How Social Media is Influencing Our Culture

A look at five detrimental habits practiced too often across various social platforms and channels

By definition, “culture” is the attitude, customs, and beliefs of a particular society or group of people. Culture may include language, music, arts, and social habits. It may also include shared patterns of behaviors and interactions. Since the inception of the internet and the consequent growth of social media networks and platforms, the way we communicate, behave, and interact has changed and is continuing to change dramatically.

1. Bold Expression

When has there ever been a time in history where you actually knew all of your friends’ political opinions? There is a really good chance you do now and you may not always like it. With social media platforms like Facebook, people feel the need to express their opinions on current events or political issues, show their approval or disapproval of groups or policies, and generally interact in a whole new way. While public debate on topics is usually a sign of a progressive society, public debate on social media platforms can often turn negative or divisive if not moderated appropriately, either by the individual or by the specific platform. We have all noticed that being behind a computer or mobile device allows a person to interact and communicate in ways they would not in a face-to-face setting. The rules for appropriate behavior on social media platforms are constantly changing and evolving. This brings the question, is this weakening our interpersonal relationships?

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2. In Person vs. Social Media Etiquette

The days of handwriting long letters and memos are over. Social media platforms such as Twitter have a 140 character limit and, even on platforms allowing longer posts, brevity is seen as a positive. Communication is often accomplished with a short text or even an emoji. Interpreting someone’s tone and the true intent behind their message in such a short format is one of the hardest things about these new communication avenues. For example, while being fast and short in a message or email is helpful to get a point across quickly, it can sometimes be received as curt. A good rule of thumb when communicating with social media or even email is to start with a greeting like “hello” or “hi” and end with a positive comment. Responding to a text or direct message with “k” can be interpreted as rude, while responding with “okay, thank you” is considered polite. It’s almost like social media has its own language.

Communication is often accomplished with a short text or even an emoji. Interpreting someone’s tone and the true intent behind their message in such a short format is one of the hardest things about these new communication avenues.

3. Culture of Likes

We have become driven by the number of friends, followers, likes, and shares we are able to amass on social media. If you look at the big social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube, they all have something in common. They have their own version of the “like” button. With so many young adolescents being glued to their smart devices, these “likes” are seen as approval of their appearance, opinion, friends, choices, values, and who they are as a person. This upcoming generation will be more influenced by the opinions of others than any other generation in history. However social media does put you in touch with like-minded people around the world. That can be good, when LGBTQ youth discover communities of support. It can also be bad, when neo-Nazis discover there are others like them. If you have an opinion or belief, you can find someone on the Internet who will share and validate it.

4. The Power of Information Access

One of the best things about the way social media is influencing our culture is that we are now able to have conversations with people who can affect change. We have the power to reach anyone through a Facebook post, blog post, or even a tweet. Your opinion can be heard and shared. We have access to experts, politicians, and even celebrities. We get real time information from platforms like Twitter. We can post a question on Quora and get hundreds of answers. If you need inspiration or creative ideas, there is Pinterest. You can find basically anything you need on Etsy, Ebay, or Amazon. Each of these platforms, while perhaps not technically social media, all have a social component to them starting with reviews. Reviews are another way a person is able to express his/her opinion and potentially affect change. For example, if you are unhappy or happy with a restaurant experience, instead of calling over a manager, you can write a review on Yelp or you can post on any of your social media platforms about your experience. Social media also allows us to feel knowledgeable about areas we are do not know much about. This can lead to ingrained opinions which may not be accurate. Reading an article about vaccines does not make you qualified to have an opinion on them. Which then leads to what we call today “fake news.”

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5. Constant Communication

Have you noticed that you feel the need to check in constantly? With social media, there is no such thing as down time. Studies are even showing that it can be addictive. Hearing the ding of a notification causes a dopamine reaction in your brain causing you to get excited to see what new message, like, or comment you have received. We are in a culture of constant communication where we are never really not connected anymore. This new way of communication is transforming the way we live our lives through real time sharing and visual experience. The constant advancements in technology and social media are causing our culture to continually evolve and change. end