Table of Contents
The internet is the most transformative tool that the world has yet to discover in the information age. The internet has played fundamental roles in changing the way the world traditionally did things. In the information age, the internet has made it possible for individuals to congregate communicate and share information over wider geographical spaces than would have been imagined traditionally (Sharma & Phogat, 2015). Technological innovations have emerged inspired by the internet, while millions of businesses currently operate with the internet as their primary business platform. The internet has no only impacted on technological innovations and ways of communication between individuals, but has also impacted significantly on how people learn, work, live, socialize, conduct business, access healthcare, as well as how the people are governed politically (Sponcil & Gitimu, 2013). The contributions of the internet to people’s lives therefore range from creating powerful educational tools through distance and online learning platforms, to creating new healthcare access tools, and creating new ways through which businesses reach their customers (Gaál, et al., 2015). Nevertheless, one of the fundamental societal transformations that have been introduced by the internet is related to the invention of the social media networks, which have become a very core and significant part of the way in which the world interacts, communicates, shares information and engages issues of governance, environment and overall social matters of global interest (Nielsen & Razmerita, 2014). Consequently, in the information age where the social media networks remain the core of human communication, the world is now interconnected more than it has been before, with humankind now almost entirely interconnected. However, while the social media networks have had such a significant impact on the global human communication, interactions and sharing of information, reports of various studies have continued to indicate that humans are now more lonely and isolated in this information age than they have been before in history (van Dijck & Poell, 2015). Therefore, this study seeks to investigate how the internet, specifically through its social media networks, has transformed and impacted on the human connectedness and interaction dimension of social life.
The study on how the social media networks have transformed the human connectedness and interaction dimension of social life will apply a qualitative mixed descriptive research methodology, combining both the qualitative surveys (QS) and qualitative content analysis (QCA) research designs.
Qualitative Content Analysis (QCA)
The qualitative content analysis (QCA) research design will entail a systematic review of 5 qualitative and mixed methodology research articles published in the last 5 years spanning 2013-2017 on the subject of the social media networks impact on the human connectedness and interactions. The qualitative content analysis (QCA) research design will then apply a systematic literature review approach of the selected articles, to analyze the emerging congruencies and divergent perspectives of the different published research studies. The analysis of the emerging issues will then be followed by a comprehensive analysis of the findings of these research studies, to arrive at a conclusive finding related to the impact of the social media networks on the human connectedness and interactions in the information age. Purposive sampling and selection technique of research will be applied to define the study articles to be included in the study, which will entail the inclusion criteria of current research study articles, which have been published in reputable scholarly journals. The results and findings of the study will then be presented in form of a comprehensive discussion presentation, discussing the congruence and variations of the findings of the different research studies.
Qualitative Surveys (QS)
The qualitative surveys (QS) research design, on the other hand, will entail the use of both interviews and questionnaire data collection tools. The questionnaires as data collection tool for this study will be developed in form of short questions targeting specific social media network influences on interpersonal connectivity an interactions of the study participants’ lives. On the other hand, the interview data collection tool will entail the formulation of a brief interview guide that will be applied to guide the researcher when interviewing the study participants in different aspects of social media network influences on their interpersonal connectivity and interactions.
Population and Sampling
Random sampling technique will be applied to recruit study participants from a population of college on-campus students. The survey questionnaires will be issued randomly to classmate students around the class, who will be requested to respond to the short survey questions and return the questionnaire to the researcher once they have completed them. A sample of 30 students will be recruited for this short survey questionnaire filling exercise. On the other hand, 10 student classmates will be selected randomly and requested to be interviewed in a brief interview session that would last approximately 10-15 minutes.
Data Analysis and Reporting
The analysis of the data generated through both the questionnaire and interview data collection tools will be done through cumulative percentile ordering of the study participants’ responses. The data will then be reported in form of a comprehensive discussion presentation, which will discuss the results and findings of the study in tandem with the literature review findings from the qualitative content analysis (QCA) systematic literature review. The discussion presentation will seek to compare and contrast the survey study findings generated from the questionnaire and interview data collection tool of this study, with the results and findings of systematic literature review of the study.
The results of the study indicated that people use a variety of social media network platforms to communicate, interact and share with others, including Instagram, Twitter, Badoo, Myspace, Snapchat, Tumblr, Facebook, and Whattsap. The results indicated that 95% of the study participants had at least 1 social media network account, while 88% of all the study participants had more than one social media network platform account.
