Tuesday, December 4, 2012

getting to talking about it..

In today’s world, I believe that social networking sites (SNS) provide much more for people emotionally and fundamentally than just what meets the eye…

For extra detail along with my paper, I've spoken with some people of interest that have unique stories pertaining to social media and their own lives. 

Here are some of the questions we used:

What can you tell me about how Facebook, Twitter, blogging, (or any combo of whichever you use) have helped or hindered you, your life, and your interpersonal relationships with others?

As a young adult (if applicable), do you feel the relationships or connections you’ve formed online have helped you to become more social or outgoing in the “real world”?

Do you feel forming relationships through these sites is artificial, or can it be genuine? As in, have your online friends become real, genuine friends?

Do you feel your life has been permanently changed by these outlets? For better or worse?

If so / if you wish, please share how. 

siobhan; mother of a wounded warrior

The morning of July 23, 2011, I had about 200 Facebook friends, and would have never considered blogging. I didn’t think anything I had to say was important enough to post. My friends on Facebook were people I knew in my life, former students, people from work, women from an online book club, and a few fellow military moms I had met online. I belonged to several groups on Facebook all centering around my sons’ military service, such as PODS (Parents of Deployed Servicemembers), Army Moms, Navy Moms, Military Moms, etc. I didn’t spend a lot of time on Facebook, but I enjoyed the connection.
Then my life changed. I received a call on Saturday, July 23, 2011 informing me that my son was injured in Afghanistan. I posted the tragic news on the Facebook pages to which I belonged, and the support I received was overwhelming. Within the first two weeks, my “friends” on Facebook jumped by over 100. All of the new additions were fellow military moms, members of Derek’s platoon, and people at Walter Reed Military Medical Center.
I was also contacted by a family member of a wounded warrior who recommended that I start a blog. She told me that the blog would serve two purposes. The first was that it would keep family members and friends up to date on Derek’s condition, and the second was that it would prove to be very therapeutic for me.

During the next year, my Facebook friends blossomed to over 600. Most of them, I do not know personally. Some of them are hospital staff, wounded warriors, and WW family members that I have met along the way. Many of them are military moms and others who reached out to me after reading Derek’s story on my blog, which was read by not only family and friends, but churches, schools, and so many others around the world. I found my voice.
The blog was extremely therapeutic. I was able to vent my frustrations so that I did not take them out on the medical staff. It also allowed everyone to follow Derek’s progress. Without the blog (and Facebook), I would have spent so much time on the phone trying to keep everyone in the loop. I also addressed problems that I encountered, and because it was on the blog, I got results. After one particularly bad weekend, my congressman, Rodney Frelinghuysen, showed up in the hospital to see what he could do to help. He had read my blog and was not happy about what I had been through.
I spent nine months at Walter Reed, and Facebook kept me connected. The cell service was sketchy, at best, on the Naval base, so phone calls were few and far between. If not for Facebook, I would have been completely disconnected. I kept up with friends and family, I kept them informed, and I was able to get the news. Through Facebook I have a strong support system of family, friends, fellow military Moms, etc. who have kept up with Derek’s story. I have been able to connect with so many others who have gone down the same path. They have given me support and encouragement, and now I am passing that along to people I have met.

Of course, some of the “relationships” are artificial. Some people just want the connection. 
But I know that some of these relationships are genuine. 
One military Mom set up Derek’s support page the day he was injured. She has kept up with me over the last year and a half. Another military Mom has held two fundraisers for Derek. This Christmas, I have already been contacted by about a dozen people asking what they can send Derek and Krystina for Christmas. This is in addition to the dozens of packages already received by them. People have gone out of their way to help.
When I am feeling down, I can reach out on Facebook and I am immediately built back up. When I am feeling frustrated, I post my frustration and in response I get a lot of good ideas to solve the problem, or I get people who empathize with my difficulty.
I do believe that without Facebook and my blog, the past year and a half would have been a lot more difficult. I don’t know if Facebook changed me, but I do know that it benefited me.

* you can visit Siobhan's blog here: http://www.walkingwithmywoundedwarrior.blogspot.com *

olivia, age 15; 29.k tweets

Social media is one of the most important things in my life, as it helps me keep up with my interests (music, TV, fashion, etc.) and connect with other people who share those interests. These websites, especially Twitter, have improved my life immensely, but not without negatives. When I joined Twitter, I found huge groups of people with the same interests as me, which helped me a lot to grow as a person. I talked to these people and they helped me understand where I fit in. Having friends that I could talk to about my interests and them understanding where I was coming from was great for me and ended up improving my social skills a lot. When you’re talking to people online, especially with the Twitter character limit, you learn quickly how to use your words powerfully and effectively. Those skills have helped me with everything from casual conversation to public speaking to essay writing. When the only way to represent yourself on the internet is through a picture, a 160 character bio, and some short text posts, you also find the importance in presenting yourself to others. I found that to help me socially in “real life” as well because I could place myself in a group of people and know how I wanted to present myself to them and let them know who I was. With some exceptions, social media could be one of the most genuine ways of forming relationships because it’s more acceptable to be you on the Internet. People can be selective with the information that they share but once they share it, it’s out for the world to see. On sites like Twitter and Tumblr, people share their innermost feelings to hundreds, sometimes thousands of followers. It’s possible to get a good sense of someone’s personality before you’re close with them and, if you like it, the websites supply the tools to have the conversations and get to know them better.
I’ve made some of my closest friends on Twitter, had great conversations with people on my Tumblr, and met countless of them in person. Every one that I’ve met, usually after months of talking online, has been just as interesting and genuine as they were on the Internet. There are definitely some weird people on social networking sites but experience and common sense is all that’s needed to avoid them. A lot of social networking also takes up huge amounts of time. There’s always new information pouring in from every direction and keeping up with all of it, though impossible, is never-ending. It’s easy to forget about real-life responsibilities with deadlines and consequences while drowning in the flood of new info and knowledge. But, like everything, it’s alright in moderation. Doing online work is one of the hardest self-control tests because of the incredibly easy access to endless people who you could have amazing conversations with. That’s usually an issue but this one negative is outweighed by the many amazing things that social networking has fabricated for me and so many other people. Because of it, I’ve talked to some of my favorite musicians, gotten free tickets to concerts, changed my way of thinking, and met some of my best friends. I definitely have a huge emotional investment in these people and ideas and this is just the abbreviated version. I feel so strongly about the things I’ve experienced just from being involved in these websites that I could go on about them forever, but I believe that they’ve changed my life for the best and I wouldn’t trade anything for it.

social media and interpersonal relationships: research article

For my semester project I've focused on social networking sites and how they affect people's interpersonal lives and relationships. Here on the blog I've created we have two testimonials from avid social networking users, in addition to my paper.

The blog will continue on as a host for any other personal stories I receive regarding how these websites have affected people's lives, and the paper will be updated in correlation with that.

You can read my paper by clicking here!