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Web 2.0 and Its Affect on Young People

Drew Dixon

Abilene Christian University

English 112: Composition and Literature

Dr. Steven T. Moore

Friday, May 1, 2009

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Web 2.0 and Its Affect on Young People

Introduction

Once upon a time there was a world without the Internet, there were teenagers without instant

messaging, and there were young adults without Facebook. But, since then the Technological

Revolution has swept the through the world and computers, which used to take up whole rooms, now

fit in a person's pocket.

Along with this technology came the Internet. Computers were designed to collect and store

information and the Internet was built to connect those computers so that they could share their

information. These connections were called the Web. Although the internet originally was intended for

sharing information, it has adapted and evolved a great deal since then, especially when it became

available to the public.

Over the past several years the internet has become what is called Web 2.0. While Web 1.0

existed primarily to connect computers so that they could share information, Web 2.0 connects people

so that they can share life. Web 2.0 is very interactive and uses social media (such as blogs and

YouTube) to share information, and social networks (Such as Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter) to

connect people.

One can imagine that such a shift does not only change the purpose of the Internet, but also

affects the people who use it. This paper will seek to explore the effects, both positive and negative,

Web 2.0 has had on young people who have essentially grown up in the World Wide Web.

Description of Web 2.0

Before delving into the effects that Web 2.0 has had on people, it is necessary to understand

what it is in more detail, beginning with a description of social media.

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Social Media

Social media is somewhat self explanatory. It is media which enables interaction between

people. Web 1.0 was simply about sharing information; it was a one-way road. But, Josh Bernoff

describes the online social world “about as two-way, multi-way, any-way as it can be. Nobody controls

it” (17).

One example of this would be a blog, which is short for 'weblog'. According to the The

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language a

weblog is “a website that displays in

chronological order the postings by one or more individuals and usually has links to comments on

specific postings.” At first glimpse, a blog would seem to be no different than the text information of

Web 1.0, but blog services, such as Blogger and Wordpress, have put the “pen” in the hands of the

public. Anyone can create a blog, and blogs, as one may notice from the definition, usually feature

“comment” sections which encourage discussion, therefore enabling interaction between people.

Another form of blog is the fairly recent micro-blog. Micro-blogs work like a blog through the

medium of text, but limit the amount a great deal. The most popular micro-blogging tool is called

Twitter. Twitter asks its users one simple question: “What are you doing?” It then allows its users to

post a response of up to 140 characters. These posts are called “tweets.”

While the blog serves as the Web 2.0 version of text, there are all sorts of other websites which

enable sharing of other medias. A popular example would be YouTube, a website which “allows people

to easily upload and share video clips on www.YouTube.com and across the Internet through websites,

mobile devices, blogs, and email” (Company History). This website has been an amazing innovation

because just twenty years ago the only way to broadcast or distribute video on a large scale was

professionally with a great deal of money, YouTube is free and distributes a video worldwide through

the Internet in minutes.

Overall, the distinctive characteristic of social media as it compares to media of the past is that

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old media is one way and reserved for the pros, while social media enables the every day person to

create and distribute media for the purpose of interacting with others.

Social Networks

Web 1.0 emphasized information. Social media moves beyond information to interactive media.

Social networks move beyond that to use interactive media for the specific purpose of developing and

enhancing relationships.

There are many social networking websites. The most popular are Facebook and Myspace.

Facebook and Myspace are essentially the same in purpose. Both websites allow a user to create a

profile on which he can put various information about himself and can upload pictures and videos.

Both also include features which work like a blog and even have what they call “status updates” which

work like Twitter. In addition to having all of these features, Facebook allows its users to comment on

any media posted or activity performed on the website. After creating a profile on these websites a

person can then interact with other users. “Facebook allows users to designate “friends.” An individual

who is invited to be a member's Facebook friend may either accept or reject the offer, thus providing

individual control over one's list of friends” (Pempek 230). Myspace works the same way. As one can

see, social networks combine social media to enhance interaction and develop relationships.

Effects of Web 2.0

Like any other form of media, social media has taken off with much success. It's predecessors,

radio and television, did not take long to become popular and work their way into the lives of every day

people. However, Web 2.0 has not only become popular. Because of its interactive nature, social media

is not just a fun thing to listen to or watch, people are creating and contributing. Much of life is now

taking place on the internet. Social networks, although created to help connect people, begin

consuming people. The rest of this paper will explore specific effects that Web 2.0 has had on its users,

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specifically young people, in three areas: identity, social interactions, and academics.