The results indicated that a total of 28 students, accounting for 93% of the study sample population responded to the questionnaire surveys, while 90%, representing 9 out of the targeted 10 students participated in the study’s interview data collection. 16 male and 12 female participants responded to the survey questionnaire, representing 57% male and 43% female respondents, respectively, while 6 females and 3 males responded to the interview, representing 67 female and 33 male respondents, respectively. Further, 96 % of the total study participants were aged between 20 years and 28 years, with only a small population aged 18-20 years. The reasons for the use of the social media among the study participants varied significantly. 91.7% reported finding the social media networks more convenient, cheap and easy to use to communicate with family, friends and colleagues. On the other hand, 59.4% used the social media network for entertainment, where they visited the sites whenever they felt bored to find whatever entertainment content could be of interest to them.
The results of the study further reported that 65.6% of the study participants combined the social media network platform use for both personal and professional activities that include education inquiry, health inquiries and health information sharing, creating and distributing current news, accessing and communicating business and commercial information, planning and organizing transport activities, as well as participating in civil and political protest organizations. 33.3% of the study participants reported using the social media platforms for accessing information related to, or planning activities such as holidays, picnics, outings and other forms of adventures. 72.5% of the study participants purposely used the social media platforms for seeking human companionship, while only 17.9% reported using the social media network for communicating with people far away.
Further, the results of the study indicated that people spend an average of 2-5 hours a day on different social media networks, chatting with family, friends, classmates and colleagues, while also developing and sharing content. Additionally, the results of the findings indicated that 72% of the study participants use the social media networks purely for communication, sharing and interaction purposes, while 80% of all the study participants combined the use of the different social media networks as both communication and interaction tools, as well as tools for accessing news, learning, and participating and advancing various charitable, social, political and cultural courses. Further, 45% of the study participants used one or more social media platforms at least once every day, with 30% of the study participants being highly active social media network using the social media networks at least 10 times a day. The results of the study further reported that 60% of the study participants had communicated interacted and shared with strangers on the social media network platforms at least once in the last 2 years of social media networks use.
The results of the study reported that 61% of the study participants considered the social media networks as having a positive impact on their lives. On the other hand, while 77% of the study participants preferred face-to-face communication with family, friends, colleagues and other people with whom they were engaged in different areas of their lives, 23% of the participants preferred the use of social media networks for such communications, unless where face-to-face communication and interaction was inevitable. The study findings also reported 47% of the study participants as spending considerable time just lurking around social media network sites, with 39% reporting that social media had affected them negatively in one way or another and another 41% reporting not experience any personal impact with social media.
The findings of the study indicated that social media networks have a profound impact on the human connectedness and interactions. The study has indicated that over 88% of the study participants use more than one social media network, with 95% of all the study participants making the use of at least one social media network platform for communication and interaction purposes. These findings concur with the findings of a study conducted by Sponcil & Gitimu, (2013), which reported that over 71% of the global world adult population are using one or more form of social media network for communication and social interactions. The use of social media for human connectedness and interactions has significantly grown over the decades, with the information age generation of which a majority has internet access, participating in different social media network platforms to share opinions, thoughts and views (Sharma & Phogat, 2015). The assertion is supported through the findings of the study which indicated that most of the study participants spend an average of 2-5 hours chatting with family, friends, classmates and colleagues, while also developing and sharing content.
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Indeed (Sharma & Phogat, 2015) points out that the social media network platforms have created a virtual world of human interaction, where more people are increasingly favoring the use of the social media communication and interaction tools over the traditional face-to-face communication. Although to a smaller extent, the study supports this view through the results indicating that 23% of the participants in the study preferred to use social media networks to communicate with family and friends, colleagues and other people unless where face-to-face communication and interaction was inevitable.
According to van Dijck & Poell (2015), the last 10 years have seen the emergence and growth of large social media sites, which have become increasingly influential on all aspects of human lives. Most especially, the five years spanning 2010-1015 have recorded a significant growth both in the number and size of the social media networks, as well as the increase in the number of the social media users globally (van Dijck & Poell, 2015). The traditional modes of communication and human interaction are swiftly losing their significance, with the social media emerging as a perfect alternative replacement for the human connectedness and interaction roles historically played by such traditional media. Furthermore, according to Gaál, et al. (2015), “social media is no longer a negligible phenomenon; tools like Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube have taken the world in a storm” p.185.
For example, the results of the study have indicated that 91.7% of the study participants reported finding the social media networks more convenient, cheap and easy to use to communicate with family, friends and colleagues. The rise of the importance of social media networks in the human connectedness and interactions can no longer be ignored, especially because the social media networks influence on the human life is cutting across all the social human dimensions.
According to van Dijck & Poell (2015), the influence of social media networks is felt in every dimensions of human life, since the “social media platforms have become entangled with professional activities, such as news production and distribution, health care, education, and law and order; commercial transactions, and civil activities, for example, citizen participation and protest organization” p.1. The findings of this research study article are indeed true, considering that the results of the study conducted with college classmates have reported that 80% of all the study participants combined the use of the different social media networks as both communication and interaction tools, as well as tools for accessing news, learning, and participating and advancing various charitable, social, political and cultural courses.
