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Digital Technologies Role in Communication and Social Life

Abstract

Digital technologies have had various effects on the communication and social life of many people all over the world. While some of these effects are positive, there are negative effects of using digital technologies nowadays. This paper provides an overview of various aspects of digital communications, and how such inventions have affected the contemporary social dynamics as well as related trends. According to the examination of several sources that cover this topic, it was evident that digital technologies have enhanced the communication and social life of different people in different ways. For example, there are those who use such innovation due to social pressure, for privacy purposes, construction of personal image as well as for self-presentation.

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Introduction

Background

The introduction of computers and the internet has had a lot of impacts on the means of communication as well as in the social life of many people nowadays. A review of human history shows that the adoption of new technologies in communication has significantly affected the culture of people globally. During the initial stages of the change in communication technologies, only an insignificant portion of the entire world had a clear understanding of the potential effect of such technologies. From a general perspective, one discovers that the adoption of new technology affects society in various aspects (Snow, 2007).

For example, the way people interact with one another has changed rapidly. There are new ways of communication such as through social media platforms and computer-mediated devices. Such changes have elicited a lot of debates regarding the advantages and disadvantages of the new technologies on communication. While there are numerous benefits of new technologies in communication and general social life, there are various researchers and scholars who believe that such invention has had adverse effects on communication and general social life (Gonzales & Hancock, 2011).

For example, various researchers and scholars such as Plato were against the idea of a technological invention that would alter the existing communication culture by pointing out that digital technologies such as the use of the internet in answering class assignments weakens the mind, and is a threat to human memory.

Additionally, digital technology has led to the emergence of internet-related crimes such as phishing scams, identity theft, internet trolls, and many more. However, digital technologies have had positive effects on communication and social life. For example, the world is comparable to a global village given that communication and transfer of information are faster than ever before. This is attributable to the introduction of digital technologies in communication, which have increased the interconnectivity of people over long distances.

Evidently, there are several changes in communication and social life brought about by the introduction of digital technologies. For this reason, this essay provides an in-depth analysis of the concept of digital technologies and their impacts on communication and social life. The analysis will aim at finding out some of the ways in which the adoption of digital technologies has changed the communication and social life of many people nowadays.

Review of Literature

Introduction

The subject of digital technology and its effects on communication and social life has received a lot of attention over the past few decades (Snow, 2007). As such, numerous studies have been conducted that seek to explain the impacts of adopting such technologies in the communication and social interaction setting. Some of these studies have shown that the effects of change in communication and social life are enormously felt within the family unit and the wider society.

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This section reviews several secondary sources such as journals and books that cover the subject of digital technologies and their impact on communication and social life. In order to understand the changes that have happened due to the adoption of digital technologies, it is important to revisit the meaning of various concepts such as communication, social life, and digital technologies, among others. Communication can be considered to be a symbol of a transactional process that entails the creation and sharing of information, which can be understood by the involved parties.

According to Qiu et al. (2015), quality communication builds the link between different people. Social life, on the other hand, is considered to be the time that an individual spends with other people in a given setting such as a society. Therefore, the quality of social life is dependent on the quality of communication among people. Prior to the introduction of the internet and social media, the means of interaction between people was limited with the only available way of interaction being between individuals known to one another in person.

For example, Boyd (2014) pointed out that nowadays many teenagers are using social media platforms for most of their interactions. In the past, the only means of communication that was commonly used was through messengers and later, letters. As pointed out by Ahadzadeh, Sharif, Wei, and Emami (2014), things have really changed following the adoption of digital technologies whereby people can communicate through mobile phones and other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, electronic mails, and many more. As such, interaction nowadays involves sharing of messages, pictures, videos, and other information regardless of whether the individuals know each other in-person.

Role of digital technologies in the growth of social media

There are numerous changes in the manner in which people interact and communicate nowadays, which have been instigated by the adoption of new technologies in communication and social life. As such, it is evident that the sheer number of individuals that one can interact with nowadays is high in comparison to many years ago (Qiu et al., 2015). This can be attributed to the fact that there are numerous social media platforms that have enhanced the means of communication, as well as changed the social life of many people in different ways.

Some of the commonly used social media sites include Facebook, WhatsApp, WeChat, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, and Pinterest. Through such platforms, many people are able to interact on the go. As such, it can be seen that the adoption of digital technologies has changed the way people can communicate and socialize nowadays by bringing new platforms. Social media platforms have been very effective in allowing individuals the chance to share messages, information, opinions, as well as get entertained with a large audience.

