It is the second decade of the 21st century, and every second individual on planet Earth has a device that allows them access to a vault of knowledge accumulated by humanity throughout centuries of rigorous research. The issues of time and space have become irrelevant, as many people thousands of kilometers away from one another are capable of sharing their thoughts and opinions within seconds. Seventy years ago, such marvels of technology would have been considered a work of sci-fi authors. At the same time, the majority of humanity uses information technology to argue with strangers and share pictures of their pets.
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Information technology managed to transform the face of the planet, enabling economic globalization and paving the way for international corporations. At the same time, it introduced a plethora of social phenomena that affect individuals, families, and organizations in a negative way. The purpose of this paper is to investigate how information technology impacts family, eldercare, and parenting, as well as to highlight potential ethical and privacy issues associated with the rise of social media.
Social Media and its Impact on Families
Social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, have been created to improve the levels of communication between individuals all over the world. At the same time, despite being able to communicate with friends and family on a nearly constant basis, modern generations are feeling more isolated than ever before. According to Savci and Aysan (2016), social media and other products of internet technology have become a surrogate for real-life social relationships, contributing to the rising levels of loneliness and depression among the youth. It affects the relationships in families as well, as children communicate with their parents more through Facebook than they do in real life. As a result, atrophy in social skills is observed, thus contributing to the feeling of social isolation and loneliness.
The overuse of social media affects family relationships in other ways. McDaniel, Drouin, and Cravens (2017) report that social media and exposure of private information contributed to the increase in divorce rates, as couples would conflict over controversial images of their male and female friends, where a photo of a friendly hug, taken out of context, could be misconstrued for adultery. Social media has a mixed effect on the elderly population.
Khosravi, Rezvani, and Wiewiora (2016) have found that while social media has a positive effect against loneliness in older adults who know how to use information technology, the majority of them remain isolated. This isolation is exacerbated by the assumption that everyone knows how to use Facebook.
Ethical Issues in Social Media and Information Technology
Although many companies and organizations use social media to collect data on potential customers and offer them personalized advertising content, personal information readily available on social media platforms can be used in a negative way. For example, personal photos, videos, and thoughts published online could be used as ammunition for cyberbullying.
Some of the other ethical issues associated with social media include impediments on freedom of speech and the use of the platform to expose high numbers of individuals to unfiltered and misleading information. The power of social media was shown during the last US election, where automated tweeter bots and Facebook profiles were used to sway public opinion. To summarize, the ethical issues surrounding information technology and social media are as follows (Turculeţ, 2014):
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- Privacy concerns of individual users;
- The use of IT to communicate false information for nefarious reasons;
- Drawing the line between freedom of speech and cyberbullying.
Social Media and Organizations
Social media is a part of our everyday life. Despite being extremely useful on a personal and corporate level, the interconnectedness brings about a plethora of ethical issues regarding privacy and security of information. Overexposure to social media may lead to a variety of effects that can affect children and adults alike. An IT specialist must be aware of these issues in order to navigate the use of social media as part of a company’s communications strategy.
Chaganti, V. K, Sruti, R., & Satyanarayana, S. V. (2017). Social media use at the workplace: An analysis of the agreement on benefits, risks and risk management strategies. Web.
McDaniel, B. T., Drouin, M., & Cravens, J. D. (2017). Do you have anything to hide? Infidelity-related behaviors on social media sites and marital satisfaction. Computers in human behavior, 66, 88-95.
Khosravi, P., Rezvani, A., & Wiewiora, A. (2016). The impact of technology on older adults’ social isolation. Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 594-603.
Savci, M., & Aysan, F. (2016). Relationship between impulsivity, social media usage, and loneliness. Educational Process: International Journal, 5(2), 106-115.
Turculeţ, M. (2014). Ethical issues concerning online social networks. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 149, 967-972.
- Cyberbullying – the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature.
- The US elections are not the only ones featuring the use of bots and fake news coverage. The UK referendum in regards to Brexit also saw the use of propaganda bots on both sides.