July 5, 2012

Everything in Moderation

Schricker,-Mary-Dec2010By Mary Schricker Gemberling

Although change has at times in my life been thrust upon me at inopportune times, it has for the most part opened up new avenues and opportunities I would not have otherwise sought. As a result, I have learned to embrace change. With that being said, I have to admit that the constantly changing world of technology is sometimes a bit of an overload for my aging brain!!!! As a retired professional, I would not consider myself a novice with regard to general knowledge and experience with technology. I am certainly no stranger to Google, Wikipedia, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as a multitude of web sites I visit frequently for both research and general information about topics of interest. Still, I feel there is a whole world of new gadgets and apps and devices I am just not sure I understand or even want to learn about. To quell my frustration, I decided to do a bit of research on the topic of internet use in general and more specific the area of social media.

An American computer scientist, Vinto Gray Cerf, a graduate of both Stanford and UCLA, is credited with inventing the internet in 1973, while working at IBM. He created the TCP and IP, both protocols which are used extensively the world over. It is believed the term “to surf the net,” was coined after Vinton Cerf himself, who sent the first data over the internet.

It is estimated that the total number of Internet users (as of March 2011) was over 2.095 billion or 30.2 percent of the world population. The highest number, 78.6 percent of the world users, are in North America. Europe ranks second with 61.3 percent and Africa is last with only 13.5 percent of the population using the Internet. During the last 10 years, growth in the percentage of internet users has sky rocketed and has more recently been spurred on by the increase in social media sites.

Google has over 170 million users; Twitter has almost 500 million accounts; YouTube over 4 billion views per day, and Facebook has over 900 million users. One in every nine people is on Facebook. They spend 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook and over 250 million individuals access it on their mobile devices. Three hundred thousand users help translate Facebook into 70 languages. Wow, pretty impressive numbers!!!

Women use social networking more than men. It is most popular among the youngest generation, 18-34, and is used less frequently for each successive group over 30 years of age. Although it does appear that Boomers are ramping up their use of social media to stay in touch with children, friends, siblings, and colleagues. Their usage of social media has increased more than 50 percent in the last two years.

One of the questions I wanted to find out was why Americans felt the need to use Facebook rather than the traditional methods of socializing? It appears that 67 percent use it to stay in touch with friends; 64 percent stay in touch with family; 50 percent to connect with old friends; 15 percent to connect with people with similar interests; 9 percent to make new friends. The six categories that make up 91 percent of the total monthly visits are: information sharing, education, creative arts, games, friends and dating.

The use of the Internet and social networking allows the rapid flow of information to reach large groups of people. Although we cannot doubt its practicality, at what cost are we simplifying our lives by using it to communicate. Research indicates that 57 percent of people talk to more people online than in real life. Almost half of 18-34 year olds check Facebook when they wake up (28 percent before getting out of bed). Social networking has been found to be a major distraction in University classrooms. Not only do students often log into social networking sites while on classroom computers but they also have less time to focus on studies and interact with others. CareerBuilder finds that over 45 percent of employers use social networking sites to screen potential employees. There is no doubt that giving personal information online is tantamount to giving up some part of your privacy.

The Internet and more specifically social media sites are a dominant reality of the 21st Century and are here to stay. They foster the freedom to choose and express ourselves. Most users simply enjoy the convenience and fun that sites bring. Its positive presence in our life cannot be understated. As a matter of fact, I met my husband on an internet dating site. But we need to approach it with caution and good old fashioned “common sense”! We have a responsibility to understand that when we reveal detailed personal information we may be impoverishing ourselves. Just like past innovations the use of the internet and all that goes with it will always be controversial. We need to keep it in perspective, and not let it take over our lives.

“Everything in moderation, including moderation!”
………..Oscar Wilde

Mary Schricker Gemberling, a former educator & Certified Senior Advisor is the author of two books, The West End Kid and Labor of Love.