Society is likely on the cusp of a social revolution, during which it will be important to redefine socially appropriate and acceptable behaviors (with regard to digital or virtual interaction). We are at a point in history where very few people have given critical thought to new social realities created by technology and what those realities mean for the individual and society. In this section we closely examine a few social technologies that influence leisure. The section first looks at virtual communities, social networking sites, and today’s communication tools. Then we critically reflect on gaming and television. Think about how each technology affects your social life and social skills. Keep in mind that these are only a few of the technologies that may affect you socially. A comprehensive list is not feasible here.
A study of students and information technology found that 85 percent of undergraduates surveyed used social networking sites (Salaway et al., 2008) (see figure 8.2). Many of the respondents reported using such sites daily. Figure 8.3 indicates how undergraduate students use social networking sites. This report found indications that use of these sites is increasing yearly. Let us now look critically at whether this trend is positive.
The use of social networking sites has both positive and negative consequences. It is amazing how someone can find a long-lost friend through a social networking site, enabling them to reconnect. In a society where people have become quite mobile and family and friends are often geographically separated, it is convenient to keep in touch through technology.
However, one need not look far to find problems associated with social networking sites. There is a lively debate about whether Internet addictions are real. To me it appears to be a real problem (perception is often reality in a social context) with which people have to grapple. Some assert that these Web sites contributed to cheating on significant others, often leading to divorce. People have been fired from their jobs or put under pressure because they use these sites at work or because something is posted on a site that undermined the person’s professional standing.
Although divorce and loss of employment are serious issues, perhaps they are not as common as other problems that have the potential to stem from social networking sites.Narcissism—excessive interest in one’s appearance and in oneself—is sometimes manifested on social networking sites. These Web sites have been found to be an avenue for people to display their narcissistic traits online (Buffardi & Campbell, 2008). I often wonder whether people use these sites to display their popularity to the world rather than use them as a vehicle to develop meaningful relationships.
Creating meaningful relationships is often about sharing our lives with others, and technology can allow us to do so through photos, videos, text, and music. In conducting research for my doctoral dissertation, I looked at how eight senior citizens used technology and how it affected their lives. My hope was to find that they used technology to stay in touch with friends, family, and people with similar interests. Although the…