The introduction of Internet based social media in the 21st century has completely revolutionized modes of communication. As opposed to the past when people used smoke and signs to convey information, recent years have seen the introduction of various modes of communication that have transformed the way people share information. According to Thussu (2006), the world has become a global village as a result of unprecedented freedom offered by numerous social based media platforms. Furthermore, in the process of sharing information, people have the opportunity to develop social networks and establish new relationships.
The introduction of brand new Internet based social mediums has tremendously changed the way of communication in the 21st century. Castells (2004) points out that the society has become "increasingly networked" as a result of the predominant use of the Internet. The introduction of new media has bridged the gap in communication and increased the network of people in a much smaller sense (Gates 2000). For instance, people no longer have to write letters or fax information, or wait for long periods before they receive replies. People do not have to travel for long distances or even make endless phone calls to convey information. Today, the introduction of various social media platforms has made communication totally effortless; it requires just a touch of a button.
The Internet is abuzz with numerous websites that have transformed communication. Some of the most preferred social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Google chat, 2go, LinkedIn, MySpace and WhatsApp among others. In particular, Facebook has been recognized as the most active website with the highest traffic. This is because of its simplicity in terms of communication, sharing of information and building long term relationships. In addition to transforming the society, Facebook has been associated with positive and negative impacts among its users (Wartman 2009, p. 115).
Facebook is undoubtedly the greatest invention in the world of social media platforms. Facebook is regarded as a community through which people develop a network of friends and share all manner of information. As a result of its influence on users, Facebook is regarded as a "social movement"; it has significantly changed the way of communication. Since it is a platform of socialization, Facebook has made it possible for people to keep in touch, share updates, upload photos and perform other actions quite easily. Further, it is regarded as a democratic process because people are free to share anything, thus making it an exceptionally interesting forum (Wittkower 2010, p. 215). In this regard, Facebook has allowed people to connect through personal computers, laptops or mobile phones by simply installing the Facebook application.
Another fundamental social media platform that is gaining popularity is WhatsApp. Though it is a recent addition to the social media industry, it has gained fame and worldwide accolades among its users. As opposed to Facebook, WhatsApp is easily accessible even without a direct Internet connection. Most of its users have likened it to short message sending (SMS) because it enables communication without the use of the Internet. However, the recipient of the message needs Internet connection to view and respond to the messages. Furthermore, WhatsApp provides the most convenient way of sharing information, videos, images and pictures, thus making it a favorite tool among its users (Bryfonski 2012).
Google chat and Google plus are also other forms of social media that have changed the world of communication. This is because they have provided the best and quickest means of sharing information. The "hangouts" feature on Google chat has transformed communication and lessened the agony of sending e-mails and waiting for responses. Today, people can chat, exchange ideas, pictures and any information over Google hangouts for free.
Effects of Internet based Social Media on Personal Identity
Although most of the Internet based social media have brought significant improvements to the world of communication, they have also compromised the aspect of personal identity. Among the available social media platforms, Facebook has taken the larger share of the blame for allowing people to use "false identities", thus negatively affecting the genuine purpose of communication. As a result, many researchers have questioned the lack of social responsibility among Facebook users. It is a common phenomenon to find people who post embarrassing content on their Facebook pages, thus negatively portraying the principles of Facebook as a company.
Celsi & Wolfinbarger (2002, p. 145) concur that Facebook as a social platform affects personal identity as a consequence of negative online behavior. This is attributed to the fact that people use social media for defaming others, slandering, thus contributing to negative consequences. Although Facebook has positively transformed the culture of communication, people have used it to commit cyber crimes by using "fake identities" to minimize chances of being tracked. In this regard, students have also been found to abuse the principles of Facebook by creating pages using "false identities" so that they could not be tracked. In college, some students can open Facebook accounts using their pseudo names and use them to commit cyber crimes or intimidate their peers.
However, in cases where their false identities have been unmasked, students have been expelled from college, denied intern programs and admission into independent universities. Magolda & Marcia (2011) point out that the amount of time wasted on Facebook should be transferred to other meaningful activities. For instance, in college, less time on Facebook will lead to better grades. Therefore, social media can negatively affect a person’s identity in a situation where it is not used in the right way or abused.