Identity

A study was recently done at Georgetown University on the effect that Facebook has had on

college students. An article was published with the information collected throughout the course of this

study. A great portion of this article was devoted to discussing the way that adolescents form their

identity. “Key characteristics of adolescent development include the formation of

identity, the

development of intimate relationships, and the power of the peer group” (Pempek 228).

This has

always been the case, but in the Information Age it is working itself out online, in social networks, and

through social media.

“In general, communication is facilitated through information posted in the profile (i.e., the

user's personal page), which often includes a photograph of the member and personal information

describing his or her interests, both of which provide information about one's identity” (Pempek 228).

Profiles on these social networks have become spaces where someone defines himself. Many

adolescents have never before devoted any time to introspection, but one must reflect on himself in

order to fill out the “about me” section in his profile, and one must consider the ways that he spends his

time if he is to fill out the interests or activities section of his profile. Such a space has hardly existed

before, unless an adolescent was disciplined enough to keep a journal. Profiles are a trendy way to

reflect on and express oneself.

Social networks do not only provide a place for a person to define who they are, but the

interactive nature of social networks allows for a person's peers to contribute to defining him.

Interaction with others and feedback play important roles in the development of a person's identity.

“The inclusion of various channels for reader feedback (e.g., online guest books) suggests that youth

desire responses to the content posted, perhaps for self-validation or the formation of relationships”

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(Pempek 228). The article goes on to say that one of the primary reasons adolescents use social

networks is “ to explore themselves through feedback from others” (Pempek 228). Facebook's

comment feature allows its users to comment on literally anything that takes place on the website. Such

feedback potential is an extremely huge draw to adolescents who are seeking attention in that way. The

Georgetown University article concludes this point very well by noting that “social networking sites

provide an easy, accessible way to interact with peers and gather feedback. These opportunities may be

particularly significant since peers are readily available online at almost any time, and the tools

provided make communication easy to accomplish. Such contacts may foster the development of

identity and intimate relationships, including friendships as well as romantic relationships” (Pempek

228).

Social Interactions

While feedback from peers has affected a person's identity, interaction with others online has

affected face-to-face interaction. As seen earlier people who have made connections through social

networking websites are called “friends.” Dave Taylor wrote an article addressing the issue of online

“friendships.” In this article he humorously writes about the fact that all of these “friendships” have an

equal weight on social networking websites. He points out the absurdity that “your best friend Mike is

considered just as important in your life as Aunt Flo, with whom you’ve connected to stop her

complaining at family gatherings” (Taylor 19).

Obviously people have levels in their relationships. There will be a smaller group of close

friends, a larger group of good friends, and an even larger group of acquaintances. If a person befriends

all of these people on a social network then all of them are given the same weight. Facebook has

attempted to address this issue by allowing its users to select others whom they wish to see more

information about. Regardless of any attempt to address this, the word “friend” is beginning to be

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redefined in the context of social networking. This word, which has meant a person with whom you

share a certain powerful bond and life experience, is losing its weight because of social networking.

Due to the interactive nature of social networking, such websites have affected what its users do

in

their

spare

time.

Social

networking

websites

have

not

only

redefined

“friends,”

but

also

“community” and “hanging out.” David Taylor would no doubt agree with the statement that it is

absurd to say that a person sitting alone in his room on Facebook is “hanging out” with a “community,”

but that is in fact what we are calling such actions. As noted in the introduction “once upon a time”

hanging out with a community involved going somewhere with a group of people. Now everyone stays

put, gets on the computer, and meets together online. Personal interaction has been removed from

community, which is probably why many young adults have a sense of “feeling alone in a room full of

people.”

Because of all of these redefinitions there is much time spent “lurking” online. The Georgetown

University study found that just under half of the students in their survey spent “quite a bit” of time

“reading and/or viewing information without directly interacting in any way” (Pempek 235). Such

activities are called lurking. This shows that not only have young adults stopped having personal

interaction, but also they spend less time interacting with each other online and instead settle with

watching other people interact.

It seems that with this transition people are spending more time online than in actual

community. This has lead to a “flip-flop” of personal interaction and online interaction. Social

networks were originally created to enhance community. In other words, people would spend time

online discussing how life was going outside of the Internet. Now, people spend so much time on the

Internet that the two have flip-flopped. When engaging in personal interactions, groups will discuss

was has been going on on Facebook or Myspace instead of vice-versa.

