The Internet: Bringing People Closer Together

 To many around the world, the internet has proven to be a powerful tool to not only share information with others, but also as a way to communicate with others. In the last few years, this form of communication has revolutionized within itself through the creation of social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, as well as online communities, such as Cybercity, which, in a way, seem to be taking over other electronic ways of communication such as e-mail. Through these sites, people are able to meet new people as well as maintain old friendships that have been split apart due to distance. The internet has not only helped with friendships but rather it has also dug deeper into the realm of more intimate relationships through dating sites. Through these sites, it is possible to see that the internet has helped bring people closer together by facilitating the way in which people meet as well as in the way they maintain their relationships with others. As many college students know, staying friends with people from high school can be difficult once everyone goes their separate ways. This may be one of the reasons why many people have a Facebook and probably begin to use it more in college. In fact, in the study by Ellison, Steinfeld, and Lampe (2007), 94% of students were Facebook users, showing that it is a very prominent site among college students. Furthermore, they also found that 96% of people mentioned their high school’s name on their page, implying that the site is used to maintain bonds with high school friends. As shown by these findings, social networking sites can be used to maintain close ties with friends that are not seen very often, something referred to by the researchers as maintaining bonding social capital. But this maintenance of close ties is not only limited to long-distance friendships but rather it can also be applied to local friendships as well. Findings from Ellison et al.’s study show that people also communicate with those people they see on a regular basis. By doing so, people can transform temporary acquaintances into friendships. As is shown by this study, social networking sites help people facilitate the maintenance of friendships by providing a venue in which one can communicate with friends that cannot regularly be seen as well as to increase communication with an offline friend that is regularly seen. Social networking sites can also help learn more about friends through pictures and information written on the page about the self, as was seen in Experiment number seven. Although it can be seen as an invasion of privacy to some, amongst friends, it can be seen as a way to gather information of a friend which can then lead to a greater understanding of the person and, thus, a greater feeling of closeness, especially if that information is later shared in person. The internet not only helps with the maintenance of friendships but rather it can also help with the formation of new ones. Although we can see this occurring through social networking sites, one of the greatest examples we saw in class comes from a paper by Carter (2005) on virtual communities. More specifically, we saw the way people form friendships online which can then lead to meeting offline. What is most interesting about the people on this site is that, although most people had never met their online friends before, they still felt a strong sense of connection. Some felt the connection so much that, as said before, it led them to want to meet in person. What is seen in these people is that simply knowing characteristics of a person in the community can lead to a feeling of having what Carter identified as Gidden’s “pure relationship” (2005). They felt that what brought them close together was actually not being able to see the physical attributes of the person to whom they were talking. Instead, they explained, they were able to focus on the person’s qualities and on the person within. Through this example, we can see that the internet can provide a way for people to meet new people and to form close relationships by simply disclosing information even in the absence of physical contact. The internet does not end with helping to create and maintain friendships bur rather it goes on to help with the formation of more intimate relationships. As we saw in the study by Sautter, Tippett, and Morgan (2010), when people find themselves unable to meet people in the traditional way, they turn to online dating sites for help. Through the experiment on online dating (Experiment # 8), I found that sites, such as Match.com, really try to match a person to someone else according to similarities in characteristics all with the purpose of finding a person that will be ideal for one. After one is matched, I assume, one tries to communicate with them more, eventually finding out more information about the person. What online dating sites are ultimately designed to do is to bring two people with similar characteristics together to form a relationship. In essence, online dating sites help identify people that would want to be close together and guide them toward being close together. Though there have been many debates about the effects of the internet on social lives, whether it isolates or socializes people more, much of the literature and the experiences of others has shown that the internet can bring people closer together. Though there may be instances in which it may do the opposite, there are definitely instances in which people find themselves communicating more with people and staying close to those they love through the internet. We also see that the internet has the potential to help create bonds between people that can last a lifetime but it may depend on the experience that one has had with the internet as well. Though there may not be a right or wrong answer, there has been evidence in favor of the internet as a facilitator to closer friendships. As the years progress and the internet continues to change, different venues for social networking may replace the present ones and may bring with them even easier ways to bring people closer together.

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Happiness is…

What makes me happy? When I’m using the computer, I really like going on YouTube and watching old TV shows and old movies that I haven’t seen in a long time. This week I was able to find a few episodes of a show called “Brotherly Love.” Watching things like that on YouTube helps me unwind and relax. I also went on Facebook and read my wall posts and wrote on other people’s walls. Those two things are the things I like doing online the most. Offline, I watched Sixteen Candles  and Grease with my sister, walked around the mall, and had lunch with one of my friends. In all honesty, the activities that fulfilled me the most in terms of happiness were the offline activities. I think they were more fulfilling because they involved the people I love the most and I was able to just stop thinking about some of the stressors in my life. Doing things online, like watching shows on YouTube, also help me unwind but because I do these alone most of the time, there is always the lingering thought about stressful things that seeps into my brain when I’m alone doing these things. The activities I do offline allow me to do them with others, helping me to keep my mind off things more effectively. In reality, though, I can’t say that offline activities are a source of happiness for everyone. I think that the source of happiness differse according to the person. I feel that as long as someone truly enjoys the activity they are doing, that is enough to bring happiness.

