In his article on the Sociological Imagination, the sociologist C. Wright Mills discusses the issues of the “personal struggles of the milieu” vs. “the public issues of social structure”. Outline the ways “social media” is impacting both our personal lives and larger social relations.
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A social network can be defined as a social structure, which comprises people or groups of people such as organizations that are linked by various kinds of interdependency. Interdependency can take various forms such as sexual relationships, friendship, and many more social functions variables. The individual participants in the social network structure are known as nodes, and their relationships between other nodes are known as ties. The social contract represents the nodes, to which an individual in the social network has ties. Social networking forms one of the largest communities that are found over the internet, linking people from different backgrounds with different objectives and interests.
Issues in the local environment of a person are always antagonistic with personal perceptions. Despite such antagonism, the broader social setting significantly influences the personal perceptions of an individual. Personal issues are always exhibited in the wider social milieu. Consider the example of unemployment in a city that hosts 100,000 people and all of them are employed except one individual. This portrays his trouble. In the reverse case, in the same city, if only one is employed and the rest are unemployed, it becomes a public issue. Therefore, issues whether private or public are at the disposal of the overall society, and this plays a significant role in determining how individuals in society respond to social problems. Structural changes play a significant role in influencing social milieu, whether public or private.
Currently, people are of the view that their private lives are no longer private and in cases where there are boundaries such as family limitations, jobs, and the locales of the neighborhood, their powers are significantly limited by such environments. In the other social variables, individuals are merely spectators, playing no significant role in controlling their private lives. Similarly, historical happenings determine the ways individuals in a society relate to one another and influence their social characteristics. The history that shapes the current social setting is a result of all the feudal and backward nature of humanity in the past. Individuals cannot uphold their private lives in the presence of external social influences. In the present digital age, the availability of information often takes control of individuals and as a result, they get caught up in the social milieu that they have to abide by, despite their deep struggles to maintain their private lives. This is further enhanced by the fact that individuals feel what they require, and this plays a significant role in determining the personal relationships that an individual upholds and the broader social relations. In this context, major players in the information sector such as journalists, scientists, and any other information source are responsible for the idea of sociological imagination.
Basing on the social context of Mills, social networks play a significant role in determining our personal lives and the broader social relationships. With the increasing technological advances in terms of access to the internet and sophisticated mobile devices and applications, social networking has become part and parcel of our daily lives. People have no alternative but to participate in the notion of social networking. Our personal lives significantly depend on the ties that we have with the outside world, and that is when social media comes in to influence our personal lives, depending on the kinds of relationships that an individual upholds in a social networking site. A unique characteristic of social media is that it does not only allow individuals to meet strangers over the internet but also facilitates the various individual users to express and make their social contacts visible over the internet platform. Through such avenues, connections between individuals can be created, that under ordinary circumstances, could not have been realized. It can therefore be inferred that social media provides an avenue for offline networking, thereby allowing a person to significantly focus on his social interests in the real world, away from the digital world. An example is a scenario when a person meets a stranger on his profile on a social networking site account, a stranger may be due to the diverse ties that the individual has with other users of the same social networking site. The real-world social structure does not provide the same services that the digital world social structure provides (Washington 6).
Sociological imaginations provide a framework for understanding how individuals are consistently getting trapped in the current state of affairs characterized by increasing information availability. Basing on how an individual perceives the milieu, it can turn out to be beneficial or harmful. A requirement of the current social setting is maintaining social contacts, making new social contacts, and probably regaining contacts of people that you once had contacts with. The concept of connecting and reconnecting plays a great deal in influencing the way an individual relates to the outside world. It is arguably evident that social networking significantly influences the way an individual approaches social problems in real life. Even though the social digital world is unreal, it usually shapes how we relate to people in real life and how we handle situations in the real world. An outstanding characteristic of social media is that it provides a channel through which individuals of common interest can share information, experiences, and even request suggestions towards how they approach real-life problems of social nature. An example is the various groups and fan pages that are created on the various social networking sites, such groups usually comprise individuals with a common interest such as business, friendship, and in some cases sexual relationships. Some social networking sites are specifically designed for an individual with specific social needs such as online dating, professional services social networking sites among many others.
Presently, we are in the digital age of human history. Understanding the age that society is in human history is important in an attempt to justify the implications of their current involvement in certain activities associated with that age. The digital age is widely characterized by concepts such as global communication, information availability, global culture, and any other aspect that integrates with globalization. One such aspect is social media; an important characteristic of social networking in the digital age is that it eliminates the barriers associated with culture, races, backgrounds, nationality, and regional factors in an attempt to make social contacts in the global arena. It can be argued that the onset of social networking played a significant role in accelerating the concept of globalization. Through such avenues, our social relationships with the outside world are enhanced; social networking offers an opportunity to understand the cultures and traditions of different people without having to meet them; an opportunity that the real-world context cannot provide (Grossman 67).
