The Internet and Society: How Social Media Gives Happiness to Different Types Of People

Everyone wants to be happy. I mean, is that not the greatest purpose in life right? Even when one is raised in the most horrible and the most terrible situation possible, that person, in some point of his/her life, will long for a little bit of joy. My example may be too extreme but that is just to emphasize how humans value the feeling of happiness and satisfaction in their lives. All of our endeavors have the same ultimate goal and that is happiness. It may be translated into different kinds of happiness, even making other people happy is one, but still in the end, we will always try to seek the things that make us feel alive. Yes, being happy is synonymous to being alive and that is just human nature.

There are a lot of things in this world nowadays that can make a certain people happy. To name a few, one can be happy out of personal achievements, healthy relationships, career development, revenge, chocolates, and ice cream. The list is practically endless. That goes to show that for each person, there is that unique happiness that he/she seeks for. Much like the satisfaction we get from food, hobbies, and sleep, people usually manifest true blissfulness when around with their friends and families. Most of the time, it is for the pleasure and satisfaction of others that we find happiness, much more from fulfilling our own wants and needs. The connections and bonds make time and money spending all worth it. The unlimited ability of humans to connect and interact and form worthwhile caucuses is the very reason why the world designed itself just like it is for the longest time. The creation of different races and geographical isolations actually was not just mere natural phenomena, it is also given to us as a challenge that will hinder humans to become one. Somehow, it is a divine joke. For many centuries, human civilization tried to develop and flourish in groups, which we call nations and continents. Nations rise and fall, all for the happiness of its own people, the people who are within the proximity and bounds of one another. Eventually, people became happy of who they are as a member of a group or country and not of the world.

This kind of happiness continued for so many generations and people were somehow satisfied not until the time came when technology broke the barriers. The moment technology found its way to better and efficient ways to provide communication too all of human race, that was the time when people started to gain another form of happiness and this time it is not just personal, it is not paternal, not even societal. This new form of happiness is considered global in scale. What I am talking about here is the thing we call Social Media.

We are oriented with the basic mediums of public communication in our lifetime. The newspapers provide us the print media. The radios are also one form while the TVs offer both audio and visual. However, social media, the new generation kind of communication medium, is the most powerful form of medium to date. I am not entirely sure if the creators of social media sites knew the impact of what they have created, but one thing’s for sure—social media is a global revolution.

Social media relies on the power of the internet. The concept was already existing decades back but it was not that powerful since access to the World Wide Web was still very limited and most of the times controlled. Technology was not yet capable of unleashing its potential and personal human privacy was pretty much a big deal. Upon the rapid development of wireless technology and the boom for mobile devices that can tap the world of internet, social media became both a superpower and a monster. The rise to power of social media was so uncontrollable and unprecedented that the world had no choice but to totally change and conform to it. There were no instances or chances given to people to assess its impact and the scope of influence. Truly, the world is now ran by social media and its spreading like a virus and growing like the hair of Samson. Its ability to connect every person in the planet to any platforms made the world an open market for information. The unlimited access to information paved way to infinite opportunities to happiness. It is the first time that the world experience true unification and because of this, the challenges and controls of the past that hinder humans to achieve global happiness has now been shattered and forgotten.

The influence and power of social media is now evident to almost all living human on the planet. The platform is somehow controlling the very lives of every human being connected to it. Most of us benefit and enjoy all the things it offers however, an alarming increasing number of preys are currently experiencing the bad side of it. Since social media is impartial and free for all, what clings to it are both the good and the bad. Sadly, most people do not have the ability to distinguish one from the other.

Here are some impact and effects that social media has brought down to the current human civilization:

Socialization

Social networking sites now open up platforms where people can communicate and reconnect to their families and old friends who parted ways from them. Not only that, people now has the ability to gain more friends, contacts, and partners anywhere in the world. Everyone can now follow the lives of their heroes, their idols, and their acquaintances. Social networking site users are now in touch of what is happening around the world, may it be for a place or an event for a specific individual. Some people uses social media to boost their fame, business, and talent. Organizations, academies and business groups use social media to impart knowledge, hold meetings, and conduct business deals faster and more efficient than ever before. Learning language and culture became so easy with the help of social media.

Politics

Government and election campaigns are now more effective if hosted through social media sites. Since more and more people are becoming active in these sites, politicians exploit these opportunities to disseminate their platforms and brainwashing speeches in the fastest way possible. Inversely, there were also instances that through the power of social media, rallies and mass movements were incited in trying to overthrow their existing governments.

Business

IT conscious companies are using social media sites to advertise their products and services, build customer loyalty and many other business interactions. Feedback and concerns from their customers are now being submitted faster and more organized thereby helping the businessmen improve their business endeavors faster and more efficient. Ads and different forms of marketing strategies that are being released into social media sites have found to be more effective in terms of coverage and turn-around rate.

Final Thoughts…

Like all things in this world, social media now shows both its halo and its fangs. The scary part of this though is its impact. Whatever output or information that social media provides, may it be beneficial or detrimental, surely millions of people around the world gets affected and may ricochet to a million more.

Having said that, let us allow ourselves to go back to our subject matter which is happiness. Since we are already acquainted on how powerful social media is and how it is currently influencing our very own lives, you guys may have the slightest idea on what kind of happiness do you have right now. Choose one happiness you feel that is genuine for you right now and trace back its source. Accept it or now, all of our current happiness are products of social media, one way or another. Yes, do not even try to deny it. Allow me to generalize this for all of us since at these times, the number of people who are not yet reached and touched by the power of social media is obviously insignificant and near to zero.

