By Judy Muriuki
The digital age made a great impact on how people interact and communicate. A phenomenon that has made it easy for brands to market, communicate and share information with their market beneficiaries. This has also led to some form of group think where brands that are able to get the most current network influences are able to sell their products to an audience. The use of social media to benefit businesses led to the growth of social information research which looks at people’s interaction with the internet.
To help organizations understand and later control their market Manuel Castells published the article A Network Theory of Power in the Internal Journal of Communication. In this article he describes four different forms of power that are present in social and technological environments. These powers include; networking power, network power, networked power and network-making
power. He defines networking power as the power exercised by exclusion; network power are the norms and standards within the social networks; networked power as the influence of others within the network to determine the acceptable norms in that network; and finally network-making power which is applied by network programmers to create alliance within networks as they see fit.
Castells theory of networks applies to social networks that operate within the realm of electronically processed information networks since this is where our social lives thrive and are more common. Although the networks could be global they differ depending of the region’s social, cultural, economic, religious, and political influences.
Since our social interactions have moved from face-to-face interactions we have moved our relationships to the online world which has helped us to communicate with people who are hundreds of kilometers away. According to research carried out by James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis our friends’ both from near and far are able to influence to influence our lifestyle. Their research focused on this factors obesity, smoking, drinking, happiness, loneliness and depression.
The group think mentality which makes trends popular in social networks has made it easier for the trends to go all over the world in a matter of minutes, compared to the analogue age where trends would take years. The transition of
our social life from offline to online has become a trend for people all over the world who have moved communication and relationships with family and friends online. This trend has also been seen in the dating scene for both young and old who are now using dating websites to look for a partner.
Organizations in this sphere have taken the opportunity to create websites and mobile applications that cater for different genders, races and sexual preferences. The use of dating websites to find a mate has become more acceptable in society, to support this hypothesis a study carried out in the UK predicts that 50% of couples of all ages will meet online by 2031.
The internet has also allowed for the growth of websites such as Ashley Madison which promote married couples to cheat, with their caption being ‘Life is short. Have an affair’. Due to a hacker scam last year the popularity of the Ashley Madison website was revealed with its contact list which was available to the public revealing the names of celebrities, government officials and church leaders as users of the website.
Although the use of social media to connect to others can be a positive tool it can also have negative effects if used improperly. This is due to the fact that our online life is perfectly presented since we have the control to embellish it as much as we see fit, this has been seen when online friends meet offline and they can’t recognize each other because they painted a different picture of themselves. Masquerading as someone you are not has happened severally around the world with cases of kidnapping , robbery, murder and even cannibalism being reported. Although these crimes happen in extreme cases which are currently few, an article in The Guardian cyber crimes have gone up by 780% in the past four years. This is especially because it is easy to get personal information of unsuspecting users of the internet and according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) cyber crime will be the second largest cause of financial fraud for both organizations and individuals.
To ensure we maintain some level of privacy and hence protect ourselves from cyber crime would it be better if we were to reduce our time on the internet?
Are going to Look Up from our phones as is suggested by Gary Turk’s? Is our offline time making us and our children robots in today’s community?