Cyber Culture: Documenting Life on the Web

"Cyber friends have their own social networking customizations to make; they are only human after all, easily swayed by the mass vote of confidence and promise of increasing popularity." 


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by M. J. Joachim

We live in a society where the expectation of privacy can no longer be taken for granted. Social media and networking has been diligent, if not forceful, in exposing who we are for the entire world to see. Celebrities and politicians have long been the victim of such things, avoiding paparazzi with a game of well-established cloak and dagger type tactics. Much of the general population used to laugh at such things, until a variety of recent efforts made us all susceptible to their exposure.

Staying connected is costly, particularly for those too naïve to understand the repercussions of doing so. Simple people living ordinary lives, sharing photos, videos and personal information online, hinting at private jokes perhapsexcept not enough people know they are intended to be kept private; consequently judgments and opinions are formed based on the conversation revealed. Oh, the scandal of it all! Anyone can make a person popular, destroy a person’s reputation, ignore a person into    oblivion or bully them (literally to death sometimes), thanks to social networking and its unleashing of a global groupthink mentality.

Global socialization has become expected and demanded by young generations dependent on it for multiple reasons. Teens and college students keep up with all the latest gossip easily, often contributing to it at random. Many find it easier to complete group assignments with the aid of social media, and some appreciate the ease of sharing family photos and events, without the visual or vocal requirement of doing so. Certainly, tracking conversations, sharing pictures and organizing projects have become much more efficient, thanks to social networking. However, the creation of a permanent record of such things, one that can never be completely erased or deleted, has the innate ability to manifest severe and dire consequences.

Strictly speaking, personal (face to face or verbal) communication seldom backfires. It may explode if things are misunderstood, which could require personal resolutions to take place, but any permanent record is rarely used to misconstrue what originally took place between the parties involved. Memories are searched, but hard copy data is seldom produced for social grandeur. There is an unspoken development of trust, a gut feeling based on body language, tone of voice, eye contact and a variety of other factors that presents itself in personal communication. All of these things contribute to the development of trust and social interaction between each person involved.

Social media and networking is completely devoid of any personal connection allowing trust to develop. Unless participants are willing to take the time to become pen-pals (email buddies, as the case may be in today’s society), or perhaps even real friends who talk on the phone or meet in person, it poses great risk to the users at hand. Yet millions of people share personal and intimate details about their lives on the Internet. According to an educational study titled Trust and Privacy: A Comparison of Facebook and Myspace, “Although members can control what appears on their profile, they cannot control what appears on a friend’s profile.” The implications of this observation should not be disregarded lightly.

Cyber friends have their own social networking customizations to make; they are only human after all, easily swayed by the mass vote of confidence and promise of increasing popularity. Studies indicate loyalty is challenged when no real human connection occurs between friends, but is merely displayed through like buttons, photos and comments shared online.