What Can Social Networks Disclose To Us About Our Future?

As unbelievable as it may sound, Facebook has become a significant part of daily life for nearly 1.4 billion (!) people worldwide. The aility to instantly address and receive feedback from such a mind-blowing number of users makes Facebook (as well as other social networks) a powerful research tool that has been largely overlooked. The informaiton available on social networks might be invaluable not only for social sciences, but for any other field of knowledge, because it could help to address a major challenge faced by the scientists today: they have to rely on samples that are relatively small and thus, are insufficient to make statistically significant conclusions. With billions of users turning up online daily and willingly sharing their opinions, experiences, observations or concerns, Facebook becomes an unprecedented storage of research information for scientists.

Brain-intuition3

During the latest decade, social networks have grown into miniature versions of the real world’s community of people, they bear all major characteristics of the human society, so a network like Facebook can be regarded and studied as a dynamic model of the world community that reflects modern tendencies of human interaction and communication!

I have seen many articles reviewing the opportunities and challenges of Facebook research: some of them provide practical recommendations for conducting research within social networks, others discuss ethical considerations of such study, some focus on ways of collecting self-reports on Facebook, but I have not seen any attempts to see our dear FB as a new, 21-st century-born, worldwide communication model.

cover-facebook-reactions

Historically, the phases of human communication developed like this (you can read more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_communication): Language (pre-history) – Written Language (circa 3200 BC) – The Printing Press (circa 1440 ) (Johannes Gutenberg) – Telephone (1861/1875) – Radio Broadcasting (circa 1910) – Television Broadcasting (1928/1936) – The Internet (1969) (ARPANET) – Smart Phones (1992) (RIM BlackBerry 1999), and – us, a literally worldwide multibillion community of human species, voluntarily sharing everything that comes to their minds electronically, via social networking systems!

Today, in 2017, all the world’s books, dictionaries, maps, and other printed materials are being rapidly replaced by electronic informational resources, especially by those which offer information in condensed, digest-type blocks of pictures, video snippets or visual schemes rather than text or any materials that require reading. People are forgetting how to write, they are growing lazy enough to type and it seems that even traditional reading is beginning to irritate many. (I have deliberately colored these lines to attract your attention to them – please, send me your comments if you think I am not getting it right). 

I could fantasize more about possible changes of life in the far future, but, to be honest, the problems of tomorrow concern me more. The boosting development of Facebook (read: social-networks-based) communication has opened a new era of human interaction, where everybody communicates to everybody at the same time, and neither time nor space matters anymore. If in the previous centuries we needed to overcome distances and time to convey information to masses of people, today it is sent all over the world by a single click of your mouse. Information can literally travel at the speed of thought today!

I can drop a line on my Facebook page and in no time thousands of people will see what I have just thought. Likewise, I can get to know what they think within seconds, too, no matter how much distance lies between us. I can teach online and learn from my students; I can read someone’s book and connect with the author for feedback within seconds, I can share my opinions with the whole world and – what is really new and unusual – time and distance are no longer regarded as participating factors of the communication process.

Does this mean that our future communication is going to experience major changes? Will our children be able to write and read or will there be a new way of conveying information? I can imagine a world where they won’t need those skills… Are we going to develop a new – much faster and more convenient way of communicating information than exchanging words by means of reading and writing? Today, our technologies are developing so quickly that our minds are not ready to digest all information that comes. This means that the rapid change of living environment may cause unprecedented psychological reactions, because people are not machines… therefore, there is a large potential for social scientists and psychologists to study these new and quickly developing phenomena.

So, dear colleagues, what’s next? How can we predict our future, based on what we are observing today? Let us think about it and exchang our thoughts. I am certainly going to study this question and return to this topic again soon.

evolution-of-communication-infographic

Picture taken from https://www.mikogo.com

 

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1 Comment

  1. Interesting post, as always!

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