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The Impact of Social Media on Societal Norms

Written by Jir Dara Akcan

Technology advances at a rate no other industry has seen before. Our world is becoming increasingly more digital along with our social interactions. Technology has replaced most of the parts of our life and continues to do so. But how does this change affect our social life and norms?



The Digital Age and Social Interaction


Social media transformed our landscape for interpersonal communication to a state where a significant part of our social interactions happen. From a time when we were forced to communicate face to face to a time when it has become almost obsolete because of social media, it also shifted our social dynamics. “Human brains have essentially evolved because of sociality more than any other thing,” says Sinan Aral, an MIT professor and expert in information technology and marketing. “When you develop a population-scale technology that delivers social signals to the tune of trillions per day in real-time, the rise of social media isn’t unexpected. It’s like tossing a lit match into a pool of gasoline.” The user numbers make this clear since as of 2017 80% of adults in America use Facebook alone. However, as social media developed, the vision of a utopian online community quickly became debunked. The cost of quick and easy information and connectivity was loads of disinformation and political attacks from all around the world. “Social media disrupts our elections, our economy, and our health,” says Aral, who is the David Austin Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management.



Social Media and the Construction of Identity


It is no surprise that young people are the target audience for social media apps. These apps play a critical role in the construction of the user’s identity. The power of peer pressure is high in these age groups, and belonging to social groups is important. It is generally acknowledged that fitting into the aspired social groups demands “right” consumption styles and distinguishing oneself from the “wrong” ones. That distinction requires economic resources and social and cultural capital Research shows that young people’s consumer identities are thus always social, but also highly emotional and aspirational



Influence on Social Norms and Values


Social media platforms have become powerful channels for the dissemination of cultural norms and values. As individuals and communities engage in online conversations, share content, and express opinions, a dynamic process of cultural exchange unfolds. The rapid transmission of information across these digital spaces contributes to the evolution of societal norms, influencing perspectives on various issues, from beauty standards to ethical considerations.



The Role of Influencers and Trends


Central to the influence of social media on societal norms are influencers—individuals who amass significant online followings and shape public opinion. These influencers play a pivotal role in setting trends, whether in fashion, lifestyle, or social causes. The emulation of these trends by a broad audience can lead to the normalization of specific behaviors, preferences, or ideals. Consequently, social media catalyzes the swift adoption and dissemination of cultural trends that impact societal norms.



Digital Activism and Social Change


Because of the easy connectivity social media provides everyone can make their voice heard. unjust actions can be euthanized by the masses of ideas. However, it is also the ground for political attacks and it is effective at it as well. Because social media gives everyone a chance to speak, opposing ideas will and do crash into each other a lot and can be seen by just a quick peek at Twitter. Even though there are a lot of negatives, the positives outnumber them since free speech might be the most important right in social rights.


As social media continues to shape the way we connect and engage with the world, it is imperative to critically examine its sociological consequences. This article highlights the multifaceted influence of social media on societal norms, interpersonal relationships, and various aspects of our daily lives, prompting a thoughtful reflection on the role of technology in shaping the fabric of society.



References


  1. Burgess, J. (2023, September 30). How has technology affected social interaction? Sogolytics Blog. https://www.sogolytics.com/blog/how-has-technology-affected-social-interaction/

  2. Digital activism | Online campaigns, social media & protests. (2014, June 25). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/digital-activism

  3. Peter Dizikes. (2020, September 24). Why social media has changed the world — and how to fix it. MIT News | Massachusetts Institute of Technology. https://news.mit.edu/2020/hype-machine-book-aral-0924

  4. The Role of Social Media in the Creation of Young People’s Consumer Identities. (n.d.). https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/21582440231177030.



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