Over the past decade, social media has been on the rise and the number of reality TV shows have increased.
Dr. Sara Horsfall, associate professor of sociology, said she believes the social media is just another way to connect and will not replace face-to-face contact. She said people will learn to adapt and find other ways to live with the new trend. Horsfall said social media can be beneficial for minorities in a small segregated community.
“It puts them in touch with other people all across the country so they no longer feel they are the singled out,” Horsfall said. “And that’s a good thing because they can connect.”
Horsfall said she thinks safety of individuals could be a concern when it comes to social media. Social media provides the opportunity to publish an individual’s location and bullying has become easier through social media.
However, Horsfall said believes if people become too reliant on social media and technology, it can cause problems with basic written communication. She said this is not the first time there has been a drastic change on society. The industrial revolution to today’s information revolution are similar.
“When the industrialization started, people were afraid that life was going to change so much to where we’re going to be different people,” Horsfall said. “That’s what gave rise to the whole discipline of sociology.”
Horsfall said reality TV helps people feel that they’re not different from everyone else. When people watch celebrity reality TV such as Keeping Up With The Kardashians or The Osbournes, the audience feels like they’re similar in their own unique way.
Dr. Matthew Hand, associate professor of psychology, agrees with Dr. Horsfall that social media and reality TV has brought some positives with how people connect, or how they view different perspectives. He said for those who are socially anxious, it can be a positive way for them to interact with others and find ways to start conversations. He also said there are negative aspects to social media, especially for those who may become addicted.
“I do think it’s compulsive. Some people feel really compelled to check their Facebook all the time,” Hand says. “We are naturally innate, I think, attuned to want to interact and connect with people.”
Dr. Jay Brown, associate professor of psychology and faculty liaison for minors in international studies, said reality TV creates unrealistic expectations. The younger generation of people prefers to be famous rather than strive to attain a certain occupation. Their definition of success is the how many Youtube hits there are or how many Facebook likes one receives, he said.
Brown says the brain is not fully developed until the age of 25, so social media can hinder a young person’s ability to nurture skills needed to succeed as adults.
“Your brain is designed in such a way that whatever experiences you have during this adolescent time frame, your brain changes to fit those experiences,” Brown said. “Whatever experiences you have as a teenager will hardwire and make you the best you can be at that particular skill.”
Brown said teenagers today are missing out on the basic skills they need for social, face-to-face interactions that are part of the development of the brain.
“Their brains are being wired to respond to a cell phone,” Brown said. “We’re going to have a generation of people that are socially incompetent.”