Thursday, February 9, 2012

Musings On How Social Media Changes Connections

Connections is the title of the art show I put together as a senior in undergrad. It's also the specific title for this, my favorite piece from that show, which will be part of the Student Art in the Library Juried Exhibit this semester in the Hodges Library at University of Tennessee:

The show was about how we are always trying to establish connections and relationships with others in any way we can. Ultimately, this is the point of any type of art - to create a bond of shared emotion and meaning with even an unknown audience. I've always felt that if something I create makes an impression on even one person, then it has done what it was meant to.

I feel like these types of personal connections are very relevant at the moment as a topic, since one of the main criticisms of social media is that it may diminish their strength and depth. At the same time, this is what social media is all about, and why it has become so dominant. People are drawn to it because they want to make these connections, to share their lives with others. More and more, people are choosing to leave behind the potential loneliness of their private islands.

However, that doesn't mean they succeed. Sharing everything may have the opposite effect; if everyone knows everything about you, then are any of those relationships truly meaningful? Although I love social media and am an active user, I wonder if the way we share and think about sharing in the face of technology is creating poor habits when we look for relationships - basically, quantity over quality.

My point of view is somewhat more positive. I believe social media is indeed changing the way we interact and form relationships and interpersonal connections, but change is inevitable. Even before the Internet, culturally we already looked at relationships differently than we had a couple hundred years ago. For one thing, there's a lot more equality, and while hardly anyone now would try to argue that's a bad thing, in the past it would have been unthinkable. I don't think the changes happening now will be really measurable until time gives us some perspective on them. So when we say that social media is changing relationships, why do we assume it's a bad thing?

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