Social Media Use Makes us Less Individualistic: Yes or No? Reflection on Fake Social Media Account Issue

“My generation has grown up alongside of the Internet and social media, and in the process of doing so we have become so attached to these technologies. As this has happened, I’ve noticed that many of the ideas and thoughts of different people are being twisted and molded into one collective thought so that it may be included and shared with the majority. This completely destroys the concept of individualism and self-expression” (Miller, 2009).

    The above statement is expressed by Miller who notice a critical change happened to this generation. He argues that the attachment to technology has caused the people to be less creative in terms of building up own stands and thoughts. What interests us here is that whether the media use has deprived the concept of individualism among oneself? In other word, has media use made us less individual or vice versa?

To a certain extent, media use has created two dimensions in making a change to the concept of individualism. Some people perceive that social media use deprive the individualism of people while some says social media improves the social relationship and increases the individualism. Thus, we would like to know, do social media increase individualism? Or do they lead to more streamlined and less individualistic lifestyles and behavior?

While Miller states that elements in social media affect the self-expression, individuality, sense of inclusivity, social status, level of anxiety, and self-confidence, Lee & Wellman (2012) explains that the networked individualism operating system creates new efficiencies and affordances in the ways people solve problems and meet their social needs. No doubt, network individualism is a new term to us here. We could see that Lee & Wellman question much on how the digital technology has changed the social relationship among the society members to good instead of downgrading the social rapport.

An evident issue nowadays is the usage of fake social media account on distinct purposes. Taking the fake account of Facebook as example, due to a certain extent of internet democracy, many people get the chance to create fake Facebook account for purpose like stalking and tracing others Facebook profile, intruding others privacy and some other personal chit-chatting intentions. Not only that, the trust issue also related to the relationship between children and parents. Taking the example of short series “Modern Family”, the mother Claire was using a fake Facebook account named “Brody Kendall “ to get the latest updates of her daughter name Haley because her friend request to Haley was still pending after so long. Out of anxiety, she only get to monitor the updates of her daughter using a fake account.

From here we could figure out two main problem which is the trust of children towards parents is still in a cautious state which cause the children to hesitate on whether to accept the friend request of their parents on social networking which is a platform for them to express themselves. At the same time, the use of fake account to monitor children by the parents also show that there is a change in parenting skill in which parents nowadays do not monitor their children face-to-face by only through social networking they can know more about their children’s doing.

In fact, like what Miller (2009) argued, social media use makes us less individualistic. But how do this relate to the “trust issue” as mentioned above? The massive web of connection has converted the individualistic sense of self among adolescents that they are prone influence and losing their part of themselves with has no fear of judgment, guilt, or remorse.

“We become assimilated to groups and, in turn, have precious parts taken away from us along the way” (Miller, 2009).

In this context, Miller argues that adolescents tend to get others gathered when they have similar interest and ideologies on its platform since the social media connects they includes people so well which make them to become less individualistic because when they share same interest among one another, it leads to bonds and friendships which in turn lead to respect and admiration.

University of Massachusetts professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett states in journal entry “Adolescents’ Uses of Media for Self-Socialization”, “No matter where they move within the United States, adolescents will find peers in their new area who have watched the same television programs and movies, listened to the same music, and are familiar with the same advertising slogans and symbols” (Arnett, 2014)

Nonetheless, this argument is contradicted by Lee & Wellman (2012). Social media are hybrid media in the sense of offering both electronic word of mouth (eWOM) opportunities and serving as a mass media platform for sending messages (Goodricha & Marieke. Lee & Wellman (2009) perceive that nowadays people are incorporated with internet and mobile phones that have changed the way they interact with each other.

“They have become increasingly networked as individuals, rather than embedded in groups. In the world of networked individuals, it is the person who is the focus: more than the family, the work unit, the neighborhood, and the social group.”

Does media make today’s generation less individual?

Today, there are tones of social media which can be accessed via mobile phones such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, Wechat, Telegram, Line, Hang Out, Chat On and etc. They allowed us to share our personal stories, views, photos, connecting us to other people around the globe and easing our everyday life with the assistance of Internet that’s available in most households with Wi-fi installation, cheaper Broadband connection and mobile Internet. Mobile media is said to be substituting traditional media in terms of entertainment, advertising, marketing, education and even our personal relationship. Most of our everyday routine is relied on mobile media that seemed to have a “spirit” that possessed us and make our life is not complete if we lived without mobile media. For the past decades, we would wait for the paperboy to read newspapers but now most of us owned a Smartphone that can download applications of News Online that the company has to engage with more audiences. Dependency on recent media gives two impacts; creation of echo chambers and cyber balkanization where users tend to see the content they are already interested in. That means it promotes collectivism and less individualistic lifestyles and behaviour and lead to more streamlined.

