Social Media and Technology - the Evolution of Social Interactions
Social Media and Technology
Technology has changed humanity and the whole concept of human interactions in dramatic ways over the last few decades. What we have now is an internet revolution; an era of superior digital connectivity, where the internet controls literally every aspect of human life, from the acquisition of social capital to the maintenance of well-being and social status. Gone are the days when time and space limitations forced people to choose their friends and partners from their immediate environment; today, people can share their interests in many different ways, and build relationships using many different online platforms. Thanks to the influx of social media platforms such as Twitter, MySpace, Orkut, Facebook, etc., the development of relationships, both real-life and virtual, has become increasingly easy. Interpersonal and face-to-face interactions are not as significant as they were a few years back; oratorical and charisma skills, once keystones in an individual's ability to interact, are no longer commonplace -- it is easier and perhaps time-saving to add someone on Facebook than to invite them for a snack. The bottom-line is that technology is changing us both emotionally and physically. However, even as we enjoy all this and let ourselves be taken over by this digitalization, there is need to assess the current digital trend, and try to examine how it could the shape the future; how will people relate with each other in the near future; or rather, should we just let computer mediated communication (CMC) take over face-to-face interactions?
Social Media and Relationship Satisfaction: we all appreciate the fact that communication is an integral part of society; it is evident, right from the creation story, that man cannot live in isolation. Utz and Beukeboom (2011) express that above everything else, communication seeks to achieve satisfaction. Satisfaction derived from communication is even more important in the case of online relationships because the parties then do not interact and converse physically (Shah, Shah & Sivitanides, 2012). In this case, the length/frequency of communication and the terminology fundamentally determine the satisfaction of each partner and the extent to which the relationship is likely to grow. Satisfaction ultimately determines the outcome of a relationship, be it online or real-life. Text messaging, Twitter, and Facebook are crucial aspects of the relationship cycle, especially for young people aged between fifteen and thirty-five, the target group for this study. This inquiry seeks to establish the relationship between social media and relationship satisfaction; particularly, whether CMC is beneficial or detrimental to relationship satisfaction. The author reckons that it would be prudent to understand this relationship because technology is showing no signs of slowing down, and neither is relationship-formation online. Such an understanding would shed some light and help us predict the likely trend in relationship development.
After reviewing the existing literature, the researcher concludes that closeness/intimacy is a key construct of relationship maintenance and by extension, relationship satisfaction. This inquiry aims at investigating how people within the target group manage their relationships through social media, and the extent to which they rely on these online platforms to bring about psychological intimacy and satisfaction. To achieve this aim, it will focus on analyzing, by way of case studies, the overall quality of CMC, as well as the amount of time spent in such communication. The overriding aim is to bring out the actual dialogue and content of computer mediated communications, and compare the same to face-to-face interactions. The methodology of comparing and contrasting features and elements of CMC and face-to-face interactions has been found appropriate. Two research questions have been formulated in this regard;
RQ1: What is the overall quality of relationships based on CMC vis-a-vis face-to-face interactions?
This question aims at shedding insight into how people develop and maintain their relationships while relying fully on computer mediated communications; and assessing the likelihood of such a relationship having the same level of satisfaction and quality as one based on face-to-face interaction.
RQ2: What is the relationship between the media platform used and the creation of intimacy/closeness in a relationship?
This question sheds insight into the forms of social media used; and assesses whether the intimacy/closeness and satisfaction derived from a method is a major determinant in the choice and selection of communication methods.
The two research questions above will form the basis of the questionnaire used in the data collection.
The study adopted a constructivist approach, requiring one undertaking the same to "debate back and forth his or her own understandings with those of the stakeholders and the literature to construct the most viable position possible" (Lloyd, 2007, p. 63). Such an approach was deemed appropriate because the study, seeking to shed insight into how people use social media settings to create meaning to their relationships, is deemed to attract multiple constructions and ideologies; and the researcher would have to make use of observation, documentation, and interpretation techniques to understand these in a cohesive way, and develop a viable position, without influencing or manipulating the participants (Klenke, 2008). Furthermore, the approach involves a significant degree of face-to-face interactions, observation and note-taking, all of which minimize the danger of developing skewed interpretations and blind spots quite common in studies involving socially-constructed phenomenon such as this (Klenke, 2008; Lloyd, 2007; Lauckner, Paterson & Krupa, 2012).
The study focuses on how members of the target group interact with each other in their day-to-day life experiences. Two unstructured interviews will be conducted to enable the researcher gather sufficient data on the behavior of each participant. A case study will be used to increase the credibility of the findings. Glaser (2004) expresses that case study reporting assists in the validation of socially-constructed processes, particularly because it allows for the sampling and observation of many cases.
The constructivist approach incorporates the aspect of negotiation, yielding a dialectical and hermeneutic position that can be used as a basis for future research. However, it is not without its share of disadvantages -- findings based on it cannot be generalized to the entire population (Lloyd, 2004). Although this problem could be minimized by using a larger sample size, the cost and time limitations surrounding the inquiry would not allow for any additions. All the same, credibility will be ensured through source scanning. Reputable sources, including books and articles from the university library will be used to provide meaningful answers to the research questions and ensure objective interpretation.
An online survey will be posted on SurveyMonkey.com, running for one week, and advertising its link through email and social media networks. The study will target young people aged between fifteen and thirty-five. To be eligible to participate in the survey, an individual will have to be within this age bracket, and a social media user. Participants will be asked to log in to their Facebook or Twitter accounts in order to take part in the survey.
Purposeful and snowball sampling techniques will be employed in the survey. Purposeful sampling is, in basic terms, utilized in the description of the technique of selecting respondents "who know the information (or have had, or are having the experience) in which you are interested" (Jones, Torres & Arminio, 2013, p. 107). By posting the survey on social media platforms, the researcher is sure to obtain a sample that not only provides the necessary depth, but also addresses the various goals of a favorably high degree of breadth.
Participants will be encouraged to share the link to the survey via email and social media to increase the number of participants and create a snowballing effect. Additionally, an email sign-up will be passed around to students in the researcher's class willing to take part in the same. The email sign-up process would be such that once a participant gets their email registered, the researcher sends them a follow-up email containing the link to the survey. Just like those participating through social media platforms, participants using the email sign-up modality will be encouraged to pass on the information to others. The snowball technique will ensure that some form of balance is maintained, particularly with regard to participant demographics. There will be a total of eight questions; four related to RQ1 and four to RQ2, taking anywhere between ten and twenty minutes to complete. The questions will require participants to provide information on issues ranging from interpersonal relationships to social media use before finally submitting their sheets online to a personalized Facebook/Twitter timeline.
In addition to the online survey, the researcher intends to interview ten participants face-to-face, maintaining the same level of confidentiality as in the online case. Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) will be used to transcribe the collected information. Information gathered from both the online survey and the in-depth interview will be stored electronically awaiting interpretation.
Data Collection Instrument
Data will be gathered through both online survey and in-depth, semi-structured interviews. The methods will make use of a common interview form (see appendix 1). Data and questions will be well-organized to…