Application of technologies can overcome the challenges of space and time. Technology can be used to acquire an understanding of other people’s cultures, meet people from all over the world, create, maintain and strengthen relationships, provide better and more efficient communication strategies, as well as; help individuals become more socially skillful (Baddeley, 2017). However, some technological developments have distracted people, stressed them and made other isolated. Today, many people, in one way or another have been involved in several relationships with technology. However, the many associations leave people with a qualitative emptiness feeling. Obviously, technology has a profound effect on social behavior. The social revolution caused by technology makes it’s vital to define what the socially acceptable and appropriate behaviors are about the virtual or digital interaction. Today, the world is at the point where very few people have provided a critical thought on the trending social realities made by technology and what the realities mean to people at a personal level and the society at large (In Clough, In Olson, & In Niederhauser, 2013). In this paper, I will closely examine the effects of modern technology to social behavior. The paper will look at how technology has affected social skills and social life of its users and in particular the impact of social media to the #FeesMustFall protest by South African Students.
Students from South African institutions of higher learning have taken part in the largest student-led movement demanding for radical re-imagination of the post-secondary education space. The protesting students under the banner #FeesMustFall demand decommodification of post-secondary education, class, gender and racial justice, destabilizing of western pedagogies and epistemologies, elevation of self-determination of the black working class, and reversal of damages caused by neoliberal economy. Throughout their protests, social media has been applied not just to plan and spread messages but also to efficiently subvert the traditional media approach to the protest. The protest began as way of social media activism. Social media and other forms of modern media played a significant role in the protest. For example, the protestors used a Facebook group named Rhodes Must Fall and a Twitter has tag #FeesMustFall to communicate that a statue of Cecil John Rhodes should be removed from the school.
According to Katz and Rice (2012), the protestors have had massive effect on social media and specifically the Twitter. Marini and Stebnicki (2012) notes that without the instant connectivity offered by social media, it is unlikely that #FeesMustFall would have spread as fast as it has. This is supported by Campbell (2015) who argued that when the protests began at Rhodes University, it was the social media that provided the student publications and the protestors a national platform while the media houses such as those in Cape Town and Johannesburg scrambled to get reporters to the scene.
According to Campbell (2015) technology is evolving on a day-to-day basis and constantly altering the way things are done. Most recently, technology has become more of communication means, and many people have been the most affected by the use of technology in communication. With the current technology young people can easily communicate with both strangers and people they know. For example, social media is seen to influence behavior whereby when comparing the #FeesMustFall protest and other protests in post-1994 South Africa, it is seen that social media may have contributed to a great extent peaceful protests that in result attracted more attention than the previous protests which were marred with violence. Therefore, it can be seen that the use of technology has made people communicate a lot with people they have never met face-to-face. This has affected the way people and mostly adolescents behave, and particularly people as seen in the protesters who are seen using technology as the main method of communication during the protest and as an interaction method as the only communication platforms in their lives. The success of this protest did not depend on face-face communication. Technology is seen to have played a major role.
In 2014, Kaufman, Rizzini, Wilson, and Bush argued that technology affect the way people behave due to its online environment and it is not necessarily due to lack of face-to-face communication. He asserts that people appear to be politically incorrect when online unlike when dealing directly with other people. This is due to the anonymity caused by the use of the Internet. Nevertheless, even when users are anonymous, Internet users still appear to be more likely to express themselves to the public through the Internet. Over the Internet, people tend to provide more information about them than they would when in the real public setting. This is because when one is using the Internet as means of communication people do not feel like other people can see what they are doing, and hence they don’t have same real-life feelings and consequences. Also, it could also be that they might not be aware of what to share since they find other people share such information openly. Other people find themselves making online comments which they cannot make in their real life or to the same situation people when they physically meet (Marini & Stebnicki, 2012).
Research conducted by Mitchell (2016) on students and information technology discovered that 83 percent of students in their undergraduate studies used social media sites. Mitchell based his research on the turn up of the protesters. He argued that were it not for the large number of students using social media platforms, the protest would not have received the attention it got. Many of the respondents in the research reported using social media on a daily basis. The research indicated that the use of social networking sited has both negative and positive effects to the users. For example, through social media, some students from the various Universities in South Africa interacted and some became great friends and some hope they will make them their spouses. In this case, the social media had a positive impact on such people. Others have reported that through social media they are to learn new things on a daily basis. However, through some platform, some respondents reported having lost trust to people they trusted hence changing how they used to behave towards them. Some students have reported through the use of technology their friends have reported cheating significantly on them. Others have friends who have lost their jobs or put under pressure because they use the social sites at work just because something has been posted on their social media platform. According to Mitchell technology has led to the separation of many couples due to cheating.
Modern technology has allowed faster sharing of photos, texts, videos, and music. It has enabled many people to communicate effectively through email unlike before. The images of the protestors of the #FeesMustFall used social media to share images before the main media of Johannesburg and Cape Town arrived. Besides, through modern technology, many people have met in chat rooms, and others describe the experience of chatting with friends and family who are far as amazing (Marini &Stebnicki, 2012). This is because people in the chat room share a common interest and may influence other on the same platform. However, it has raised the alarm on wanting to meet each other. Earlier, people used to organize meetings and appear physically. However, today, people meet online hence reducing physical contact of friends and family. This has created a separation of people who used to be together.
Television as a modern method of communication has received varied views on its effects to people, especially teenagers and young adults about their social skills. Spending a lot of time on television as being associated to addictive and has weakened family and friend closeness. According to Katz and Rice (2012), television watching has contributed to the downfall of social lives and skills. People addicted to television watch tend to be less socially active. As a passive medium television which requires little skills TV has provided little chances for strong interaction while watching. People watching tv simply sit and ingest what is being presented to them without talking to each other hence reducing the rates of socialization. This has a significant impact on the social skills of the viewers because they do not practice on how they can handle or deal with each other. Also, certain content on television such as exposure to shows containing sexual contents to teenagers may increase chances of the teens becoming pregnant or engaging in sexual activities while underage.
When people see sex, violence, and lasciviousness on the Internet and other platforms created by the modern technology, they become prone to imitate the behavior thinking that it is acceptable. People copy the social behaviors they see online making the society to be immoral ending up destroying lives of people (Kaufman, Rizzini, Wilson, & Bush, 2014).
In conclusion, it is evident that technology has a great potential to enhance or harm a person’s social live and social skills. One needs to analyze how technology affects them socially on a daily basis. Also, one needs to be selective on what technology to use when so that its purpose of improving the living standards of human beings can be realized. If used well, modern technology can be of great benefit to the world. However, if not carefully used, its harm can be greater than that of World War II.