Has Social Media Bred An Instant Gratification Generation?

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Social media as we know it today has its roots in the mid 1990s, not long after the initial advent of the internet. The internet is generally no longer viewed as an awe-inspiring invention but rather as a part of everyday life, and social networking in all its forms has met with the same fate of being very much taken for granted. If we take a minute to consider the effect social media has on our lives, however, it’s clear to see the strength of its influence on modern society. Whether it be catching up with friends, sharing ideas and opinions, showing people photographs you've taken or videos you've captured, or talking to people on the other side of the world, we can undertake actions without leaving our chair that 20 years ago would have seemed unimaginable.

With 98% of 18-24 year olds using social media, being able to share information and communicate with others online is obviously important to young people. Although the usefulness of access to this wealth of information is undeniable, could it be that the immediate nature of social networking has bred a generation of people who have become too used to the thrills of instant gratification?

When people are able to discover news from around the world, learn new information on a topic, and find out what friends and relatives are doing with just a few clicks, it may seem to some that all the effort has been taken out of keeping ourselves informed. When constant updates are available online, people see no reason to delay learning about something by waiting until another source of information becomes available. The steady decline of sales in newspapers is proof of this – waiting for the next day’s newspaper to become available to find out what’s going on in the world may seem pointless when online news is updated constantly. In comparison to the fast-paced, ever changing world of social media, the offline world of books and letters can seem fairly tedious.

Image Credit: bloomua via Shutterstock

Older people who grew up without the internet sometimes criticize the younger generation for their reliance on online tools for communication and information. Few young people nowadays have the patience to go to a library to find books on a subject when the information can be found in a few minutes via a search engine, or to write a letter to a relative in another country when they are just an online message away. Although resisting the temptation of instant gratification that the internet provides may display admirable patience, social media does have certain advantages over other sources. Hearing about a news story on a social networking site isn't only quick; it can provide unique accounts or pictures from citizen reporters who saw the events unfold. Chatting on a social networking site may not be able to really compare to a good old fashioned face-to-face meeting, but for some it could mean keeping in touch with a friend or relative they otherwise may have lost contact with, for example if they moved far away. 

The many benefits of social media have made it an important tool for many people in their business and personal lives. However, the instant gratification culture that social media has bred may cause some to forget that information found on the internet is often unreliable and can’t always be trusted to be accurate. Social networks are a great way to connect with friends old and new, but the dangers of people lying about their identity online mean socializing in person is usually a safer option. The internet has many uses, but sometimes it pays to pick up a book or go out to meet a friend for coffee.

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