Since we all long to be happy and whatever social media provided us to achieve this, is still one form of it, then I won’t be judging you. In fact, if there is one truth that technology and social media had taught us, it is about freewill. No one in this world can dictate you on how you live your life and on how you acquire the certain type of happiness you seek. Since most of us are now puppets of this omnipotent form of technology, the existing choices we all now have depends to where to we invest our time and effort to.

The only question is, where does your moral compass points to? It all boils down to your motives. If you want to provide happiness, satisfaction and fulfillment to the greater good and to the world, then, blessed are you and you have my all out support. On the other hand, if you want happiness just for your own self, disregarding the welfare and lives of others that may be affected by your actions, then, I hope you know what you’re doing and ready for the repercussions.

Exploring the Digital Age Acculturation

In her book titled When Old Technologies Were New (1988), Carolyn Marvin mentioned that “new technologies will bring every individual… into immediate and effortless communication with every other, practically obliterate political geography, and make free trade universal.” A seemingly prophetic line, indeed. People around the world are now closer than ever. What made this transformation possible? And what are the cultural implications of a more connected global landscape?

Technological achievements when it comes to transportation, though very significant, is just but a speck of this radical social transformation. During the last five decades, the advancement that truly shaped the image of our global landscape is our communication system – the Internet, to be more precise. As of the moment, almost all of us have an available access to telecommunication devices for fast and reliable connection. In numbers, China is currently leading the chart on world’s highest Internet users with 721,434,547 active users as of June 2016. This is followed by India (with 462,124,989 users) and United States (with 286,942,362 users). We are living in a world wherein human populations are greatly enmeshed. This connection grows staggeringly fast each day. With this context, I think it is apt to state that the Internet is currently shaping a new type of acculturation where personal culture contact is absent but transfer and exchange of cultural traits still happen. Anthropologist Conrad Kottak defines acculturation as “the exchange of cultural features that results when groups have continuous firsthand contact. With acculturation, parts of the culture change, but each group remains distinct.”

Whether acculturation is facilitated by coercion and force is still contested. Acculturation is, most of the time, between dominant and submissive culture. It actually entails a two-way process of change though many researches focus on the adjustments and adaptations by minority groups to dominant mainstream groups. Interestingly, the dawn of digital age is starting to transcend the textbook definition of acculturation. Traditionally, continuous firsthand culture contact is a prerequisite for acculturation to take place. Digital realm, however, enables people to connect and continuously contact other people (firsthand) even though they are physically distant. This is when the cyberspace comes in. Basically, Internet is a dynamic and evolving system of global network that connects millions of computers through the use of standard Internet protocol suite. An article written by Jonathan Strickland (Who Owns the Internet?) contains a very unorthodox presentation on how Internet protocol works:

“Imagine you’re in a room full of people from different countries, and everyone only speaks his or her native language. In order to communicate, you’d have to come up with a standard set of rules and vocabulary. That’s what makes the Internet so remarkable: It’s a system that lets different computer networks communicate with each other using a standardized set of rules. Without rules, these computer networks wouldn’t be able to communicate with each other.”

Internet protocol suite, the standardized set of rules, enables computer of different “Internet Protocol” IP addresses (the identity and location of your computer) to communicate across networks. We can create a network through a router – a hardware that connects one computer to another. The router, then, fires transmission signals to satellites that will then distribute the message and the connection to other existing networks around the world. We have now a global system of network. And the connection is growing ridiculously fast!

Live video calling between individual is already possible. Discussions at chat rooms and forum websites do exist. It is as if Internet has the ability to devoid the geographical boundaries of different people and let them have personal contact in just few mouse clicks. The phenomenon is fascinating because firsthand contacts between different cultures are actually happening without one physically meeting the other. For example, a Korean national that uses the Internet can easily converse and discuss with a German national even though they are thousands of miles apart. They can share their ideas, experiences, and even culture as they immerse in this virtual society. It is apparent that the physical contact is absent in this kind of transaction but the idea of passing cultural knowledge and traits to other individuals or groups (especially those who are not members of one’s society) thrive and continually occur. The firsthand contact of different people through the Internet, in a way, has bypassed the platform of physical space.

In addition, circulation of digital media suddenly became active because of the Internet. People can watch, share and download films, songs, pictures, and books. Mass-production of digital information is right before our eyes. These are material cultures that carry cultural traits from the society where it has originated.

We should also be aware that Internet is not a homogeneous entity. Inside this cyberspace, are thousands of social clusters with varied interests and goals. This is important because different sections of the Internet also contain different cultural dynamics and rites of passage. Some websites accommodate people who are interested in news, while other are created to facilitate easier philosophical or scientific discussions. Some are developed to archive tons of information (like Wikipedia) while there are also websites that serve as carnal haven for those who consume pornographic video. Websites vary when it comes to cultural structure and their members vary from wide-ranging demography to focused target population. In a way, Internet is composed of virtual social organizations that we can call electronic tribes. Here, people continually reproduce electronic culture, and also inevitably incorporate it in their personal lives.

Final Thoughts…

Internet is making a mark in the human history. Still, I cannot deny the obvious limits of Internet. Behind the mists and magic of the Internet lies an older and stronger order whose relevance remains inescapable. Groups that do not have access to Internet are less affected by what I am calling “digital acculturation”. Sixty-five percent (65%) of the world population still do not have access to Internet. Virtual scoiety, though promises freedom within cyberspace, ironically generates social stratification. However, this does not mean that we should stop using the Internet. On the contrary, I think we are placed in the right position to explore the limitations of this technology. And we are still starting.

Long live the Internet!