For the record, I tried to add the “more” tag to this entry, but it’s not formatting correctly. So feel free to split this up before I get another chance to try to fix it! Thanks!
Fuck. (Had to add it in to this week’s blog as well. I’m sure you understand.) Anyway…
Perusing Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock — a term suggesting an overwhelming feeling citizens experience, an “information overload,” as a result of rapid industrial and technological change — I was drawn to the idea of “alienation” of people as a result of this stress and disorientation, and as a result of rapid technological change (1970).
To be honest, I think I was drawn to it because of a series of articles we read for the second Culture of Cyberspace class this semester. “Lessons from Facebook: The Effect of Social Network Sites on College Students’ Social Capital” by Sebastian Valenzuela, Namsu Park, and Kerk F. Kee addresses the isolation Toffler speaks of by examining the effects of social networking sites, Facebook specifically, on social capital — a person’s networks, social trust, civic engagement, political participation, group membership, volunteering, confidence in political institutions, and life satisfaction. Working off of Toffler’s suggestions, Valenzuela et al. examined the effect of social networking sites on social capital and civic and political participation — a sort of measurement of “alienation” in the face of technological change — determining who is using Facebook, specifically, and for what purposes they are networking socially (2008).
Valenzuela et al.’s literature review includes “Sociability, Interpersonal Relations, and the Internet: Reconciling Conflicting Findings” by Norman Nie, who takes an approach parallel to that of Toffler’s “alienation,” concluding that Internet use detracts individuals from face-to-face interactions and diminishes social capital (2000). However, Valenzuela et al. do not include Nie’s work as support for their research conclusions but rather as an opposing viewpoint to which they retort, and the researchers determine that despite prior thoughts to the contrary, social networking sites foster civic participation and other facets of social capital, and they include rather than isolate frequent users. Valenzuela et al. also suggest that Internet use does not detract from face-to-face interactions and social capital, but rather adds to it, and the researchers suggest that social networking does not turn frequent users into disconnected hermits (2008).
The “social capital” discussed is not as much popularity as it is participation in social events and interaction with other members of society, and this socialization is not something that occurs in simply an online-only realm. The interactions Valenzuela et al. studied transferred from an online environment to a physical environment, and vice versa. Not only do the relationships and connections fostered online improve online social capital, but they improve real-life socialization as well. These facets of contemporary technological change, Facebook and social networking, rebut Toffler’s idea of isolation (2008).
On a personal note, y’all know me. Still the same O.G. (Dr. Dre, anyone?) I’m not the most social person. I’ve always been more of a homebody-sort than a going out-sort (unless that “going out” involves snowboarding), and when I left Pennsylvania seven years ago, I had no real intentions of keeping in touch with old friends. It wasn’t that I disliked them, it’s just that, if I was to take time to use the phone or to write letters to get in touch with people back home, I was going to call my family. Technology and Facebook (although I hardly use Facebook anymore) have allowed me to keep up with these old friends and distant relatives and to keep these relationships going, even on a strained basis. I’m just a normal person with an average amount of social capital, and technological developments have not isolated me, but rather given me a slight increase in social capital. Is this increase in social capital characteristic of most people in contemporary society? Maybe. Probably. Then does Toffler’s “alienation” have legs in contemporary society? To a slight degree, perhaps, but certainly not universally.
Nie, N. H. (2001).”Sociability, interpersonal relations, and the internet: Reconciling conflicting findings.” American Behavioral Scientist, 45, 420-435.
Toffler, Alvin. Future Shock. New York: Random House, 1970. Print.
Valenzuela, Sebastian, Namsu Park, and Kerk Kee. “Lessons from Facebook: The Effect of Social Network Sites on College Students’ Social Capital.” 9th International Symposium on Online Journalism (2008): 1-39. Print.