The full, meaningful definition of friends, community, and hanging out are at risk because of

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social networking, but social networking is not entirely bad. There are also good things coming from

social networks. For instance, social networking websites creates opportunities to keep in touch with

people who a person would otherwise never have contact with again. Many college students use

Facebook to keep in touch with “friends from their high school or their home town” (Pempek 232).

Social networking websites not only allow their users to keep in touch with people who would

otherwise be forgotten, but they also help to enhance relationships. They make it easy to share social

media and other various online content with people who a person has legitimate relationships with

outside of the Internet.

Because of the widespread use of social networks and other personal webpages, many activities

which once were limited to personal interaction have now moved to the internet. One example of this

already discussed in this paper is development of friendships. But also, many companies have begun to

search for potential employees online through social networks. There are even dating websites that

allow people to spark romantic connections through social networks.

Tufts University recently did a study on the difference between impressions formed from

personal interaction and viewing a person's profile. They recorded that they “observed that first

impressions formed from personal webpages provided perceivers with valid information about the webpage authors’ spontaneous likability in ‘‘real life” (Weisbuch 576). In other words, most profile pages seemed to accurately represent a persons “real life” personality. This is reassuring because, although clear lines between the “real world” and the Internet seem to be crumbling, there has always been a fear that people on the Internet were simply liars “out to get you.” Web 2.0 has played a powerful role in social interactions between young adults, and as long as social networks are used responsibly it seems like they can act as a powerful tool to enhance friendships rather than destroying the definition of them.

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Academics

Just as social media and social networks have had both positive and negative effects on social

interactions between young adults, they have also affected the academics of young adults in positive

and negative ways.

After the previous discussion of the consuming effect that social networks can have on students,

it would seem obvious that social networks could become a distraction from studies. In fact, the

Georgetown University study recorded that over seventy-five percent of students reported Facebook

having a “somewhat negative effect on their academic studies” (Pempek 234). It is true that social networking can become a setback to academics. However, the interactive capabilities on social media allow for potential new teaching tools. One particularly interesting article explored the new mediums through which texts can be created and distributed. It essentially asked the question “Why are so many students devoting their time to writing outside of class on blogs and the like, yet lacking in their ability to produce good writing for school assignments?” and challenged teachers to do something about it. One of the reasons this article suggested for the disconnect between authoring online and in

class is audience. This article observed that “much school writing focuses on purpose and audience,

where students are rarely asked to write an authentic piece, for an authentic audience” (Hansford 62).

The internet is a real audience whether it be a group of peers or just the online community in general,

but an essay in class is being written, not to communicate, but rather for the sole purpose of writing

which seems less useful than writing to communicate with an audience. Write an essay for the sake of

writing an essay seems unimportant, while writing an article about current political events, or

something else relevant, to be posted on a blog can stir up conversation and even bring about change.

This article cited an example of one teacher who decided to assign his students the project of creating a blog for the class. The article reports that “[he] found that his students became empowered as authors, producing sophisticated pieces of multimodal work that portrayed the nuance of the text in

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ways that would have been very difficult for his students in a conventional essay” (Hansford 60). Once the teacher started engaging his students on a their own terms, the students flourished. Another text based tool is called a wiki, which simply allows many people to edit one source from different computers. This medium works well for collaborative projects (Dreon). Blogs and wikis have the potential to be used as great interactive learning tools, but there are other social mediums which can enhance the classroom experience more. For instance, one anthropology professor wrote an article commenting on how useful YouTube was for studying culture, as well as how incredibly engaging videos were (Young). Lastly, applications like Twitter can contribute to the classroom by allowing for short and simple feedback from students. One article noted that “many educators already use micro-blogs to create community around a class or an activity. Instructors who’ve used Twitter say it is a useful back channel during and after class” (Galagan 29). Twitter can be useful during class so that the professor can get instant feedback from students. It can be useful after class because it helps to develop the student-teacher relationship and provides a place for further discussion after class. It seems that social media's potential to improve a student's academic studies outweighs the distraction that it could be. Teachers and professors simply need to begin learning how to use these social medias and implement them in the classroom. Hopefully then students will become more engaged and tuned in to the class.

