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In an interesting new study carried out by MySpace UK, it has been revealed that many users between the ages of 14 and 21 are often happier discussing personal issues online than they are in person. 36 percent in fact revealed that they found it easier communicating with online friends; so what is behind this phenomenon and are there any issues involved?
With 72 percent of respondents claiming to feel left out of social groups away from the computer and a further 82 percent suggesting that they have moved between at least four different circles of friends, it appears social networking is becoming something of a retreat for many. Clearly the partial anonymity of the Internet, coupled with the ability to track down and talk to like-minded people – rather than those that you are simply surrounded by – has created a social liberation.
There’s no doubting the power that the various social media sites now hold, but it’s a power that can be easily misused. Without visual and physical interaction, you never really know who sits behind the avatar. With the ability to conjure false profiles, cyber bullying and even more extreme forms of exploitation have been documented with worrying regularity.
People are becoming more aware of it though. In a CBS report today it profiled how teenagers were now far more aware of the dangers and had become increasingly web-wise as a result. This of course can only be a good thing.
However, is the trend towards chatting online with friends rather than in person damaging or enriching? There’s no doubting that people now have greater freedom of communication than ever before. You can be talking to somebody in Australia, America and South Africa in one conversation. Expansion of cultures and like-minded ideas is surely a good thing; as long as it is used positively of course. But where does it all end?
The claims and counter-claims could go on. Some might claim that social media is a positive evolution of language, finally maximising the true purpose of the Global Village. Others though might claim suggest that it is damaging real social skills, such as the ability to make new friends, converse with peers and engage with the wider world. However you see it, clearly attitudes are changing.
For now though the job of the social media gurus of today is mapping out the Internet of tomorrow; nothing stands still online for long. Clearly better understanding of the Internet needs to be universally undertaken and we can’t abandon traditional forms of communication. But how far will it all go? Are we in fact at the peak of what social networking can offer? Ultimately, is its spread a positive or a negative thing for society as a whole?