The growth of social media as a new communication and interaction platform has greatly influenced the social life of many people all over the world (Perry, 2010). As advancement in social media applications and technologies continues, new ways of communication and interaction are introduced. First, it began with Facebook and Twitter, where people could join to interact with their friends as well as make new ones.

Such platforms have enormously grown to a point whereby they are considered a suitable place to share and spread information by marketers (Perry, 2010). This attributed to the fact that social media platforms have been proven to be suitable platforms whereby marketers can reach a large number of people. For example, Facebook has millions of subscribers and so does twitter. As such, a Facebook post is likely to be read by thousands of people from various parts of the world.

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Twitter, on the other hand, has become a suitable place for marketing as well as activism. As pointed out by Murthy (2013) in his book that examines the concept of social communication in the age of twitter, it is evident that even though individuals are limited to only 140 characters, it has an enormous effect due to the number of twitter followers subscribed. Twitter has significantly changed the way people express themselves nowadays. It has been very instrumental in increasing the sharing of information as well as succinct communication that is characteristic of the modern world (Murthy, 2013). Evidently, the emergence of new technologies has led to the invention of various ways of interacting with one another that have changed people’s social life.

Digital technologies and visual communication

On the other hand, as the popularity of social media platforms rise, a lot of concerns have been raised over the role of visual communication that has become common among many people nowadays. Visual communication is considered to be a culture of communication that makes use of images to pass information from one individual to the other. One of the common visual methods of communication is through selfies.

A selfie is defined by Frosh (2015), as any form of photographic representation that is produced through the use of cameras. Basically, a selfie represents an image taken by an individual using cameras and is shared through networking sites. Even though there is little research on the use of selfies as a mode of communication, the emergence of selfies as a means of communication has taken over many traditional forms of communication.

According to Frosh (2015), selfies are considered progenies of digital networks. It is very different from many other types of communication due to the nonrepresentational changes. Often, selfies are shared through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, among others. Compared to other traditional means of communication, selfies are instantly distributed via social media networks, making them significantly different.

Nonrepresentational developments such as the invention of metadata, storage, and distribution of images via social media networks have raised a lot of concerns regarding personal photography. Frosh (2015) discovered that selfie communication represents an aesthetic as well as an invention in everyday photography and change in social life. In addition, the selfie is a photographic genre that has invited pictorial conventions’ attentions, which underpin generic identity.

This is based on the fact that the recognition of an image in the visual communication is based on the overall representation of the image. Such an assertion aligns with the findings of Qiu et al. (2015), regarding the use of selfies in communicating one’s personality. Often, many people will have a different interpretation of any given selfie that an individual shares through social media networks such as Facebook or Instagram. The findings of Qiu et al. (2015) showed that there is a close link between the personalities of given individuals and the types of selfies that they share. As such, prior knowledge of selfies in the form of socializing or having taken selfies is very important for viewers to describe selfies as a means of communication.

According to research carried out by Mallan (2009), there is the increased use of social media among the youth following the introduction of various social media platforms such as MySpace. However, the increased use of digital technologies in communication and social life is influenced by the need to engage in quality communication, visibility, self-presentation, and social recognition.

In addition, social media platforms have been used as a means of achieving beauty ideals (Britt, 2015). There is an increased use of social media among the youth for purposes of gaining self-satisfaction (Perry, 2010). For this reason, Gonzales and Hancock (2011), asserted that the adoption of digital technologies has played a significant role in boosting the communication of a large number of people all over the world by creating avenues to boost one’s self-esteem by sharing content on social media platforms (Mallan, 2009).

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According to a study carried out by Britt (2015) to investigate the role of social media in boosting self-esteem, it was evident that various users consume a high level of beauty-related content. For this reason, this study found out that such people are more likely to have high self-esteem. Such findings correlate to the assertion by Ahadzadeh et al. (2014), that social media platforms and digital technologies are being used to boost users’ perception of one’s personality.

According to Ahadzadeh et al. (2014), although numerous people are using social networks as a platform through which they can make new friends and gain various information, obtaining social support has emerged as another use of social media sites. Numerous researchers and scholars have shown that the increased use of social media sites is based on the need to build one’s self-esteem, communicate, as well as an affiliate to a certain social life (Ahadzadeh et al., 2014; Britt, 2015).

Social relationships; Face-to-face communication and digital communication

As pointed of earlier, the introduction of digital technologies in communication has changed a lot of things including a fast transition from traditional methods of communication o digital methods of communication that are often computer-mediated. In the olden days, most of the communication was carried out on a face-to-face basis regardless of the distance (Perry, 2010). In such cases, the intimacy between parties engaging in communication could be expressed and identified from facial expressions and body language.

