An Exploration of Social Networks; <br />The Good, The Neutral & The Bad of Virtual Reality Realms<br />Anna DiNoto (Psy.D. & M.A. Clinical Psychology Graduate Student @ Argosy University)<br />email@example.com<br />December 9, 2009 @ 12:15 (Cascadia Community College)<br /><ul><li>What is social networking?
A social networking service that is a shared structure which focuses on building online communities of individuals that share interests and/or activities who seek to gain and explore the interests and activities of others.
Blogging, posting pictures, commenting on profiles, emailing, self-presentation by making “your space your own”, posting information about yourself, sharing links with others, uploading various kinds of information, IMing, microblogging, Skyping, reading news feeds, and the list goes on…
Individuals leverage social networks for a wide array of everyday social practices- gossiping, flirting, joking around, sharing information, hanging out. Participation on social networks, such as Facebook, is essential to be considered “cool in school”, as my 16-year-old twin cousins, would say. Younger boys are more likely to participate than younger girls (46% vs. 44%) but older girls are far more likely to participate than older boys (70% vs. 57%) (Boyd, 2007).
The use of the social networking sites stimulated the number of relationships formed on the site, it also increased the frequency with which adolescents received feedback on their profiles, and the tone (i.e., positive vs. negative) of this feedback. Positive feedback on the profiles enhanced adolescents’ social self-esteem and well-being, whereas negative feedback decreased their self esteem and well-being (Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouten, 2006).
Meeting social and personal gratifications & needs (Raacke &Bonds-Raacke, 2008)
It is estimated that around 700,000 students in K-12 are learning online currently (Barbour & Plough, 2009).
Social networks are said to be the public space which allows students a sphere for their social development, similar to the kind of public space they would have experienced in traditional school environments (Barbour & Plough, 2009).
Teachers at OCHS (Odyssesy Charter High School- a distance educational school which utilizes social networks; Blended learning model, whereby students physically attend school one day a week for four hours and the remainder is taught online. They used “Ning” a social network that was a “walled garden” that no one could join unless invited) saw students engage in social networks in such ways that had not been seen previously. For example, students in K-12 were sharing personal histories, discussing controversial issues in an open and mature way, and generally doing the sort of things you’d expect teens to do in a traditional high school environment (Barbour & Plough, 2009).
Q2L, In New York City; Uses the gaming literacy model which posits that in the coming century, there will be an emerging set of skills and competencies, as set of ideas and practices that are going to be an increasing part of what it means to be literate. And by using three game design concepts (systems, play and design), media literacy will become more prominent. These concepts are argued to be, crucial for work, play, education and citizenship in the coming century (Zimmerman, 2006).
“We promote GAMING LITERACY: the play, analysis, and creation of games, as a foundation for learning, innovation, and change in the 21st century. Through a variety of programs centered on game design, the Institute engages audiences of all ages, exploring new ways to think, act, and speak through gaming in a social world.”
Use social networks such as Sermo, a virtual community of doctors who share experiences and feedback online. Doctors found this to be helpful in collaborating and receiving second opinions on medical advice (Messina, 2009).
“Unlike the ephemeral (lasting a short duration) quality of speech in unmediated publics, networked communications are recorded for posterity (for all future generations to see). This enables asynchronous (digital communication in which there is no timing requirement for transmission) communication but it also extends the period of existence of any speech act. ”
“Because expressions are recorded and identity is established through text, search and discovery tools, this allows the facilitation of finding like-minded people. While people cannot currently acquire the geographical coordinates of ANY person in unmediated spaces, finding one’s digital body online is just a matter of a few keystrokes.”
“Hearsay can be deflected as misinterpretation, but networked public expressions can be copied from one place to another verbatim, such that there is no way to distinguish the “original” from the “copy”.”
“While we can visually detect most people who can overhear our speech in unmediated spaces, it is virtually impossible to ascertain all those who might run across our expressions in networked publics. This is further complicated by the other three properties, since our expression may be heard at a different time and place from when and where we originally spoke”
Limbic Resonance: This is the tuning in to another’s internal state, it occurs through eye contact and the sensations multiply through mutual recognition and the continual back and forth of feedback (oxytocin- the attachment chemical is released here) (Peters, 2008).
Mirror Neurons- visual gestures tend to be lacking in social networking, which can lead to a decrease in empathy and understanding (Wolfe, Gales, Shane, & Shane, 2001); perhaps, in my opinion, it is different case when chatting via Skype, or a similar interface???
