Online technology tools including the social media have extensive influence on people’s opinions and choices. It creates new forms of social pressure, which is extensive in scope compared to face-to-face interactions. Social pressure is the peer group influence that encourages an individual to change his/her behavior, values, and attitudes in conformity with those of the group (Boyd 121).
Individuals are also required to conform to certain behaviors or attitudes in order to be accepted by the members of a particular social network. Members of a particular social network have to conform to certain principles that define the social group despite the difference of opinion. Just like any social groups, social media creates a collective mind whereby the members embrace certain rules that govern the group without any objections.
Thus, social media establishes a group mind. The social media has profound impacts on group mind and peer pressure particularly on the youth. Social media such as Facebook have both negative and positive impacts on the youth, who form the majority of the users. Social media represents a convergence of minds leading to crowd behavior, which has both negative and positive impacts on the society. While social media may have negative impacts on the society, they also facilitate positive social development.
The Social Networks Sites
Social network sites (SNSs) allow users to create their own profile to contact or be contacted by others. They entail common internet-based services including blogs, content-sharing sites such as You Tube, Facebook, and MySpace. Boyd defines SNSs as “a category of websites with individuals’ profiles displayed that allow online communication” (123).
The social networking sites enable individuals to interact through texts, chatting or exchange of video contents. Through social media, individuals are connected to others through virtual communities created online. Over the past few years, there has been unprecedented adoption of the social network sites such as Facebook around the globe. However, two factors influence the adoption of SNSs- the privacy concerns and the attitudes towards social grooming (Tufekci 544).
One of the most prevalent SNSs is Facebook, which is dominated by youth, particularly college students. The SNSs possess specific features that accelerate their mass adoption (Boyd 124). Like most SNSs, Facebook provides a personalized page that allows each user to enter personal information including addresses, interests, educational background, and recent activities. It also allows users to identify friends, invite others to join, and create a virtual online community that allows more interactivity with an invisible audience.
Boyd identifies four features of persistence viz. the ability to search likeminded individuals, the ability to share and the invisible audiences as important features of SNSs that have accelerated their adoption (Boyd 124). These features of SNSs attract millions of users to social media globally. In contrast, Face-to-face interactions have limited capabilities with regard to the level of interaction.
SNSs such as Facebook have features that keep users updated about developments in their social circles. For example, the “News Feed” feature on Facebook, allows users to view the news and stories generated from their friend’s activities (Gonzales and Hancock 231).
The “Facebook groups” feature allows users to search and join groups that share common interest and activities. Additionally, this application displays an individual’s group and the user can request his/her friends to join the same group creating a group mind. Thus, through the groups created by users or organizations, Facebook and other social media can cause political and civic impacts.
The Effects of Social Media on Group Mind
In their analysis of the effects of Facebook on an individual’s self-confidence, Gonzales and Hancock established that social connection through SNSs promotes self-esteem, friendship performance, and enhances online and off line connections (233). Of great importance is the potential of SNSs to ‘bridge” and “bond” existing offline relationships. This implies that SNSs offer a framework for establishing and maintaining groups comprised of like-minded individuals.
More interestingly, the authors found out that frequent Facebook usage led to improved psychological well-being; thus, beneficial to individuals experiencing low self-esteem. In addition, Tufekci established that online communication sites such as Facebook and MySpace, encourage individual participation in community life, fosters social norms and increases social interaction, which is an indication of the influence that SNSs have on group mind (546).
In addition, the author found out that social interaction and collective opinion were more prevalent in SNSs users compared to non-users. This suggests that SNSs are essential to social grooming, an important element that enhance the functioning of complex societies. The increased interactions provide the youth an opportunity for status negotiation as a group and identity formation in the public front. According to Gonzales and Hancock, “the internet has provided tools for promoting self-awareness and social participation” (235).
By allowing sharing of photos, comments and personal details, the SNSs provide a platform for political and civic participation through various social groups and providing an opportunity for self-presentation and increased social interaction. In this way, the social media has redefined the social processes in two ways; it has encouraged individual development through enhancement of self-esteem and social trust among users who share common ideals, and increased civic and political participation.
Although social media increases social interaction, access to self and increased social participation, there are concerns about individual privacy. In most social media, friends and other people can view an individual’s profile and personal details. Moreover, the SNSs allow teens to share salient aspects about themselves to online friends, who are most often, their offline friends from school, work or church. Thus, despite the privacy concerns, SNSs promote social interaction and group bonding.
Social Media and Social Pressure
One of the important features that attract people to social media is its ability to allow people to stay connected. Through social media such as Facebook and MySpace, people are able to share pictures, comments and fun. However, the SNSs often pose social pressures for people to join and use them.
People are often under pressure to present a positive online identity much like their offline identity. Teenagers, more particularly, are usually under social pressure to present an online identity desirable by their peers (Narang). In addition, some social media have established social cultures that regulate online behavior.
Even in the workplace, social media has become common with employees feeling pressure to join and use these social network sites. This pressure can come from within the organization or from an individual (Narang). According to Gonzales and Hancock, social media promote self-esteem and life satisfaction, as people are able to connect and interact with friends (Gonzales and Hancock 237). Employees who interactions on the social media believe that by joining the social media, their job performance will be enhanced (Narang Para.9).
At the same time, youths are often under pressure to join the social media such as Facebook because it allows them to share news, engage in discussions regarding public issues such as politics or private issues such as entertainment or sports. However, concerns about social media including dangers of information disclosure, addiction, cyber bullying, and the danger of contacting dangerous communities influence people’s decision to join and use social media.
The negative effects of social media, especially among teenagers, have been a primary concern influencing the adoption of these social media. According to Luca, Facebook along with other websites, have many side effects many of which are not so social (Para.5). The social media is usually addictive.
Users log on for long hours updating their profiles, checking the friend’s profiles and befriending strangers. In addition, Facebook, just like the other social media, is intrusive on individual privacy. Despite the privacy settings on Facebook, the information posted on one’s profile is easily accessible to friends.
Contrary to popular opinion that the social media increases social interaction, it can also affect socialization. Many users log onto Facebook to chat with online friends instead of socializing with actual friends and family members, which increases alienation. In this way, social media can encourage an individual to be antisocial and lonely in real life. Social media also encourages deception as one can alter his/her online identity to suit his/her desires.
Social media such as Facebook has both positive and negative impacts on the society. It creates a platform, majority of who are teenagers, to connect, discuss public and private issues, and learn the society norms and rules. Studies indicate that social media promotes self-esteem, social participation, and interaction compared to face-to-face interactions. However, social media also has potential negative effects. Concerns over privacy, addiction and risky behaviors among teenagers affect the adoption and usage of these social networks.
Boyd, Danah. “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics In Teenage Social Life.” MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media 4.3, (2007): 121-124.
Gonzales, Amy, and Hancock, Jeffrey. “Mirror, Mirror on my Facebook Wall: Effects of Exposure to Facebook on Self-Esteem” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 14.1 (2011): 231-241
Luca, Andrei. The effects of social media on youth today, 2011. Web. 27 June 2011.
Narang, Rakesh. Five Most Deadly side-effects of Social Networking, 2010. Web. 27 June 2011.
Tufekci, Zeynep. “Grooming, Gossip, Facebook and MySpace” Information, Communication & Society 11.4 (2008): 544–564.