Do Facebook, Twitter and YouTube encourage or discourage social intimacy?

“Our goal is to make everything social” – With these kinds of sweeping statements from Mark Zuckerberg, as quoted on FT.com, you can’t help but think of sites like Facebook, Twitter etc being built around the concept of social intimacy. But in reality what does this mean? For example, majority of information we view online is through the filter of Facebook; our interaction and consumption on the internet has become personalised, no longer being an anonymous experience. This promotes a more socially intimate environment, as we now have an online identity. It has made us perceive social intimacy differently; mediation is a fundamental part of modern society. “Facebook is no longer merely a social network, it is an essential part of the entire online experience” (FT.com) – it is so engrained in our social fabric that it is vital to all forms of communication, whether in the sphere of business or in its ability to mobilise and revolutionise mass movements and political protests. Could the recent developments in Tunisia and Egypt have happened without social networking sites? They have given people a safe environment to come together. But does something get lost in technological translation? The tell-tale signs of verbal communication; the flick of the hair or the wave of the hand. Social intimacy has changed but this is not necessarily a bad thing; the World Wide Web has become a personalised space, and is the heartbeat of social interaction. This re-enforces McLuhan’s phrase the medium is message: as technology develops and changes, so does society’s values, norms and ways of doing things. Therefore, the medium, in this case, the internet and its contents, social networking sites have social implications. So whether it encourages or discourages social intimacy is irrelevant; social intimacy will adapt and change with the technological times.

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