Mirror neurons are neurons that fire BOTH when a person acts out a behavior and observes the same behavior performed by another person. The neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting (MIND BLOWING- In my opinion!). These neurons play a significant role in empathy and mimicry of behaviors. These neurons are an important concept for role taking and distancing idea (distancing of emotions). SO, if someone is watching a video on YouTube or one on Facebook, the same neurons are firing when you watch your friend perform an activity (jumping) that would fire if you were to actually performing that activity (jumping) in real life.
Keep in mind that children play with each other, say on the playground, and people meet in person, say to have coffee, in order to make meaning out of social cues and to build a better understand of the boundaries found within social norms. Social networks, and other forms of technology, do not provide ways of interpreting the contextual cues and social structural boundaries that help develop the skills they will need to later (for children) or currently, manage their social worlds (Boyd, in press).
There are four primary, contemporary notions about online safety which should be noted (Shrock & Boyd, 2008; Boyd & Marwick, 2009)-
Harassment- Bullying, gossiping and harassment have been a cruel presence in the lives of children for a very long time. Much of this stems of peers and youth
Cyberbullying- implies anonymity to harassment, gossiping, bullying online. 82% of victims in the U.S. knew their perpetrator, and 41% of perpetrators were friends or former friends (Hinduja & Patchin, 2009).
The Internet & its accompanying social networks, provide an amazing opportunity to address a long-standing problem. Perhaps blaming technology is counterintuitive, instead, people should put their energy towards focusing on the youth hurting and being hurt, and not “blaming-away” the problem and not acting on the issue at hand?
Pornography!!! Acceptable for adults; and not-so-much for youth.
42% of youth in the U.S. reported unwanted or wanted exposure or both. 66% of this sample reported only unwanted exposure and 9% of these individuals indicated being “very or extremely upset”(Wolak et al., 2006).
Rates of unwanted exposure were higher in youth who were older, suffered from depression, and reported being harassed or solicited online or victimized offline (Wolak et al., 2007).
Results here suggest that unwanted exposure to inappropriate content might be linked to specific activities, particularly at-risk online behavior
Furthermore, younger children report encountering pornographic content OFFLINE more frequently than online (Ybarra & Mitchell, 2005).
A study of 7th & 8th graders in the U.S. found that youth exposed to nudity (intentional or not), more are exposed through TV (63%) and movies (46%) than on the Internet (35%) (Pardun et al., 2005).
One core belief of the Internet’s benefits is that it enables consumers of a culture to become products and distributors; not all is considered to be healthy, such as when youth produce content which society deems immoral, illegal or detrimental. Such as pro-ana sites (“it’s a lifestyle choice”). We also have YouTube which allows users to upload videos of violent content or inappropriate content.
Technology allows easier access and distribution of inappropriate, problematic content.
However, just because technology makes an issue more visible to society does not mean that we should focus on eliminating its visibility. Instead, perhaps using its visibility to get to the root of the problem may better serve our society?
Sexual solicitation- The online predator, every parent’s worst nightmare. [He] is portrayed as an older, unattractive man who falsifies his identity to deceive, groom, kidnap, and rape children.
Considerations of statistics taken from the Crimes Against Children Research Center (Wolak et al., 2006; Wolak et al., 2008):
1 in 7 minors in U.S. are sexually solicited online
Peers & Young Adults (NOT OLDER ADULTS accounts for 90% of solicitations in which approximate age is known. So, children and peers are the sexual solicitors…)
“Many acts of online solicitation are harassing or teasing communications that are NOT designed to seduce youth into offline sexual encounters”
69% of solicitations involve NO attempt at offline contact and youth typically ignore or deflect the experience without distress
5% of U.S. criminals (in which adult sex offenders were arrested after meeting young victims online) were deceived by offenders claiming they were teens or lying about their sexual intentions AND 73% of youth who met their offender in person, did so more than once-victims tended to be underage adolescents, not children, who knowingly met these adults for sexual encounters. These incidences tended to fit under statutory rape involving a post-pubescent minor having no forcible sexual relations (many times, with an adult in their twenties)
This problem is not unique to the Internet, this is commonly seen in America. “Most youth are not at-risk online, and those who are tend to also have problems offline”. Essentially, the Internet provides a new medium for this type of problematic interaction, and this predates technology…THUS, instead of criticizing the Internet as the “cause” of age-old problems, “perhaps we should use it to understand why youth are doing this, and how we can reach out and prevent them from happening.” (Boyd & Marwick, 2009)
Considerations for “The Bad” (My OPINION): Many fears and concerns aimed at the Internet and Social Networking Sites regarding online safety stem from the Internet uncovering many pervasive, age-old, patterns our society has dealt with for a long while with youth, and adults. We see more risky behaviors not because they have increased, but rather, because technology allows for a more conspicuous (prominent, well-known) outlet. Parallels between reality and virtual reality are seen. We are giving agency (power) to the Internet so as to blame it for what it reveals (the harsh reality that society has issues that need to be dealt with, but no one wants to tackle them, instead, they blame, blame, blame- in my opinion). The Internet is not the issue, rather, it is society. Perhaps we are blaming the Internet because most don’t understand it and if we remain ignorant and put the blame on it, we are avoiding the fact of admitting we are unwilling to put the blame on ourselves for not knowing how to solve the problems of society…”Perhaps it’s time that we look beyond the Internet and begin addressing the fundamental problems of our society. Thanks to the Internet, they are staring us right in the face. It’s high time we do something about it.”(Boyd & Marwick, 2009).