Contrastingly, the adoption of digital technology has brought in computer-mediated communication whereby people can interact with one another via social networking sites or through the use of electronic devices such as mobile phones. Perry (2010) noted that such changes have eroded the worth of face-to-face communication, though to some extent, in a positive way since the digital communication overcomes challenges of face-to-face communication such as distance and other logistics challenges.

Mallan (2009) asserted that the internet has been used immensely to communicate as well as meet new people. Instant messaging, chats, and emails are some of the major forms through which people can interact with one another. According to research carried out by Snow, (2007), it is more likely that many people first engage in telephone conversations or even social media chats before agreeing to meet for face-to-face communication.

In spite of the fact that social media sites are very instrumental in the formation of new relationships, research has shown that most of the relationships formed via social networking sites are casual relationships (Perry, 2010; Snow, 2007). Nevertheless, according to recent trends, things are changing such that many people can form romantic relationships via the internet. This is attributable to the emergence of dating sites.

Social interactions via the internet can be either synchronous or asynchronous (Snow, 2007). For synchronous communication, instant massager is commonly used. Such a form of communication is associated with a high level of privacy, simplicity in terms of use, and is best suited as a substitute for face-to-face communication. Overly, the comparison between face-to-face communication and online interactions has mixed reactions among different people.

For example, there are researchers who believe that face-to-face interaction is more superior to online interactions. However, it is evident that online communication is slowly taking over face-to-face communication due to increased access to electronic devices such as personal computers, smartphones, laptops, and iPads among others, which can connect to the internet.

Social development and Television

Television is used as a means of passing information such as news and entertainment to viewers. The invention of television and other related media has been very significant in the social life of many people given that people can stay informed of various happenings in different parts of the world, as well as stay entertained and educated (Gonzales & Hancock, 2011). In spite of this, there are mixed opinions regarding the impact of television on the social life of people. For example, there are researchers who believe that the habit of watching wholesome programs in television can act as a platform to strengthen families as well as friendships (Snow, 2007).

Some of the negative reviews of television are based on the fact that television technology does not give viewers the opportunity to respond to what they watch and listen; a fact that is believed to have an enormous impact on the social skills of people since it does not give people the room to practice better interaction skills. As people continue to get exposed to sex, violence, and other types of lasciviousness, chances are high that they tend to copy such behaviors to real-life situations and hence, erode their moral values.

Conclusion

From the above analysis, it is evident that the role of digital technologies in communication and social interactions is immense. This is attributed to the fast transition from analog to digital world whereby many people are using electronic devices and social media platforms on a daily basis. With the adoption of digital technologies in communication, efficient and fast means of communication have been introduced that have immensely changed the ways of communication and social life of many people.

For example, people can now interact virtually without having to meet face-to-face through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +, and many more. Despite the fact that digital technology has positively changed, there are negative aspects of such technology that have had adverse effects on communication and social life. For example, online interaction has exposed people to various social behaviors that have eroded many people’s moral values.

In addition, online interaction exposes the youth to various dangers such as cyberbullying and cybercrime. For this reason, it is important for care to be taken whenever using any form of digital technology by taking into consideration the potential impacts on the efficiency of communication and change in social life.

References

Ahadzadeh, A., Sharif, S., Wei, K., & Emami, H. (2014). Narcissism, Self-esteem, Communication Apprehension, and Need for Affiliation: Difference between Social Networking Site Users and Non-users. Taylor’s Bus Rev, 4(2). Web.

Boyd, D. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Heaven, CT: Yale University Press.

Britt, R. K. (2015). Effects of Self-presentation and Social Media Use in Attainment of Beauty Ideals. Studies in Media and Communication, 3(1), 79-88.

Frosh, P. (2015). The Gestural Image: The Selfie, Photography Theory, and Kinesthetic Sociability. International Journal of Communication, 9(2), 1607–1628.

Gonzales, A. & Hancock, J. (2011). Mirror, Mirror on my Facebook Wall: Effects of Exposure to Facebook on Self-Esteem. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, And Social Networking, 14(1-2), 79-83.

Mallan, K. (2009). Look at me! Look at me! Self-representation and self-exposure through online networks. Web.

Murthy, D. (2013). Twitter: Social Communication in the Twitter Age. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons.

Perry, M. (2010). Face to face versus computer-mediated communication: Couples satisfaction and experience across conditions. University of Kentucky Master’s Theses. Paper 66.

Qiu, L., Lu, J., Yang, S., Qu, W., & Zhu, T. (2015). What does your selfie say about you?. Computers In Human Behaviour, 52(3), 443-449.

Snow, E. (2007). Intimacy and Face-to-Face versus Computer Interaction. Undergraduate Review, 3(2), 37-50.

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