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Mills promises that a sociological imagination can help us understand the relationship between this historical change and our individual experiences. What is his promise and how might it help us make sense of changes in who we relate to work.
Sociological imagination agrees with the concept of social science that states that an individual can have an understanding of personal experience if he or she can place himself in the history of humanity. This plays a significant role in determining how an individual perceives and relates to another individual especially basing on gender orientations. According to Mills (5), sociological imagination places a person on humanity’s history.
Technological advancements have been subjective to social, gender, and racial discriminations. Technological designs always seem to favor males compared to females. The new digital divide incorporates many social variables such as gender and racial discrimination in an attempt to design and implement new technological devices and applications such as computer games (Joon et al 67). This section will attempt to outline the various ways in which technological development put into consideration the social variables such as gender and racial factors during its development.
Race plays a significant role in ensuring that the concept of the digital divide exists. The digital divide simply refers to the breach that exists between people basing on different factors towards the use and development of technology. Various factors are responsible for the digital divide, for example, levels of income, age, geographical location, race, and gender. Our concern is mainly on the role that social variables play towards the realization of the digital divide. Race and the digital divide are two interrelated concepts that affect technological development and use. The outcome of the integration of race into the new media environment is that the involvement of a given race in the technological development and access is hindered at various capacities. The racist approach to technology is evident in diverse ways (Joon et al 80). A common instance of racism on technology is the integration of race into cyberspace, which is evident when the personality of an anonymous user is reserved for a particular race. Online portfolios are usually denoted by a particular race depending on the developer and the locality of the application development.
In cyberspace, machine characters are normally reserved for the whites, with little dominance of other discriminated races like blacks (Wajcman 290). The racial digital divide has some historical backgrounds based on the concept of domination. The social framework of modern society is based on the past and so will be the future. An explanation for racial technological advancements is possible because the past domination was associated with the domination of a particular race, basing on that argument; the dominant race is possibly going to play a significant role in the digital technology advances in the present and the future (Mills 78). The outcome is the racial digital divide that is being witnessed in the current technological arena. It can therefore be inferred that the societal structure influences every aspect of the society and the technological advancements is not an exception, with the outcome depicting racial differences regarding the development of technological applications, the access and use of technological devices (Nakamura 100). An example of the racial digital divide is the fact that the Latin and black Americans are more likely to access the internet through the use of cellular phones, contrary to their white counterparts who use more sophisticated means to access the internet. Research studies have suggested that the physical racial segregation is gradually getting its way into the digital world, characterized by online portfolios that place the whites as superior to other races; the cyberspace is dominated by the whites since there are limited cases of multiracial castings and other racial features that are available on cyberspace (Cochrane 5).
Another aspect of the digital divide is the gender-based approach to technology. Almost every technological development is dominated by males compared to their female counterparts. An example is the male design of technological devices such as cables, pins, and so on. Gender-based technology can be explained by the fact that women’s contribution to technological advancements is limited, as a result, favoring male dominance in science and technology. Gender-based technology is evident in various ways, an example of such is evident in the computer games and the general entertainment industry, whereby men are given more preference in the allocation of characters compared to their female counterparts. Equality of access to gender is also an issue in the digital divide. Automation characters are always assigned to the male, with very few cases being assigned to the females (Cochrane 6).
Studies have revealed that real-world gender practices are being integrated into technology with female participants at the expense of their male counterparts. Women’s involvement in technological advancements is limited and their participation is somewhat impaired due to the concept of a gender-based digital divide. Media aspects such as cyberspace and computer gaming have reported minimal female involvement and in the cases where they have participated, they are always portrayed as being subjective to their male counterparts. Some technological applications require that a user specifies whether he is male or female so that it can be customized according to gender. This in itself is a gender-based approach to technology that fosters gender divisions concerning the use of technology (Inness 156).
Cochrane, Kira. “The third wave – at a computer near you.” Guardian (2006): 1-7.
Gray, Herman. is cyberspace the space. California: University of California Press, 2000.
Grossman, Lev. “Time’s Person of the year: You.” Time’s Magazine (2006).
Inness, Sherrie. Tough girls: women warriors and wonder women in popular culture. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999.
Joon, Lee, et al. “Women and games: technologies of the gendered self.” New Media Society (2007): 555.
Mills, Charles Wright. The Sociological Imagination. New York: Oxford University Press, 1959.
Nakamura, Lisa. Introduction to Race after the internet. New York: Routledge Press, 2011.
Wajcman, Judy. “From Women and Technology to Gendered Technoscience.” Information, Communication and Society (2007): 287-298.
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Washington, Jesse. For minorities, new ‘digital divide’ seen. 2011. Web.