An online conversation excludes the need for one to worry about how they present themselves in terms of personal appearance or affect. For people who struggle with insecurity or self-criticism, this can have a tremendous positive impact on social interaction; it can be immensely freeing to know that you will be judged only on the content of your words, rather than any number of other qualities.
Unfortunately, the freedom from judgment offered by online social interactions is a double-edged sword. While it may offer many individuals the opportunity to express themselves more freely, it has also led to a great deal of abusive social interaction. Many people post things online that they would never say to a person’s face, and cyberbullying has become a huge issue in modern western society, most frequently among youth populations. Bullying is not a new phenomenon; however, online culture and social media has essentially enabled a child’s bully to follow them home. The potential for both positive and negative social experiences has extended beyond traditional boundaries through the advent of online culture.
Ito, et al. (2010). Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of Technology.