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Abstaining from Social Media Can Hurt

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It used to be if you asked a group of people if they used Facebook, there would always be a few who would say – nope – and that was ok. Social network interaction used to be optional, a little extra communication tool that if you didn’t use it, there was no harm done in your social life.

That was then. Today the amount of people not using social networking is dwindling, to the point that when you do meet up in-person with your friends, if you’re the one that isn’t on Facebook (or wherever your friends interact online), there are measurable side effects of being excluded or removed from conversations.

Lets put it in a more scientific way, because I can hear your disagreeing already.  While it remains optional, social media has become an essential part of daily life for billions of people around the world.  Social interaction nowadays takes place in both online and offline spaces.  Abstaining from using social media, also means abstaining from a part of social interaction among groups of friends. That could just be interaction involving links to unimportant videos and that joke of the day everyone is sharing, but it could also be the just-posted photo of a friend’s newborn baby and the announcement of a major life event.  You might not be missing anything, you could also be missing something.

To more formally explain the costs of abstention, Randal Collins’ Theory of Interaction Ritual Chains argues:

…we are moved by emotional energy. Successful interaction rituals produce emotional energy, while unsuccessful rituals drain emotional energy. Social actors flow from situation to situation, bringing emotional energy (or lack thereof) with them. In successful interaction ritual chains, emotional energy accumulates through positive collective rituals, which impregnate future interactions with the emotional energy produced in the present.

Of course this doesn’t mean that people who don’t like social media are completely wrong and hurting themselves.  There are more factors at play then just “do you” or “don’t you” use Facebook.  As Jenny Davis explains in her article,

If we take seriously the high costs of abstention, we also must take seriously user concerns about platform architectures, privacy policies, and corporate profit earnings. In turn, the advice to “just quit if you don’t like it” loses significant steam.  “

Source: The Society Pages

Photo: Vivianna_love / flickr

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