The Internet, specifically the use of social networking websites, is making our world increasingly smaller. Social networking is popular amongst teens, and college-aged students. This demographic uses these websites as a means of communicating on an array of topics and issues. In the past three or four years, the main social networking sites that have been dominating this new form of communication are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. These sites have gained notoriety and have attained such a wide user base, because they are so user-friendly and highly interactive. Danah Boyd’s, “Why Youth ❤ Social Networking Sites…”, explains “While particular systems may come and go, how youth engage through social network sites today provides long-lasting insights into identity formation, status negotiation, and peer-to-peer sociality” (Boyd 119). This new participatory culture has changed the way that we interact, as a society, as whole. Because of this, our communities are growing, because of these websites, and the emphasis of user-generated content.
While there are many positive characteristics and attributes to this relatively new culture, there are some negative aspects. Boyd states that, “by allowing youth the hang out amongst their friends and classmates, social network sites are providing teens with a space to work out identity and status, make sense of cultural cues, and negotiate public life” (120). This statement can be interpreted a few ways, but the adverse side to this, is that too many teens are getting too comfortable with conversing in this type of setting. In Wesch’s informative video, “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube”, he demonstrates how people are using YouTube to connect with others on a global scale, and that some users may choose to do this anonymously. Communicating, experiencing, and relating to others on varying perspectives is positive, but the adverse side to this, is that this can create a distance between the people around you in your immediate community. Yes, they are getting a chance to express and learn about themselves, but they are doing so through a monitor or a web camera. Sure, expressing oneself through technology is a valid form of expression, I just find it problematic that this is the primary form of expression for so many people.
When social networking first came to fruition, some critics questioned the validity of its use, but during the 2008 presidential campaign, this theorization was completely negated when young people mobilized and became extremely proactive in the welfare of the country. Twenty-somethings, nationwide, started to educate themselves and on a plethora of social, cultural, and political issues, and raised awareness of the importance of voting. This new passionate, authoritative attitude can be, largely, attributed to the use of social media. President Obama realized this, and used social media and networking to reach this demographic. After the 2008 election, almost every political campaign has a social media team put together to reach and relate to the young people.