How social media is changing the way people get to know each other

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UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – Social media has the ability to connect us with almost anyone in the world, but it can also change the way brains form new social relationships, maintain current relationships, and participate in groups. social, according to a new book by a Penn State researcher.

The book – “Communication on social networks: trends and theories“Written by Bu Zhong, Associate Professor of Communication at Penn State – explores how social media affects news processing, the media industry and corporate marketing, as well as interpersonal and group communication.

Zhong said he wanted to write the book not to examine specific platforms like Facebook and TikTok, but to analyze how social media as a whole affects human mind and behavior, as well as business and industry.

“The popularity of social media, for many, could be plausibly attributed to the influx of new media technologies,” Zhong said. “The vital driving force behind this, however, is nothing more than the trait of people being socially wired. This is consistent with the extensive evidence from psychologists, who have found that the desire to form and maintain interpersonal attachments – the need to belong – is a fundamental human motivation.

Basically, Zhong said, our minds are wired to be social.

According to Zhong, social media is a type of computer-mediated communication – communication that takes place using a computer, like email, video conferencing, and instant messaging. This not only opens up new ways to connect, but also forces our brains to adapt to a form of communication it was not designed for.

Do-it-yourself background checks

When most people first meet a new person, the book explains, they often feel the need to “reduce the uncertainty” about that person – or find out more about them when they decide to tie the knot. a friendship.

This is usually done in three ways: by interacting directly with the person, by asking others about the person, or by observing the person interacting with others. But now research has shown that social media has introduced a fourth strategy.

“Platforms like Twitter and Facebook are particularly teeming with information that reduces uncertainty such as personal beliefs, friends and acquaintances, and photographs,” Zhong said. “This could be useful information for people who are building any kind of relationship, but potential employers especially tend to do routine social media research for applicants before scheduling a face-to-face interview. “

Blind communication

Talking to someone face to face allows a person to pick up nonverbal cues – such as a smile, crossing of arms, and body positioning – that help people communicate. But because social media doesn’t have that face-to-face contact, research has shown that people have adapted to compensate when communicating online.

“People can ask more direct questions and divulge more information about themselves when communicating with a stranger through a computer than when interacting face to face,” Zhong said. “Uncertainty may decrease more slowly when communicating online, but this strategy is still effective. “

To take a position

According to Zhong, group communication was often difficult before the Internet. But now social media and other online platforms have made collaborating with large groups of other people much easier.

One of the ways this has manifested itself is through social movements, both positive – like campaigns to engage voters – and negative, like recruitment by terrorist organizations. And, in countries without free media, it can serve as a way to get important information for citizens.

“In some countries, where anti-government protests have erupted and turned into mass protests for months, platforms like Twitter and Facebook have become a crucial source of information for protesters and activists,” Zhong said. “In this way, social media can often serve as a citizen’s version of CNN during a social crisis, where people can search for real-time information that the media does not want or cannot cover. “

Overall, Zhong said the book could be of use to anyone who uses social media. In addition to discussing how social media affects communication, business, and industry, it also examines what constitutes problematic social media use and concerns about security and privacy.

“We were talking about media education, and now I think we need to extend that to social media education,” Zhong said. “With how much social media can affect the brain, it’s important to be able to understand and take control of how social media affects you, from information processing to health information to integrity. of our elections. “


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