The Societal Need that is Social Media

I would consider social media to be a result of the combination of both social determinism and technological determinism, but more so of the former. If I had to put a number on it, I would say 60/40. There are multiple sides to every story and the creation of social media was not due to just one theory.

Social determinism is the theory that social interactions and constructs determine individual behavior. Social media was born as a social need by society, as was all technology. Humans are social animals. This theory is evident in how people use social media and the reasoning of why numerous people post, update, and initiate conversations on it. Many people enjoying doing these things because of the potential feedback they get. Whether it is good or bad, feedback is attention, and it can be gratifying for the individuals involved, making them want to interact more through social media in the future. This social interaction could be called a “gratification high,” meaning a person is consistently looking for that feedback as means of an open-ended hand shake where they are waiting for another hand to shake theirs. And that other hand is looking for a hand to shake. Once the hands have shook, both parties have some sort of gratification. This is what I believe has primarily shaped the use of social media, however, that is not to say the opposing theory does not play a role.

Technological determinism is the theory that the characteristics of technological change and advancement determines the way society uses it. I chiefly see technology, in this case social media, as a tool, and not one that controls us (unless that is its objective and we let it). Using Latour’s seatbelt example, the indicator light and the seatbelt itself are suggestions on how we should interact with them. By no means are we being held at gun point by technology, well unless it is a gun; we are free to make our own decisions. And again, I believe social media only gives us suggestions on how we should use it. We determine how it evolves based on our new societal wants and needs at a point in time.

In conclusion, I think humans are ultimately in control of social media. While social media may influence our actions in certain situations, we still have choice. We can choose whether we want to like, dislike, or not even pay attention to certain things. We just need to remember we have that choice.

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