Impacts of Media: Echo Chamber & Cyber Balkanization

Echo chamber in media is created when users only exposed to opinions in line with their own, like-minded information that reached them faster than whoever opposed their views (Jamieson & Cappella, 2008) Here’s are the example of situation; a friend of yours asking you to vote for his/her photos or someone else who you’re not close with or perhaps you never know in person because that person participating in a big competition such as beauty pageant, photography etc. Would you do it? , pressing the “like” button just because that person is a friend of yours or someone who related to your friends? This situation shows that social media make us less individual instead we follow the collective’s preference where we don’t express our views at the very first place. Back to the example just now; we may have our own judgment about that person in the photo such as she is not qualified to join that competition due to her physical make-up; shorts or incompetent as compared to other contestants. Yet, we don’t judge because he/she is a friend of your friend and simply “like” it to take care of your friend’s feeling. Another situation is where we may get misleading information yet we uphold it because it’s the first information that reached us and most of our friends believed the mainstream opinion. This effect matters because people prone to rely on social media as a main source of information even they didn’t know where the news originated from whether it’s from reliable sources or not. This evidence by social media such as Facebook that aggressively filtering and shaping what people see based on their interest such as on our news feeds which only shows status or pages that we visit frequently. Therefore, we only serve with limited information. For instance, what if the vital information is posted on pages or a friend’s status that we seldom visited? It’d be a great loss if we don’t know what’s actually happening rather than simply trusted whichever posts that reach us first.

Cyber balkanization is the abbreviation of “cyber” and “Balkan” that refers to a political region in southern Europe with a history of portioned culture, religions and languages. While cyber balkanization is known as separation of the Internet into smaller groups which comes with mutual interests (Gauntlett,2013) In other words, it shows  narrow-minded approach to those who disagree with that particular views and unite fringe groups in which its members hold extreme viewpoints on certain issue such as political party, organization or football team that they support. To some extent, small matter such as football match can be chaotic on social media for instance bias referee that caused unfair score. Internet can be both good and evil; the good part of it is it contributed to globalization, as a channel for information exchange especially for voiceless people but at the same time it foster discrimination. With the opportunity to communicate without any restriction may promote hatred against other society such as with the creation of Facebook page which tease other religion and posting controversial comments, videos or photos that may challenge the sovereignty of nation such as composing national anthem songs with other musical arrangement or lyrics. In other cases such as a video that shows a woman making fun of ‘Hukum Hudud’ that’s proposed by Kelantanese religious group and she even got blackmailed because of that video.

Deindividuation Theory & How Today’s Media Make People Less Individualistic?

(Festinger, Pepitone & Newcomb, 1952) proposed the term of deindividuation to explain the effect of a crowd or group on the behaviour of an individual where it results of this control over an individual’s usual behaviour that turned the individual to form certain behaviour when they are within the group and not when they are alone. Deindividuation results in the loss of self-identity once they immerse in a crowd (Diener,1980;festinger et al, Zimbardo,1969) Consequently, the loss of self-identity lead to aggressive behaviours when they are in group setting than when they are alone. However, it’d be interesting to view the concept of this theory from individual perspectives. We have to take account on different platforms and environments and specific affordances. For instance Facebook makes it difficult for users to differentiate their audience along social circles and people who keep their identity as anonymity. Even the co-founder of Facebook used to say that “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of identity” in justifying the privacy setting on Facebook. Hence, the setting and maintenance of Facebook is constantly updated in order to protect one’s privacy such as changing name which only allowed after 60 days and unblocking people can be done after 48 hours. This is to restrict uers from having multiple profiles and protect them from spamming or hackers. It is said to be less individualistic because today’s user do aware about their restriction on their posts and comments because they might be harmful in some way. In other words, such strict privacy promotes less individualistic because one’s can’t simply say whatever they think is right without considering its consequences. People always try to share positive experience and depict themselves in an idealized way. People prone to be less individualistic when they prefer computer-mediated communication and some even become addicted. This is because they choose to communicate via virtual world rather than visual world (real world) because they got time to think what proper message to write instead of responding spontaneously. By spending hours to sit in front of computers one can own multiple identities. It means that he/she created fantasy identity and they may be act or behave differently as compared in real life. For instance they use unknown identity to post opinions or comments carelessly plus by spending too much time on cyberspace limits their time with real people in their life such as family and friends. People choose to spend more time on social media that can be excess via phone rather than having interpersonal communication that requires emotional attachment and time consumed and to some extent they can have visual relationship with people who they never meet in person. The term ‘individualism’ is ambiguous because most of us would relate it to selfishness and egoism but actually it’s more on lifestyle and cultural such as a kind of lifestyle that’s divert from norms.

Reference

Arnett & Jensen, J. (1995). Adolescents’ uses of media for self-socialization. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 24(5). (1995): 519-33.

Diener,E. (1980). Deindividuation: The absence of self-awareness and self-regulation in group

members. In. P. Paulus  (ed.), The Psychology of Group Influence (pp.1160-1171).

Hillsdale, NJ:Erlbaum

Festinger, L., Pepitone, A. and Newcomb T. (1952). Some consequences of deindividuation in a group. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 47, 382-389

Gauntlett,D. (2013).Making is Connecting. New York: John Wiley & Sons

Goodricha, K. & Marieke, D. M. (2013). How ‘social’ are social media? A cross-cultural comparison of online and offline purchase decision influences. Journal of Marketing Communications.

Jamieson,K.H. & Cappella,J.N. (2008). Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and theConservative Media Establishment.Oxford,UK: Oxford University Press

Lee. R & Wellman, B. (2014). Networked individualism: What in the world is that? Retrieved from http://networked.pewinternet.org/2012/05/24/networked-individualism-what-in-the-world-is-that-2/

Miller, Z. (2014). Saving our individuality from social media. Retrieved from http://rampages.us/zachmiller/2014/12/07/concept-activity-10-2/.

Zimbardo, Philip G. (1969).The Human Choice: Individuation, Reason and Order Versus Deindividuation,Impulse and Chaos, In W.T. Arnold & D.Levine (eds.), Nebraska Symposium on Motivation,Vol 17

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