In the ancient times, people regularly gathered in the evening for engagement and entertainment. While it used to be an hour of leisure for them, they also exchanged information and had discourses on important issues of the day. The ordinary person nowadays seldom has time to sit and sip wine with friends and family. Despite the fact that they can accomplish things at a rate that is tenfold higher than they could in the past.
Although technology has made work easier and faster, it has also increased the demands placed on students. Workers to respond quickly, meet endless agendas and addictively produce results to get ahead in the rat race. Saying that, it is normal for one to wonder how people fulfill their need for social engagement and belongingness in the present times. Everyone figures a way out to find contentment. For some, it could be a personalised schedule one follows to call their dear ones every night. For most, a consistent and major resolution is provided by social media. Globally, social media users spend about 2.5 hours each day on these networking platforms.
What was initially a simple aid for socializing with people has turned into a world of its own with polls, live sessions, digital communities and business markets spreading like wildfire. Social media is a general word for internet communication technologies. Which lets individuals communicate with one another by exchanging and receiving information. These include websites as well as applications, which are highly affordable in most places. As you must be aware, some of the most used applications are Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. They facilitate collaborating and building relationships, both personal as well as professional.
In India, currently over 50% of the population invests time in social media (Keelery, 2020). It is interesting to note that in recent years, young people engage much more on Instagram and Snapchat separating themselves from the older trend of Facebook. However, Facebook has become the land for elder people coasting through their fifties. One reasonable explanation for this development might be because older folks spent a lot of time and effort becoming familiar with Facebook’s interface. They do not have the need to move towards instagram as long as people of their age engage on Facebook.
Another observation could be how digital socialization has absorbed yet another quality of real interactions which take place in communities. Take the example of a simple house party. In the beginning, the older and younger adults sincerely exchange love and talks. The smaller children play alone as the celebration goes on. While the older children establish a conversational circle of their own. This is a plain analogy for how the Facebook and Instagram dynamic played out. Unlike online virtual reality games, online social networks provide real-world interactions. They have real emotional and social impact.
Though a virtual entity, social media has become a crucial component of our social world. These days, it is absolutely common to hear about couples getting married after meeting on social media or physical fights breaking out subsequent to an internet squabble. Through the years, people have identified numerous pros and cons of social media. It has indeed made it very easy to reach out to people, spread necessary information (we are basically surviving COVID-19 because of it), aid shy or otherwise laconic individuals to make friends.
It has indeed made it very easy to reach out to people, spread necessary information (we are basically surviving COVID-19 because of it), aid shy or otherwise laconic individuals to make friends. At the same time, it has major privacy concerns, inappropriate content and is a serious constant source of distraction. Despite the fact that there is a great deal of knowledge regarding the issue. Individuals frequently avoid discussing how “expectation-based” it may be. A group behavioural perspective shows that digital interactions are not very different from the social reality. We have always experienced, the one with its inhibiting factors of conformity.
This is yet another strong social phenomenon of on-ground community interactions which seems to be functioning on these internet networks now. Expectations carve norms. Social norms, also known as perceived standards of proper behaviour, serve as a guide for community members and let them know what is expected of them. These expectations influence people’s thoughts, emotions and actions. It is liberating to think of social media platforms as showcases of individuality and raw, honest self-expression. However, it may be time for us to re-evaluate the extent to which such authenticity exists.
For example, the most active users of social media are the content creators, whose business depends on the image and products they promote. These creators usually control the kind of content which goes viral and influences other users who interact with them as spectators or consumers. Hereon, a vicious circle begins- The influencers are hesitant to reveal more of their unfiltered self. Because they fear losing followers, and the following users are naturally entangled in the ongoing trend. This is to say that social media creates social norms and a pressure to conform, much like the social groups do in real spaces.
Although norms determine behaviour on an individual level, they can predict the future shifts in overall group behaviour. Consider two ordinary occurrences. In the first, a celebrity posts their vulnerable side, or when a social rebellion erupts and people are patronized if they don’t engage about it online. in particular, if the risk of breaking out of the social norm of perfection works well, the celebrity is disproportionately praised for being honest, sharing their struggles and sensitivities- and then talking about your weaknesses on social media becomes more acceptable.
In the second case, the people who do not participate in expressing their emotions about topics. Everyone is furious about are verbally attacked on digital media to the point where they either consciously or subconsciously conform, or quit using the platform for sometime. As these instances reflect, social norms can work out wonderfully to bring change and make our society more progressive. Alternately, they can easily be hostile forces feeding misunderstandings and bitterness.
In every social space, norms can be descriptive, injunctive, prescriptive, proscriptive or subjective. Descriptive norms help members understand what happens and injunctive ones guide about what should happen. Prescriptive and proscriptive norms indicate what one should and should not do, respectively. With informal communities comprising people’s personal Instagram accounts, these norms are usually unwritten, and are continuously evolving. Subjective norms take their lion’s share of toll on the members of these communities. Many expend great energy to notice and match what’s being welcomed and validated. As with most other psychological phenomena, this process takes place unknowingly. Breaking out of it takes conscious effort. A holistic view is necessary.
Social norms have their own pros and cons just like social media does. Sociable standards are important for survival because they make newcomers feel safer and more at ease as they learn to navigate unfamiliar territory. Social norms often establish the bulk of moral principles that contribute to maintaining a basic level of peace in society. It of course comes at the cost of losing parts of one’s individuality, increased dependency and consequent hazards. In case the influential members of the group advance an unjustified social norm.
In a nutshell, people don’t need to resent normative behaviour all together; they can’t. As an alternative, it’s critical to recognise that social influences and their effects are not just visible in real-world social settings but also online. It can be useful to be mindful when one is acting according to how they believe. Other people expect them to behave. Being in concordance with others’ expectation is not wrong per se, as long as it is not the only cause behind an action.