Social psychology, the study of how people perceive each other and relate to each other, can be employed in a variety of ways to explain both the current trends in society and the possible future changes. In this paper, we consider the ways it can make prognoses, and then propose to look at some phenomena that exist now and could be scrutinized by social psychology as well. We argue that researching social networks further, from another perspective, can add more to the pool of knowledge. We also look into some of the already existing and the potential changes that social media bring into society.
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It is evident that, by identifying the tendencies that are present in contemporary society, and their influence on individuals, social psychology permits to create a prognosis about similar phenomena in the future. For instance, by identifying the impact of mass computerization and social media usage on people, and using the forecasts about the future development in the digital sphere, it is possible to predict how these advances might change both the individual and the society as a whole.
Because the methods of social psychology can be applied to a wide range of areas of human existence and activity, such as health and medicine, education, the public sphere, and the media, and even the environment (Schneider, Gruman, & Coutts, 2012), it can be instrumental in forecasting the changes that are probable to occur in all these areas and the ways to enhance the positive outcomes and lessen the adverse effects of these changes.
Thanks to my study, I was able to come up with several ideas about how I can apply social psychology to understand the community better. For instance, it is possible to analyze social media further to understand the core values that exist in society. Mishra (2008), e.g., views the social networks in the light of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions theory, implying that the very structure of a social network is likely to be a telltale phenomenon.
For instance, the structure of Facebook, where you can e.g. add people to friends without there being any methods to build a hierarchy of these “friends”, is characteristic of the American society, where the power distance index is lower than the average (Mishra, 2008). It also follows that it is possible not only to understand the society in this way; there also might exist a possibility of altering the values dominant in society by introducing new items of technology structured in a particular way. Social psychology ought to be used in any such activities
In my future professional activity, I would like to employ the methods of social psychology to comprehend how the ubiquitous computerization affects the level of violence and aggression, and, vice versa, the amount of prosocial behavior. Can social media increase (or decrease) the amount of aggression in society? Do they promote behaviors and/or attitudes that are beneficent to others? Are social networks often used to engage people in volunteer or political events, and how does it shape their views? It is doubtless that if I have a chance to research this area, more questions and themes will emerge in the course of the study.
But today, I can say that social media have an important influence on the way people relate to each other. For instance, it is clear that they significantly “squeeze” the phenomenological space and time, so that the world makes an impression of a small place where one can reach their friends and peers almost instantly, from practically any geographical point and virtually at any moment, by utilizing mobile technologies.
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It is now possible to add to friends effectively any number of people one wants and maintain relationships with most of them. However, this has an adverse effect as well, lessening the amount of time one spends practicing face-to-face communication and substituting it with instant messaging that can neither show the whole spectrum of feelings a person has nor teach people to engage in real communication. Besides, large numbers of “friends” in social networks in many cases mean very little; a person might have a few hundred “friends” and communicate with none of them in a full-fledged way.
Moreover, the research conducted by our peers throughout this course (e.g., the study by A. Azza) has shown that the introduction of mobile technologies hurts the relationships inside families, for instance, by causing parents to pay little attention to their children. Therefore, it is possible to predict that the ubiquitous presence of social media will lower both the quality and quantity of direct communication between people; however, it appears highly unlikely that the usage of social media and mobile devices will completely substitute personal communication.
Besides, the social networks have enabled the creation of online communities, where the relationships between members can be rather close and trustful (Canhoto, Clark, & Fennemore, 2013). Moreover, the substantial technological benefits that mobile devices have brought should also not be forgotten.
As we have seen, social psychology can be used to explore the existing phenomena, as well as to use the findings of such explorations to forecast the future changes in society; this could be done in a large number of areas of human activity. Its methods, for instance, can be employed to analyze the structure of social media and make conclusions about the societies they were made in. It would also be interesting to utilize social psychology to further understand the influence of social networks on aggressive and prosocial behavior, even though many other effects of these media are already clear today.
Canhoto, A. I., Clark, M., & Fennemore, P. (2013). Emerging segmentation practices in the age of the social customer. Journal of Strategic Marketing, 21(5), 413-428.
Mishra, G. (2008). Using Geert Hofstede cultural dimensions to study social media usage in BRIC countries. Web.
Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (Eds.). (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.