This week we read an article that talked about happiness on the internet. There was a part of the article that talked about “flow.” Based on the article and on things that I’ve read about flow, I know that it involves doing things that require just the perfect amount of concentration and difficulty and that are enjoyed. I feel that it is similar to when one read’s a book and spends hours reading but is so into it that time seems to cease to exist. After reading that, I felt that flow is what is required for happiness and that the true key to happiness is finding something that leads to a sense of flow. When flow is achieved, it means that the activity is enjoyed to the point that it seems to be a part of oneself. That, to me, is happiness.

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Finding Love on the Web

This week we explored the wonderful world of internet dating through match.com. I have to say, the experience was very interesting. First, I got to see all of the questions that are asked of you before you can get matched with someone. I found those questions to be very intimate as well as very materialistic but nonetheless very informative of what a person is like. I was then able to look at different men’s profiles to see what they were like. I found that, when it came to look at someone’s profile a little more, the defining factor was the type of picture they had for their profile. If it looked exciting (like the guy playing guitar or the guy in the scooba diving suit on the beach) I tended to click on it to explore the profile a little more. If the picture was a picture in which the guy was trying way too hard to look cool, I skipped it. I guess you can say I was “attracted to those who were more natural and who seemed to be a little more realistic about who they are. When I looked at their profiles, I found that I always directed my gaze first to the person’s own description of himself, then their religious views, their occupation, and finally, the books they read. In the profiles I read, I found that the men described themselves very confidently and tended to say really sweet things about the kinds of girls they liked. They didn’t say things like “I like girls that are hot” but rather said things like “I like girls that are goofy because I’m a bit of a goof myself.” They seemed more open to showing who they really were and were more profound about what they were looking for in a girl. The only problem was that, as my friend and I were saying, we fell in love about three times! So how does one choose? I guess exploring internet dating would help me find out but I’m not sure I’m ready for that step yet.

While  exploring the profiles of different men, I found that it is very true that people must definitely be “at risk for internet dating” in order to do so. You definitely must be able to have a computer handy at all times so as to see any matches you may have and you must be very savvy about uploading the right photo that will appeal to women (that is if you’re a man). I also found that I may not have been as comfortable looking at the site as other people may be because I have never heard of anyone around me using such websites to find dates (I literally looked over my shoulder the whole time, scared that someone was watching what I was doing!). As the article stated, people are most likely to use internet dating sites after knowing someone who has tried them as well. I guess I’m still used to the old fashioned way but I think that, if that doesn’t work out, using a site like match.com shouldn’t be too bad. Of course, I find myself thinking that I would have to be desparate before I tried that but maybe that will change as social interactions continue to grow over the web.

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Following Someone on Facebook…

This week our assignment was to follow someone in our class on Facebook and to essentially learn about who that person is by doing so. The person I followed was Lauren and this is what I believe she’s like (hopefully I’m not pathetically incorrect): Lauren is a pre-med student who really loves her family and her friends. She finds family to be very important and she also places religion as one of her major priorities in life. She makes sure that she is always a good person to everyone she meets. She knows that she is not perfect (no one is!) but she tries to be the best that she can be. Lauren also seems to see new things as adventures and she seems to be getting the most that college can offer her from being in groups to just having a great time with friends and of course school work! Apart from hanging out with her friends, Lauren seems to really like going to football games a lot. She seems to be a big sport fan as well as a sport player. She likes to play different sports like volleyball and track (as well as shopping!). I also have a feeling that Lauren is kind of a kid at heart because of some of her favorite movies (many of them being Disney and Pixar movies). She seems to also like to care for the planet, both for what’s on it and for the people that live in it, as is seen by the groups and the bumper stickers she has on her page. Overall, Lauren just seems to be someone who likes to make friends and have fun as well as being someone that many can look up to.

This week’s reading focused on privacy on social networking sites. Privacy is something that I feel I didn’t respect while doing the assignment but I feel that it was good to do it because it gave me at least a small glimpse of what other people (or companies, schools, and possible employers) can do with the information I put on facebook. I always try to be careful that what I put on facebook can’t harm me in some way in the future but as the article we read stated, marketers actually use the information on social networking sites (whether juicy or not) for their own benefit. We oftentimes don’t know who is looking at our information and even more so, we have no idea what it can be used for. I think many of us ignore the fact that our information is very useful to companies seeking to find a way to sell products or services to people our age. We pretty much give them the data they need to know trends (or to even set them). There is also the case of the occasional stalker who tries to find out things about someone in order to try to get closer to them in some way… Kind of frightening but very true. For this reason, as the article states, we should try to be a little more conscious about the information we post as well as where we post it because sometimes what may seem totally private is totally not.

