Between Two Generations: Social Network’s Effect on Human Behavior
Between Two Generations: Social Network’s Effect on Human Behavior
By Michelle Morgan
The date is May 6, 1979. It is almost 8 pm in the campus library and Sally Rappleye has grown bored of studying advanced statistics.The hum from the next room grows increasingly tempting.
After burying her head in a textbook for three hours it is time for some much needed Prime Face Time at the library. The social oasis in the middle of the sea of books is where students come to share the latest gossip and chat about their weekend plans.
The Prime Face Time is the codename for the place to be seen on campus. Today Sally has plans to finally strike up a conversation with that cute guy from her finance class…
Fast forward 33 years to May 6, 2012. Erin is Sally Rappleye’s 22 year old daughter. Erin sits at her desk staring at the computer screen. She is struggling with a terrible case of writer’s block.
As the clock ticks she finds her mind wondering what her friends are up to. Within a few seconds she is logging onto Facebook to find out whether her friend has messaged her back about Friday’s party yet.
A recent survey in 2011 says that one in nine people on earth have a Facebook account (Facebook has over 750 million registered users). As a result of our increased interconnections, we have become a society that has become used to less communication face to face and more acclimated with screen to screen. The way that we form friendships and romantic relationships have greatly been influenced by our society’s obsession with social networking.
Sally and Erin Rappleye had very different college experiences. The comparing their experiences shows how much the Internet has changed our society’s social behaviors.
Sally Rappleye – a woman from the Baby Boomer generation who grew up without the internet, Erin Rappleye- Sally Rappleye’s 22 year old daughter who is currently attending college, and a University of Iowa Sociology professor.
Each person sheds a new light on this topic, and will give a more complete picture of how much social networking has changed our relationships.
The Baby Boomer
“Back when I was in college we had a book with the incoming freshmen pictures. Seniors would use these books to figure out which people they wanted to get to know. That was our Facebook”, Sally recollects.
Sally Rappleye, now a suburban mom with three kids is well aware of their constant social networking use.
“One thing that I notice about this generation is that they are constantly connected to some form of communication” she said.
Instead of talking at the dinner table, this generation is likely to start texting a friend or check their newsfeed on Facebook.
Sally sees that there is an expectation for instant gratification in this younger generation. “My kids will complain that their friend has not texted them back, and yet they will refuse to call them directly” she said.
The idea of hoping that you are near the phone when your crush calls are long gone. Now one can instantly know what our peers are doing in today’s age of Facebook and texting.
Rappleye explained the process of getting a date was more deliberate and took a lot more effort to execute than it does today. “Instead of texting or chatting a person, a guy would have to go knock on your dorm room door to ask you out.”
Sally says the advantages of communication through social networking are easy to see. “One plus to social networking is that it is much easier for old friends to stay in touch; back when I was in college it took a lot more effort and money to write a letter or make a long distance phone call” she said.
However, Rappleye sees some of the negative effect social networking has had on her kids. “ I see there is a loss in the art of communicating. The decreased face to face communication has made these physical interactions more awkward” she said.
“Maintaining a relationship is becoming more laborious. It seems like this generation is constantly in each other’s space” Sally continued.
Rappleye recounted her experience listening to her daughter bemoan seeing all her friends get invited to events on facebook but not her. “People are more likely to get jealous of their peers because of the need to know their everyday activities.”
“I feel stupid admitting that I get jealous over something posted on Facebook” Erin sheepishly says.
Maintaining a romantic relationship and a Facebook profile can be a dangerous cocktail for some. Erin admits that she will look at her significant other’s profile to check up on their online activity.
“Especially if I know that the relationship is going downhill, I will look on their profile to see what they are up to. After a breakup I look on their profiles to see if they are moving on” she admits.
Research conducted by Amy Muise of the University of Guelph showed that there is a correlation between the amount of time spent on Facebook and jealousy. A survey said that 66% surveyed that they have gotten jealous over Facebook posts.
Social etiquette has definitely taken a nosedive since the Facebook and Twitter era. Erin expresses her frustration with rude friends, “Nothing pisses me off more than when I’m hanging out with a friend and they are busy looking at something on their phone.”
Erin is an occasional Facebook user who logs on two or three times a week. Even with her occasional use she still feels that she is an outsider compared to her friend’s frequent use. “I wish my online presence was stronger. It would be much easier to maintain my long distance relationships. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out because I’m not on Facebook more” she said.
What exactly is Erin “missing” on Facebook? A lot of social interactions occur online such as event invites, inside jokes, and friendly encounters. Erin’s concern about being an outsider points to how interconnected people’s lives are with their social networking lives.
Comparing Erin and her mother’s dating life give an interesting perspective on today’s social media influence. While Sally usually got asked out on dates in person, Erin has had different experiences.
“The act of asking out a girl in person has been lost. I have had a lot of guys ask me out over Facebook chat” she said. By sending a message by way of technology it is much easier to dissolve any social awkwardness.
“I think it is easier to do that then face to face. It relieves some social anxiety. When you send the message out you don’t have to deal with face to face rejection” Erin explains.
The distance people put between themselves and society is growing larger and larger. The Atlantic published an article titled Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? The article explored some of the ways society is using technology in order to avoid face to face interaction– which has been proven to lead to a sense of loneliness.
“Non-personalized use of Facebook—scanning your friends’ status updates and updating the world on your own activities via your wall, or what Burke calls ‘passive consumption’ and ‘broadcasting’—correlates to feelings of disconnectedness” the article explains.
The feeling of disconnectedness hits close to home for Erin. Her passive consumption has affected some of her friendships, “Sometimes I feel that some of my friends think that I don’t like them because I don’t interact with them on Facebook all the time.”
“The main negative about Facebook that my students point out is, that Facebook is taking the place of making the effort to interact face to face”, Freda Lynn explained.
Lynn is a sociology professor at the University Of Iowa who specializes in the study of human networks.
The rise in loneliness was a topic that Lynn is concerned with regarding social networking. However, reports show that Facebook usage can influence people in different ways.
Lynn explained, “If your social support system is good, it can help you strengthen your relationships. It is easier for you to maintain, connect, and share.But it is the opposite is true for the people who are not socially active in real life. Their relationships can grow weaker.”
When it comes to navigating the dating world, Lynn says that things have changed dramatically with the introduction of social networking. “We are now about to connect with people across the country who share the same interest. In the past we have been confined to our personal network of family and friends to find our mates,” Lynn explained.
“However, the jury is still out on if this leads to better quality romantic relationships,” she added.
Facebook was created in 2004 and Twitter was only created in 2006. Neither of these networking sites have not even hit their tenth anniversary; and yet their diffusion into our society has been going at lightning speed.
“The future of this technology and it’s long term impact is still unknown. I am anxious to see the long term effects on our social behavior” Lynn said.
Erin and Sally text back and forth about weekend plans as the anticipation for graduation grows day by day.
Erin yearns to stay connected to her college friends through facebook after college ends. “My goal is to have a stronger online presence so I can stay in touch with my friends who are moving away.”
Today’s technology has lead multiple generations to be constantly connected even half way across the country.
The social behaviors have changed from Sally’s generation of Prime Face Time, to Erin’s Facebook generation. The need to stay connected to others is still the same. The question lies in whether our method of communication is just creating quality or quality relationships.
Sally and Erin both agree that it can be much harder to genuinely connect with their peers due to the technological distractions. Both women still value the authenticity of the face to face connection.
Erin Rappleye checks her Facebook profile on her iPhone