5 Ways the Internet and Social Media Are Influencing Us

By on October 19, 2016

The internet and social media are undoubtedly powerful tools that influence our day to day lives. They have become ubiquitous in the 21st century. However, pitfalls form whenever there is innovation or progress. Brilliant minds condemn them while others praise and look to expand their uses. This ranges from Plato himself denouncing the art of writing, by calling it inhuman and a threat to people’s memories, to our generation’s influencers, such as Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, warning about the dangers of artificial intelligence.

In spite of their words, technology and its advancement has a significant impact on our culture. In today’s digitized age, nothing speaks louder than the internet and social media. In fact, it has embedded deep into the minds of youth, with 75% of teenagers in the US alone now on at least one social platform. There are many ways in which the internet and social media are influencing us, and that effect is widespread and permanent.

The Way We Think

The Internet has gone from a luxury to a commodity and then to necessity in just a few short decades. The majority of the world’s population is now interconnected, and most people can find excellent internet access with ease. The question now stands what happens after it’s gained. The truth is that the internet and social media can not only shape the way we think, but what we think, as well. Those are two different concepts often misunderstood by those who are avidly against social networking platforms. An example would be the radicalization of jihadist youth. While the Internet has been deemed a powerful tool that can turn Muslims into radicals, it’s not entirely accurate.

There is significant evidence that shows social media doesn’t inspire those thoughts, but only deepen them. It’s not a “sudden radicalization” enforced by the Internet. Those who find themselves on jihadist sites have already gone through the process of self-radicalization. It’s not a place where it starts, but where beliefs deepen. Social media networks create communities where people can express their ideas and opinions, and they are often hardened by the approval of likewise-minded users. It deepens a type of mentality by offering access to the validation of others.

The Way We Behave

The internet and social media’s influence is harshly displayed behind the identity mask it allows every person to use. They are an excellent way of providing an anonymous way of acting however we want. Perhaps the veil does not show us who we truly are, but who we could be. There is no filter on the way we behave, so most feel free to develop negative attitudes expressed through cyberbullying, discrimination, insults, radical behavior, and others. And it’s all done behind the excuse of freedom of speech that is tragically confused with “do what you want and don’t think about the consequences on others.” That mentality does slip into our offline lives.

Lack self-regulation and peer pressure often encourage this behavior. They do not see the reaction of the victims in person. Thus, the consequences are barely or not at all felt even though it can cause psychological damage. Luckily, there are two sides of the coin. While there is reprehensible behavior that slithers into day to day lives, there is also acceptance and understanding. The internet and social media effectively influence the way we behave, but it only fuels an already existent flame. Our traits are not significantly altered but revealed and enhanced.

The Way We Speak

The online world has had a permanent impact on the methods of communication but also the way we speak. Limits, such as Twitter’s 140 words per posts, are forcing us into a world of abbreviations and short messages. Their influence is felt in the way we speak offline, shortening conversations and limiting interactions. The Internet has changed the way people approach uncomfortable or controversial topics, ranging from religion to politics and virtually anything else. There is room for everyone’s voice.

And it’s not restricted to US politics, such as presidential elections. In fact, it has given a channel for people in Iran or Egypt, where political choice and freedom of speech are often limited. The internet and social media have influenced the way we speak by offering safer ways of expressing our thoughts. That freedom is reflected in our offline lives and could ultimately break through barriers that aim to mute voices with a purpose.

The Way We Listen

The Internet and social media have a definite influence in the way we listen to those online or offline. Simply taking a walk outside can offer us a glimpse into the changes they caused. Only count how many people you see checking their phones every 2 minutes at a restaurant, at the movies, or just walking down the street. It’s less awareness of what is around us and more attention on our screens. It changed the focus on what we listen to from the immediate vicinity to global events.

The influence of the Internet and social media is a certainty, along with the fact that it will undeniably expand in the future. For a long time, we listened to commercial media alone, and if you were not present at an event, you would hardly hear about it. The stories were often influenced by the publication delivering it, which could potentially seek its own agenda or only show what it wanted. However, social media and the internet have changed the way we listen to any piece of information. We can share pictures and recordings as users without being licensed journalists or writers.  User-generated content in the form of visuals has a powerful impact. We are moving in an age where we listen and offer more credibility to the average observer than an official publication.

The Way We Eat

The concept of family mealtime has undoubtedly been shortened. We get bored more easily and trade discussions over dinner to watching a screen that offers various forms of entertainment. However, the internet and social media have also impacted people’s habits. The world has gotten smaller, so foreign food is now known and accessible. We are more adventurous in our choices, and we can draw information about the consequences of the meals we eat.

In the digitized age, our food pallet has expanded, and it has turned toward superlatives. Social media is often littered with pictures and tales of culinary experiences. Simple meals have become too boring and not material worth sharing. We are looking for the biggest, spiciest, most exotic, and deliriously delicious meal in the world. Social media has kicked the “sharing” aspect of society into high gear. Everything is placed online, and users want to show off something worthy of attention.

The two technological breakthroughs have swooped in fast into our society, taking over the world in mere decades. Their influence is felt in every aspect, and it will be near unimaginable for future generations to understand a time when we didn’t carry phones with us.

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About Carolyn Andreason

Carolyn Andreason is a freelance graphic designer and marketing strategist,who's always on the lookout for the latest digital innovations. She loves writing about the current and future state of online marketing and enjoys connecting with top influencers from this field.
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