Conclusion

After this discussion of Web 2.0 one may have many reactions. Many implications of social media and social networks are yet to be found. But, overall the effect Web 2.0 has on people is up to that person. It will define a person only as much as that person allows it to. It will consume a person only as much as that person allows it to. It can enhance relationships if used responsibly. And it can profoundly change the way students learn if teachers and professors begin to learn how to use it. Web 2.0 is entirely in the hands of its user, that is its distinction. Once upon a time society was without Web 2.0, but now that it is here let it be used powerfully and responsibly.

Works Cited

Bernoff, Josh. "Terminology matters: Why 'social media' sucks." Advertising Age 20 Apr.

2009: 17-17. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Abilene Christian University,

Abilene, TX. 30 Apr. 2009 <http://www.acu.edu:2048/login?

url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?

direct=true&db=a9h&AN=38020549&site=ehost-live&scope=site>. The author

discusses the term "social media," arguing that it is a misleading term, especially

for advertisers. There are said to be only a few parallels and many significant

differences between the online social networks associated with Web 2.0

technologies and the traditional mass media.

"Company History." YouTube. YouTube, LLC. 30 Apr. 2009

<http://www.youtube.com/>. In order to learn more about YouTube, I went to the

website and found an article about its history.

Dreon Jr., Oliver, and Nanette I. Dietrich. "Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Teaching

Assistive Technology through Wikis and Embedded Video." TechTrends: Linking

Research & Practice to Improve Learning 53 (2009): 78-80. Academic Search

Complete. EBSCO. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX. 29 Apr. 2009

<http://www.acu.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?

direct=true&db=a9h&AN=36520205&site=ehost-live&scope=site>. This article

focused on the positive effect the use of YouTube and Wikis have brought to the

classroom.

Galagan, Pat. "Twitter As a Learning Tool. Really." T+D 63 (2009): 28-31. Academic

Search Complete. EBSCO. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX. 1 May

2009 <http://www.acu.edu:2048/login?

url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?

direct=true&db=a9h&AN=36902985&site=ehost-live&scope=site>. This article

discusses the potential for Twitter as a learning tool.

Hansford, Diane, and Rachael Adlington. "Digital spaces and young people's online

authoring: Challenges for teachers." Australian Journal of Language & Literacy

32 (209): 55-68. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Abilene Christian

University, Abilene, TX. 22 Apr. 2009 <http://www.acu.edu:2048/login?

url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?

direct=true&db=a9h&AN=36428102&site=ehost-live&scope=site>. This

compelling article discussed the effect that Social Media has had on academics

and student's performance in classroom. The article explored the question, ?Why

do students write a lot of stuff outside of school, but slack on school-assigned

essays??

Pempek, Tiffany A., Yevdokiya A. Yermolayeva, and Sandra L. Calvert. "College

students' social networking experiences on Facebook." Journal of Applied

Developmental Psychology 30 (2009): 227-38. Academic Search Complete.

EBSCO. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX. 22 Apr. 2009

<http://www.acu.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?

direct=true&db=a9h&AN=37812321&site=ehost-live&scope=site>. This article

is about a study done to see how Facebook has affected college students.

Taylor, Dave. "Connect You to Humanity?" Phi Kappa Phi Forum 88 (2008): 18-21.

Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX.

22 Apr. 2009 <http://www.acu.edu:2048/login?

url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?

direct=true&db=a9h&AN=36314398&site=ehost-live&scope=site>. This article

discusses the genuineness of connections made online. Ever since the Social

Network craze terms like "friends" and "community" have become redefined.

Weisbuch, Max, Zorana Ivcevic, and Nalini Ambady. "On being liked on the web and in

the ?real world?: Consistency in first impressions across personal webpages and

spontaneous behavior." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 45 (2009):

573-76. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Abilene Christian University,

Abilene, TX. 22 Apr. 2009 <http://http://www.acu.edu:2048/login?

url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?

direct=true&db=a9h&AN=37820685&site=ehost-live&scope=site>. This article

is about a study done on how face-to-face interaction and online interaction relate.

This was done to determine whether or not there are obvious differences between

the impression a person gets from face-to-face interaction and online profiles.

Young, Jeffrey R. "An Anthropologist Explores the Culture of Video Blogging."

Chronicle of Higher Education 53 (2007): 39-39. Academic Search Complete.

EBSCO. Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX. 22 Apr. 2009

<http://www.acu.edu:2048/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?

direct=true&db=a9h&AN=25220744&site=ehost-live&scope=site>. This article

is written by a professor who has experimented with YouTube in his sociology

and anthropology classes. He writes about how useful YouTube is for conducting

various cultural studies.