Effects of Social Media on Relationships between Friends, Couples and Family Members
In spite of the numerous achievements realized as a result of developments in Internet based social media platforms, they have had negative effects on relationships between people. As a result of the simplicity of communication provided by social media platforms, face to face human interaction has largely been replaced by chats and text messages. Kappas (2011, p. 150) contends that overreliance on social platforms has decreased interpersonal communication, thus affecting the development of interpersonal skills. For instance, the use of Facebook, Skype, Twitter, text messages and e-mail omits facial expressions, oral language, gestures and eye contact, thus leading to less expressive communication. In this regard, true friendship has been affected as people have reduced the number of times they meet and discuss issues in a face to face platform.
In the family setting, marriages have also been adversely affected by effects of social media. The usage of social media platforms has led to the development of online relationships; such activities can become extremely addictive and negatively affect one’s active social life. Shih (2005) argues that couples have also been adversely affected as a result of communication with friends. For instance, there are couples who post naughty pictures or write suggestive comments on Facebook. This may result in outrage from their partner who may demand an explanation. Since couples are expected to be free with each other and share information, some have been forced to quit their marriage as a result of what transpired on Facebook.
Research has indicated that most of the newly married couples or those in an intimate relationship still flirt secretively with their ex-lovers on Facebook (Valenzuela & Park 2008). As a matter of fact, each person possesses a unique password to their account, hence making it difficult for the other partner to monitor their activities. As a result of simplicity of communicating through Facebook, most couples have engaged in numerous arguments when they inquire about the other person’s affairs, updates or activities on this social platform. Therefore, discipline is required to ensure that social media platforms, and especially Facebook, do not ruin relationships or break up couples (Shih 2005, p. 45).
Social media platforms have also adversely affected relationships within families. In the past, families used to develop a culture of arranging a family gathering at least once a month. These forums were vital for sharing information, knowing the whereabouts of others, and even forming groups to initiate projects. In addition, family gathering provided for a sense of belonging. However, the introduction of social media has adversely reduced "family time" because people have found convenient ways to keep in touch. Furthermore, parents have become so engrossed in work that they only communicate with their children, who are often far away, through social media. This scenario has led to the breakdown of family values and ultimate disintegration of the existing society. Children lack mentors and role models, thus end up becoming social deviants (Celsi & Wolfinbarger 2002). Consequently, it is essential for family members to use social media platforms in moderation, and still create time for togetherness to ensure the family is not disjointed.
Effects of Internet based Social Media on Privacy
Social media platforms have been developed in such a way that people are free to display anything they want others to see. For instance, social media platforms such as LinkedIn allow people to display their profiles, share photos and update on current events. However, the exposure of sensitive information has made people become vulnerable to cyber attacks, and receive unwanted attention. Gates (2000) argues that software companies have the responsibility of protecting the privacy of their users from misappropriation. The issue of privacy on social media has presented various challenges to the media owners and users. Quite often, the degree of exposing information is determined by the user because they have the freedom of how much they share.
Since the society has become increasingly networked, privacy in the social media platform and keeping the Internet secured have become a challenge. Although social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook assure users of ultimate protection of their information, various cases of information hacking have been reported (Gates 2000). As a result of fraud and cyber crime, many people have been forced to close their social media accounts after they had been hacked. Therefore, privacy on social media platforms is not guaranteed, and the buck stops with individual responsibility.
Social media platforms have evidently transformed the modes of communication in various aspects. Through the use of the Internet, social media platforms have profoundly altered the way people live, work, communicate and interact. Furthermore, social media platforms have enabled people to make long lasting relationships and develop important networks in business and society. Furthermore, social sites such as Facebook have been associated with negative aspects such as "false identities", which have adversely affected the way people use the platform. In summary, the world is going digital, and social media platforms will continue to play a central role in communication. However, social media platform should develop policies of protecting the identity and safeguard the privacy of their users.