Monday, March 21, 2016

The Convenient Generation; A Case Study of Millennials

  The technological advances that we have grown so profoundly accustomed to enable and improve our ability to communicate cross- generationally, however there are obstacles as well as benefits. The social media phenomenon that we as a country, and as a generation, are currently facing is one of the most impressive and dynamic transitions in how we communicate. It is changing how we are educated, how we conduct research, how we spend time alone or with one another, how we meet new people, how we converse, and the way we create and maintain relationships. Why is that we would much rather send a text message than pick up the phone and call somebody? Why have we become so reliant on using tools to help us do something that we innately know how to do?
     Simply the fact that we, as individuals and collectively, have grown so accustomed to these electronic communication tools is an obstacle. The Communication Accommodation Theory, developed by Giles and Coupland in 1991, is pragmatic because we are all subconsciously adapting to a collective communication pattern. This theory is generally representing the spoken word and how people adapt to speak like one another, but we have learned how to communicate in a different way, which is instantaneous and far less personal.
     We can see that we have become far too reliant on our methods of instant communication if we just do some research. I recently heard that using your cell phone too much can have negative effects on your health, so I thought that would be an interesting example to study. There have been a few recent studies linking frequent cell phone usage in college students to decreased GPAs, higher anxiety, and reduced happiness. An analysis done by Kent State University in December of 2013 showed that “cell phone use by college students was negatively related to GPA and positively related to anxiety. Following this, GPA was positively related to happiness while anxiety was negatively related to happiness” (ScienceDaily, 1).
     Education and social media are quickly being fused together. For example, this course is taught online, and a large portion of our grades are calculated by how we participate in the discussion forums. With the internet growing more vast and accessible by the day, we rarely think about how communicating online might hinder our ability to learn. We tend to only think about how technology can help us, not hurt us.
     We can apply the Media Richness Theory to this scenario, as well as similar situations. Developed by Daft and Lengel in 1984, this theory “recognizes that as new communication technologies develop, the decision about the best way to send a message becomes more complex” (Dainton, 184). It illustrates that face-to-face communication is more practical, beneficial and less ambiguous than a text message or an e-mail, for example. Although we know this to be true, we still tend to choose the methods of communication that are faster and the most simple, even if that means sacrificing face-to-face interaction or hearing someone’s voice. Table 10.1 below displays The Media Richness Theory in a visual way.

(Dainton, p. 185).
     The complexity with teaching an online course, first and foremost, lies with the professors, and not solely with the students. The professors must choose which methods of online communication would be most effective, and they have to consistently monitor them. However, ambiguity is an obstacle that we may face in a situation like this; “the possibility of multiple different interpretations” (Dainton, 184). Tone is ambiguous, and because our discussion forums are entirely text-based, our expressions cannot be clearly articulated. This type of ambiguity can be detrimental because of a lack of direct and live interaction. However, if our class used Skype or another form of video-calling, our experiences would have most likely been different.
     We can also apply The Uses and Gratifications Theory to this situation. Established by McQuail in 1987, this theory explains that people choose to use different media outlets for different uses. These choices are “based on personal need and values…” (Dainton, 186). This would be the rationalization for why a professor chooses to use a particular medium to teach an online course. For example, one of my professors last year chose to not use Moodle at all, while most all of my other professors required active participation in discussion forums and such.
Interview: Alex Carbone, 15
Q1: How do you think social media has impacted your life?
     “I’ve just been able to talk to my friends whenever I need to. It helps me reconnect with people I haven’t talked to in years.”
Q2: How do you think that it has impacted older people?
     “Well it’s helped them stay connected to family, to let them know how their sons and daughters are doing if they don’t live in the house with them anymore.”
Q3: Do you think that social media is a positive or negative thing for schools to use?
     “Positive because it helps the teachers and students communicate using social media in an easier way because the kids already know how to use it.”
Q4: Who should not use social media outlets, like Facebook, Twitter, etc.?
     “Anyone who is not responsible, so, like, 12 and under.”
     As I was trying to interview my brother, I saw social media impacting him. I had initially asked him if he would mind being interviewed, and as soon as he agreed, he immediately ran upstairs to get his cell phone to text his friend. It seems that using social media is second nature to kids my brother’s age, which is mainly because they have never lived in a world without it. They have never had to deal with delayed communication. They live in a world of constant instant gratification. The communication methods that they are used to are so instantaneous, that they do not need nor care to use media such as e-mail or letter writing. For my generation, we have never lived in a world without internet or television. For older generations, they generally have the choice to decide for themselves if they want to use social media outlets or not.
     I also found it peculiar that my brother chose age twelve as the “responsible” age for people to begin using social media websites like Facebook and Twitter. I think that because he is only fifteen, he sees twelve a lot differently than someone my age would.  Even if twelve was to be deemed the universal acceptable age for social media use, there is not true way that our society would be able to keep social media away from children under that age. Our society is becoming so overwhelmed and inundated with social media that it has become difficult for people to completely ignore our rapidly growing social media communication outlets, especially the children that grow up surrounded by it.
     For instance, ten years ago, one of the largest social media sites in the world was created; Facebook. It is one of the most impressionable technological advances that we live with today, and my younger brother and his entire generation have never known the world without. Ken Yeung states “…there’s no denying that Mark Zuckerberg’s creation has had a significant impact upon how work is done, the way we communicate, and our society” (Yeung 1). I am in complete concurrence with Yeung’s statement; however, I do not think that Zuckerberg was necessarily trying to create something so significant.
     I do not think that Facebook, or the social media phenomenon in general, was meant to be what it has become today. With all of the controversy over privacy and the Terms of Use Policy, there are still many people who are afraid that Facebook is causing more detriment and less help. Mark Zuckerberg’s next goal is to reach five billion more users, hoping that his invention will continue to help connect people all over the world, both personally and professionally. “Today, one out of every 20 online visits is to a social networking website” (We Are Social People, 1). There has been a drastic increase in social issues like cyber-bullying and privacy since the social media portion of the internet has become more infinite, and begun to take more precedence over our everyday lives. Because more young people are using social websites without any kind of adult supervision, they are at a higher risk for getting themselves in trouble online. According to Cornell University's Steven Strogatz, social media sites can make it more difficult for us to distinguish between the meaningful relationships we foster in the real world, and the numerous casual relationships formed through social media” (Jung, 1). Social media as a whole has literally changed the way we connect with one another, and it even affects us when we are not online. Instead of merely focusing on how we can utilize social media to the best of its ability, maybe we should focus more on some of the detriments that we may be causing ourselves by being so reliant on it.

Works Cited
Dainton, Marianne, and Elaine D. Zelley. Applying Communication Theory for Professional          Life: A Practical Introduction. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 2005. Print.
Faculty, University Washington. "Patterns of Organization." PATTERNS OF ORGANIZATION.            University of Washington, n.d. Web. 17 Aug. 2014.
FIERCEOVER50. "We Are Social People." We Are Social People. KOPATHEME, 2014. Web.   17 Aug. 2014.
Jung, Brian. "The Negative Effect of Social Media on Society and Individuals."Small Business. Demand Media, 2014. Web. 16 Aug. 2014.
University, Kent State. "Frequent Cell Phone Use Linked to Anxiety, Lower Grade, Reduced           Happiness in Students." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 Dec. 2013. Web. 17 Aug. 2014.

Yeung, Ken. "Facebook at 10: From Social Network to Social Phenomenon."TNW Network All        Stories RSS. The Next Web, Inc., 16 Feb. 2014. Web. 17 Aug. 2014.

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