Pathological Technology Use (a less pathologizing word, in my opinion, to use in place of addiction)
I see Internet use as being on spectrum that is idiosyncratically determined, meaning, it differs from person to person and what’s a high amount of Internet use for me, many only be a small amount for you.
Increased tolerance to the technology-of-choice. In this case, building an extremely high tolerance towards the use of Internet and/or Media-based technologies (i.e., video games, texting, etc.). An example of this might be… at the beginning you used to play video games for only one hour. Then, you needed those extra few ‘minutes’ to finish the battle. Now, you need 12 hours straight (or more!) to play. All in hopes that you will be able to beat that darn boss, which will then provide you with access to that much desired item that all the other gamers wanted, but only you got (because you put in all the time and effort!).
Obsession about technology-of-choice. For example, continually thinking about what you will tweet* about next, or thinking that you must check your email to see if that person emailed you back yet. Obsessions involve thinking about your technology-of-choice.
Compulsion of your technology-of-choice. Compulsions involve acting on your obsession thoughts to relieve the tension and stress that is caused by them. For example, checking your email over and over again, refreshing the page to see if that person you just sent an email to about 2 minutes replied back yet, or, updating your Facebook/Twitter/MySpace account continually, throughout the day, over and over and over again. Another example includes texting on your phone all day long, to the point where you are multitasking and paying a lot more attention to your phone than to the task at hand (such as school or work or even, more dangerously, driving!).
Excessive psychological dependence to the technology-of-choice. Here, you may feel that you need to play, for example, World of Warcraft (WoW) until you defeat that darn boss, and you will not stop playing until you have done so- even if this means you will not shower for 2 days, make minimal bathroom breaks and your daily diet will undoubtedly consist of chips and soda. Also, this could include you feeling that you need your cell phone on you at all times, just in case someone texts you or someone updates his or her Facebook/Twitter status.
Inability to function in daily life. This meaning, the individual that is addicted is unable to function socially, physically or psychologically, and consequently may be severely hindered in their ability to relate on an interpersonal level with others. Not willing to, for example, keep up on their personal hygiene or this could also mean that the individual that is addicted may have lost, or never learned, the ability to accomplish, maintain and complete daily life-skills (such as writing a check, paying the bills, budgeting their money, eating a healthy, balance diet, etc.)
Experiencing withdrawal when technology-of-choice is not available. For example, this may mean that when the individual loses Internet connection (if they are addicted to this), let’s say because of a power outage, they end up freaking out and may shows signs of aggression, anger, sadness, or even depression. This will occur because they have built up such a high level of tolerance to the Internet that when it is suddenly taken away from them, they begin to go through withdrawal, as what they have come to know as always being accessible to them is no longer that.
Negative repercussions as a result of their technology-of-choice. This means that perhaps the individuals is beginning to exhibit maladaptive behaviors such as arguing more, lying to get out of trouble or avoid completing necessary tasks, poor achievement in things such as school or work, social isolation from family and friends they may have or had, lack of personal hygiene, and fatigue due to overuse and constant misuse of their technology-of-choice, just to name a few.