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Information from Facebook Buddies

This week I did something that I don’t think I have ever done on Facebook: I asked questions. The great thing is that people actually answered… to the best of their ability of course. Even better, the people that answered are people that I haven’t to talked to in a really long time. The first thing I asked was if anyone knew who the speaker for graduation was. Unfortunately, my question was taken as a joke (because apparently not many know who he is) and I didn’t get much information. My second question, though, got some pretty good answers. I asked if anyone knew how to write a reference for a book in APA style and the answers were really helpful! That question actually got more feedback than I thought would. The last question I asked was if anyone knew what medicine was good for allergies. I still haven’t gotten an answer for that one yet but I am hoping that someone answers it soon… The answers to my questions and the different people that answered my questions led me to find that Facebook can truly be helpful in keeping connections that can really come in handy some day.

The reading for this week was very interesting to me because it was actually a research paper about the people we know on Facebook. As I personally found out this week, having friends on Facebook can keep you connected to those you love as well as keep you connected to those who maybe aren’t so close but who can give you information that no one else could give you. It’s true that if you need some kind of new information you can’t rely on close friends to give you that information because it is very likely that they know the same things you know because you are exposed to similar contexts. People that are more distant, though, can definitely provide useful information (such as the suggestion for a website that helps format APA references, for example) simply because they’re exposed to different contexts and, therefore, different kinds of information. From now on, I think I will definitely think about asking people questions on Facebook… they might lead to quicker answers than I would think.

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A day without the internet…

Well, I decided to do my experiment on a Saturday since it’s one of those days when it should be easier to do without the internet.  I actually wasn’t in pain throughout the whole day as I thought I would be. None of my studying required going online so I just spent my time reading for classes and studying for some exams. The only time I did find myself wishing I could use the web was when I wanted to find a good Chinese food place around my house. I was so tempted to just go and do a quick search but I was able to stop myself. My next option was to look through the yellow pages but then I realized we didn’t have a book like those around the house because we don’t really use them anymore. Instead, I ended up just going to Panda Express and calling it a day. So my day without the internet wasn’t too harsh but that’s just probably because I’m not as attached to it as I thought I was which, judging from this weeks reading, is something the man who wrote the book would applaud.

I thought this week’s reading was full of a feeling of paranoia. The man seemed to see television as a device that had the power to suck the lives out of everyone. As I was reading I was wondering what he might think of our situation now with the internet. Just as television seemed to be very prominent during the time the book was written, I believe that the internet has become just as prominent or has even come to surpass television. Although it is no lie that many people spend a lot of time watching television or browsing the web, I don’t think it is exactly television or internet that are holding us so attached but rather those who use it are the ones who impose such importance on it. I think that the amount to which people feel they need the internet really comes down to how much they can hold back on using it. Of course, I know I’m biased because my attachment is different from every one else’s but I think that, in the end, as long as television or internet aren’t acting as our sources of oxygen, we don’t have to succumb to their “forces.” Do they help us? Yes of course! And I am ever so thankful for all of the help that television and most definitely the internet have given me but I do understand, as with other people, I think, that these two media sources are not our lives and they are not as evil as the author wishes everyone to think.

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Hooray for Psychology Forums! I’m not the only worried one…

Before this assignment,  I had never even thought about posting questions or comments in a forum. Whenever I look for something up on the internet, they always come up and sometimes end up confusing me because answers oftentimes contradict and I’m left wondering, “which is the best answer?” After doing the assignment, I realize that forums, although sometimes so full of information that you don’t know where to start, can help a person not feel so alone in certain situations. Take me, for example: I am about to graduate from college in a little over a month and I’m trying to find a job that will help me gain more experience in psychology before I apply to graduate school. It can be very scary when you think you’re the only one going through this but once you find someone in the same boat, you realize that the problem is faced by many and, therefore, most likely conquered by many. In the psychology forum I registered for, I found that there are many other people just like me, confused about what to do with their lives after leaving the large comfort blanket that is college. Although no one has answered my question yet about good after-college-but-before-grad school- jobs,  I found comfort in being able to tell others even more scared than me that it will be ok, that grad school is still a possibility (if you haven’t enrolled), that there are always options, etc. Suddenly, the fear diminshes.

It’s very interesting that we read about Cybercity because I find that forums, although full of people wanting to help and inform, are not places where you necessarily go to meet people. It is definitely not impossible but I feel that people don’t usually go onto forums to make friends but rather they go on to find answers (or comfort). Cybercity, on the other hand, seems to be a place specifically designed to meet different people from all over the world in a comfortable setting.  Forums and Cybercity do seem to be similar in one characteristic: the level of comfortableness in being part of these online groups or communities. In forums, one has the advantage of being able to ask questions to many people from all over the country or the world without having to leave their homes or having to go around looking for people that can answer your specific question. In Cybercity, as stated in the article, people can meet others  at home and don’t have to worry about others’  opinions about their physical characteristics. All in all, both forums and communities like Cybercity can help  people connect with others that they may never have come in contact with in the first place but differ in the level of intimacy that grows out of them.

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