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Social communication Technologies -- Good and bad

(to be used only for academic and knowledge purposes)

NOTE:  Thanks to the author who has made it informative.  this may be used for essay writing and precis writing.

Technology has genuinely shrunk the world on a social level. Communication technologies in general and the Internet in particular are responsible for cutting geographical distance and creating the ‘global village’. Network technologies like FaceBook, LinkedIn, etc. have tremendously boosted the traffic as well as number and size of social networks of individuals. As a result today’s netizen boast of thousands of mouse-click friends across globe and they are able to continuously and instantly in touch with them. The famous small world experiment by Stanley Milgram in 1960s determining the path length for social networks of people in the United States found that on an average everyone is approximately six steps away (six degrees of separation) of introduction from a person to any other person in a chain with ‘a friend of a friend’ like statement.

 Richard Wiseman repeated the experiment in Britain with 100 randomly selected persons out of 500 volunteers and found that Britain (in 2003) is a much smaller world than America in 1960s with four degrees of separation. Wiseman showed that lucky people frequently experience the small-world phenomenon and that such ‘lucky’ meetings have a dramatic and positive effect on their lives. Recently, Yahoo also repeated the small world experiment using FaceBook. No doubt, ‘the small world experiment’ demonstrated the possibility of epidemic diffusion of information, viral marketing, ‘the luck factor’ and other benefits of networks. But, whether you are six-degree separated or four-degree separated in the chain with a mouse-click friendship or ‘a friend of a friend’ kind of link/ relation, the person at the other end of such a chain is not your true friend because the ‘transitivity’ property is not valid in this kind of relation (i.e., A is a friend of B and B is a friend of C does not assure that A is a friend of C).
The ‘social’ part of the Internet is undoubtedly becoming the great revolution with empowerment and transparency. E-learning and virtual classrooms are believed to promote increased social interaction so that students can collaborate, discuss, review ideas and present solutions on network. Companies, despite employees already overloaded with data, are eager to respond on priority to complaints on social networks. Such ‘data deluge’ from social networks is expected to increase by 40 times in the next 10 years. Many managers believe that such data smog has affected their personal relationships. In this sense the question raised is that whether social technologies are truly democratizing the power from selected few to many (Economist, Dec 31, 2011). 

Yes, it is true that an ordinary netizen can easily broadcast his opinion and expand his network as he wishes. Such an empowerment and expansion of network might work occasionally well for political campaign and viral marketing. But it is the ‘rarity’ that adds value to
anything and the ‘abundance’ that brings it down. As more and more tweets/messages pour in on social networks, less and less attention is paid to individual messages. The logic is akin to use of ‘inverse frequency of terms’ in information retrieval, i.e., a term occurring more frequently in a document is given less weightage and one that occurs rarely is given more weightage in indexing and retrieval. The average netizen is required to put more efforts and time to detect useful information in an ever increasing clutter of social networks. 

Generally, social networks (and even the groups formed) lack clear specific purpose and focus; anybody can post anything and make it look like a public rest room. Digital literacy, a pre-requisite to reap the fruits of the social technologies, has some de-humanizing effects like loss of human touch, personal greeting and writing skill. The important question is whether the blossoming social networks backed by social technologies have enhanced social intelligence of network members (nteizen) is quite doubtful. Social intelligence, as explained by Tony Buzan (the power of social intelligence, 2002), is the degree to which we get along with and relate to other people around us and is one of the ten intelligences (the other being verbal, numerical, spatial, creative, sensual, physical, personal, sexual and spiritual). Social intelligence is characterized by self-confidence, a vision of life, an abiding interest in other people, respect for others, empathy, use of body language, clarity about when to speak and when to listen and above all a positive attitude.

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