Keep in mind, you should always meet (in my opinion) the client where they are at… if they are not ready to change, then talk to them about that and empathize with them. You don’t want to bombard them with harsh words, such as “You are in denial”; this will only cause resistance and decrease their chances of recovery and completely destroy rapport. Establish rapport firstly, and through this, hopefully, you will be able to facilitate a change in behavior . (See, Prochaska & DiClemente’s Stages of Change Model for ideas, and also look up “Motivational Interviewing”)
Stages of change: </li></ul>Precontemplation- They are not critically thinking about changing nor do they feel it is a problem behavior<br />Contemplation- Here, they are able to consider the possibility of changing their behavior; however, they tend to have mixed feelings about it<br />Preparation- This is where you see individuals wanting to do research, seek out resources (e.g., clinics, psychotherapy) and try to figure out which strategies will behoove them to try<br />Action- During this stage, you are able to overtly see changes<br />Maintenance<br />Termination<br />Rock bottom<br />What's yours? What's someone elses?<br />We are all diverse<br />BioPsychoSocial Model<br />Diathesis Stress Model<br /><ul><li>Motivational Interviewing “roll with resistance”- essentially, you want to go with their flow of thinking and throw in some challenging exploratory questions when they speak about ambivalence.
The wise words of my professors… “It is your job to tease apart all the hypothesis and theories you research and come across, and find your place in the data and make it your own by establishing your very own stances and opinions on issues, to support or refute by in everyday life”
Overall, I personally love technology and I enjoy researching its uses and what deleterious findings have been purported. I advocate its use through moderation management and I encourage mindfulness in all people do- online or offline.</li></ul>References<br />Barbour, M. & Plough, C. (2009). Social networking in cyberschooling: Helping to make online learning less isolating. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 53, 56-60.<br />Boyd, D. (in press) “None of this is Real,” Structures of Participation (ed. Joe Karaganis).<br />Boyd, D. (2007). Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume (ed. David Buckingham). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.<br />Boyd, D. and Marwick, A. (2009). The conundrum of visibility. Journal of Children &<br /> Media, 3, 410-414.<br />Hinduja, S. and Justin, P. 2009. Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Respondingto Cyberbullying. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.<br />Kibbe, C. (2009). Social networking media enhances your job search. New Hampshire Business Review, 31, 12. Retrieved December 4, 2009 from PsycINFO database.<br />Kranzberg, M. (1986). Technology and history: ‘Kranzberg’s laws. Technology<br /> and Culture, 27, 544–560.<br />Messina, J. (2009). Medicine meets social networking. Crain's New York Business, 25, 24, 14.<br />Pardun, Carol J., Kelly Ladin L’Engle, and Jane D. Brown. 2005. Linking exposure to outcomes: Early adolescents’ consumption of sexual content in six media. Mass Communication & Society, 8, 75–91.<br />Peters, D. (2008). Emotional intelligence and leadership -- part 3. Enterprise/Salt Lake City, 37, 8. Retrieved from MasterFILE Premier database.<br />Raacke, J., Bonds-Raacke, J. (2008). MySpace and Facebook: Applying the uses and gratifications theory to exploring friend-networking sites. CyberPsychology & Behavior,11, 169-174. doi: 10.1089/cpb.2007.0056<br />Schrock, A. and Boyd, D. (2008). “Online threats to youth: Solicitation, harassment, and<br />problematic content.” Report of the Internet Safety Technical Task Force, 62-142.<br />http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/pubrelease/isttf/.<br />Valkenburg, P., Peter, J., & Schouten, A. (2006). Friend networking sites and their relationship to adolescents' well-being and social self-esteem. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 9, 584-590. doi:10.1089/cpb.2006.9.584.<br />Wolak, Janis, Kimberly Mitchell, and David Finkelhor. 2006. “Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later.” National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, #07-06-025. http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV138.pdf<br />Wolak, Janis, Kimberly J. Mitchell, and David Finkelhor. 2007. “Unwanted and wanted exposure to online pornography in a national sample of youth Internet users.”Pediatrics, 119, 247–257.<br />Wolak, Janis, David Finkelhor, and Kimberly Mitchell. 2008. “Is Talking Online to Unknown People Always Risky? Distinguishing Online Interaction Styles in a National Sample of Youth Internet Users.” CyberPsychology & Behavior 11(3): 340–343.<br />Wolfe, N. S., Gales, M. E., Shane, E., & Shane, M. (2001). The Developmental Trajectory from Amodal Perception to Empathy and Communication: The Role of Mirror Neurons in This Process. Psychoanalytic Inquiry, 21(1), 94. Retrieved from Psychology and Behavioral Sciences Collection database.<br />Ybarra, Michele and Kimberly J. Mitchell. 2005. Exposure to Internet pornography among children and adolescents: A national survey. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 8, 473–486.<br />Zimmerman, E. (2006). The game design reader: A rules of play anthology. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. <br />