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TMCNet:  Social media can be detrimental [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]

[January 20, 2014]

Social media can be detrimental [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]

(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) SOCIAL media has now become part of the life of most people with access to the Internet. Generally, they have at least a Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp account, or are regulars of any other online communications channel dedicated to community- based input, interaction and content-sharing.


WhatsApp and Facebook, as examples, are now a lifeline and considered important among all age groups. If you don't use them, you are considered not tech savvy and antiques.

Working people from all age groups are now on WhatsApp, a simple but effective instant messaging service. It allows you to chat with anyone on your contacts list as long as they have the WhatsApp application installed on their devices.

WhatsApp has reached about 400 million active users a month. It is inexpensive and lets you keep in touch with partners, clients, friends and family. It is one of the largest and cheapest messaging services in the world. The app is available for iPhones, Android, Windows phones and Blackberry devices.

After spending quite a bit of my time on Facebook, I now find WhatsApp more to my liking. It has changed life for the better by spreading knowledge, fostering creativity and encouraging connectivity.

Unfortunately, like many others, I realised that I have the tendency to spend a little more time than I should on WhatsApp. Being from the baby boomers era, I find the indulgence a bit too much and needless, although I know of peers who literally tick and survive on social media.

I suppose many others are addicted to WhatsApp and other social media platforms. On average, we check our smartphones every 30 minutes or perhaps every hour, with around 50 per cent of us updating out status or posting content via them whilst we're on the move.

Some even feel left behind or missing out if they're not on WhatsApp. We are used to constant connectivity, so being deprived of it causes what is called "disconnect anxiety", with people experiencing negative emotional feelings when they're not on WhatsApp.

There seems to be a psychological link between the man and the tools; not so much holding the smart gadgets but rather the deprivation of continuous communication, even if the information shared is of little significance - without cognitive, affective and social values.

To some people, the value of content is not an issue. What is more important is connectivity and constant communication. It is the fear of the void that makes many people dependent on these gadgets. It is gratifying to be able to share information. It is satisfying to know what your friends are doing in real time.

Generally, people use media, social media included, for acquiring knowledge and sharing of information. In some instances, they use it as a means of escapism and to relieve tension, or to satisfy their emotional needs.

The importance of the Internet as a medium of social interaction is indisputable, but a question arises as to the purpose of the social interaction. Prior research, especially that surrounding the so-called Internet Paradox (Kraut, Patterson, Lundmark, Kiesler, Mukophadhyay, & Scherlis, 1998) focused on social interaction as a means of securing social support and thereby improving psychological wellbeing.

However, Robert LaRose, (Department of Telecommunication, Michigan State University, East Lansing) noted that the use of social media was beyond personal gratification or an individual's specific needs. He said social status, not social support, might be the prime mover in Internet usage, and the enjoyable activities pursued on the Internet may also be a means of achieving status, such as the "bragging rights" to the "coolest" selection of MP3 recordings.

In his research entitled "A Social Cognitive Explanation of Internet Uses and Gratifications: Toward a New Theory of Media Attendance", LaRose noted that some Internet users have lost the power to self-regulate their own consumption, perhaps through a process of conditioning at which point they might be said to have a media addiction, or media dependency.

However, newer users are still making active media selection decisions on the basis of expected outcomes while veteran users have lapsed into more habitual modes of Internet consumption.

Although some still monitor their overall level of Internet usage and apply self-reactive incentives to either increase or decrease the amount of usage to appropriate levels, there are users who may lose the power to self-regulate their own consumption.

Academic research may show that the use of social media reflects social status or lead to addiction, but I doubt the public is worried. For many, social media is beyond microblogging and social networking.

Social media is everything - it provides mainstream news, live streaming of activities, supports businesses and enhances life.

That is why many people don't consider themselves as dependents of social media, although social scientists are getting more concerned over public indifference on the side effects.

(c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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