The increasing use of the social media networks for human connectedness and interactions is informed by several fundamental factors, which make the use of the social media more preferable than the traditional communication mediums. The global landscape is changing and the need for human interaction across wide geographical spaces is becoming inevitable (Gaál, et al., 2015). However, communication over wide geographical spaces can be very costly, where no alternative means of reducing costs exist. Therefore, social media networks have emerged as effective alternative tools for enhancing communication between individuals over wider geographical spaces, because the social media networks provide a suitable avenue “to cut costs and adapt to a changing marketplace” (Nielsen & Razmerita, 2014, p.197). The findings of this study are supported by the results indicating social media platforms are no longer used for communication purposes only, but also for professional, commercial, entertainment and other forms of human engagements. The study reported that 65.6% of the study participants combined the social media network platform use for both personal and professional activities that include education inquiry, health inquiries and health information sharing, creating and distributing current news, communicating business and commercial information, planning and organizing transport activities, as well as participating in civil and political protest organizations. All these activities are conducted through the social media networks, due to the fact that the social has emerged as an efficient alternative that is cheaper and convenient means of accomplishing the human connectedness and interaction functions. The research article by Sponcil & Gitimu, (2013) has found this argument valid, through reporting that for the participants recruited in their study “with friends and family living all over the world and having busy lives, communicating via a computer was a more convenient option” (Sponcil & Gitimu, 2013, p.9).
The impact of social media on the human connectedness and interactions has been recorded in different forms. For example, social media networks have impacted on the human connectedness and interactions in the healthcare sector, through providing platforms which patients can use to communicate and interact with physicians and other healthcare providers, and access healthcare interventions instantly (van Dijck & Poell, 2015). Through using the social media platforms, patients are now able to get instant prescriptions and healthcare advice for different illnesses instantly, without the need to visit hospitals. On the other hand, through the use of social media platforms, it has become possible for “social media provide new opportunities for knowledge sharing” (Nielsen & Razmerita, 2014, p.197). Therefore, human connectedness and interactions supported by the social media do not only come in the form of communicating, but also through sharing knowledge, where for example the social media networks have become very vital educational and learning tools (Sharma & Phogat, 2015).
The human interaction and connectivity impact of the social media networks also occur in the form of the social media providing platforms for companionship and entertainment (Sponcil & Gitimu, 2013). People are increasingly using the social media networks to find alternative entertainment, especially whenever they become bored. Equally, the social media platforms are emerging as a popular source of human companionship, especially where individuals are seeking for companions across the borders through their social media platforms, thus increasing the global interconnectivity (Sponcil & Gitimu, 2013). The social media networks have become a core part of contributing to the rising global political, social activism, environmental and human rights activism communities, since social media networks allow communities to form easily and quickly, while providing them with avenues to share common interests (Sharma & Phogat, 2015).
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Most importantly, social media has impacted the human connectedness and interactions dimension of social life, because “social media has removed the all barriers of interaction and communication” (Sharma & Phogat, 2015, p.171). While the traditional mediums of communication were characterized by barriers such as time, geographical space and other forms of difficulties to attaining communication, social media has altered and flattened the communication landscape completely. The use of social media has removed the temporal, geographical space, transport and other forms of barriers that hindered free, easy and constant communication between individuals. Thus, while social media networks had emerged as mere alternatives to physical human connectedness and interactions, currently, “social media has become a mainstream, modified personal relationship” (Gaál, et al., 2015 p.185). The argument of this article is supported by the study results indicating that 72.5% of the study participants purposely used the social media platforms for seeking human companionship, indicating that indeed, social media networks are now effective alternatives to physical human connectedness and interaction.
In conclusion, social media networks have emerged as core and vital tools of enhancing human connectedness and interactions. Whether through providing effective educational and learning tools, or providing avenues for patients to access medical care and prescription support, social media are impacting human connectedness and interactions in significant ways. Social media networks have also become major tools for entertainment and mitigating boredom for individuals, while also being applied towards conducting business and commercial transactions. Most profoundly, the social media networks have emerged as a primary means of humans seeking companionships, effectively replacing the traditional physical human connectedness and interactions.
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- Nielsen, P. & Razmerita, L. (2014). Motivation and Knowledge Sharing through Social Media within Danish Organizations. Information and Communication Technology 429, 197-213.
- Sharma, K. & Phogat, S. (2015). Social Media – Transforming Society. International Journal of Advanced Research in Computer Science 6(1), 171-173.
- Sponcil, M. and Gitimu, P. (2013) Use of Social Media by College Students Relationship to Communication and Self-Concept. Journal of Technology Research, 1-13.
- van Dijck, J. & Poell, T. (2015). Social Media and the Transformation of Public Space. Journal of Social Media and Society, 1–5.