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ONLINE MAGAZINE: DIGITAL

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Online Magazine: Digital

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Social networks: for better or worse?

28/02/2013

by Phoebe Hendy

In a very short space of time social networking sites have become a huge part of our lives, but have they made our lives better or worse?

Better?

Social networks are undoubtedly a very useful tool for staying in touch with friends. We can see what's going on in their lives, share photos with them and chat whenever and wherever we want. This means that our friendships are not just limited to the time we can spend with each other and that conversations can continue for as long as we like. It's completely free and accessible to almost everyone. You simply write your message and can instantly share it with your friends or even the world. Through social networks we can communicate with anyone, quickly and easily. They are a place for people to meet and share their lives with others and they allow us to easily stay in contact with people from different parts of the country and world. These international sites cross borders and bring together citizens from different nations; now friendships can be formed that couldn't otherwise develop. They are a way to share information, whether for school, work, or recreationally. Ultimately, they are the tool that brings people together.

Worse?

Social networks may allow us to contact friends, but they encourage non-personal contact. There is not, and never will be, a better way to communicate than face to face. A conversation isn't just the words you say, it is the way you say them, the gestures and expressions you use. Social networking sites cannot portray this and so you can be easily misunderstood, for example, sarcasm doesn't come across very well online. To avoid wasting time writing out lengthy words, a code has developed that shortens common words to make messaging online easier. Abbreviations such as "how r u?" and "lol" are common words in our online vocabulary and they are gradually becoming part of everyday language. As we are becoming accustomed to using these abbreviations, the correct spelling of these words is starting to be neglected by the younger generations and could cause a drop in literacy standards in schools. Are social networking sites raising a generation of lazy writers?

The dangers of anonymity

We can make new friends using these websites, but how do we know the people we are talking to can be trusted? It is so easy for dishonest people to lie on the internet. We may think we know who we're talking to, but in reality they could be anyone. People can communicate anonymously and often say things they wouldn't if they were having conversation in person as they are hidden behind a computer screen and can't see the impact their words have on other people. This has led to a new kind of bullying, cyberbullying, where victims receive abuse online. It is much more difficult to catch the culprit because of the ease of communicating anonymously and of lying about their identity.

As there are so many obvious disadvantages to social networking sites, the conclusion could be drawn that they are detrimental to society. However, they gain in popularity everyday and most users are certainly not willing to delete their accounts. They remain successful because they draw on humanity's basic instinct to communicate. Ultimately, they are a tool that brings people together.