A recent report from the government’s chief scientist has claimed that social media platforms are resulting in people changing the way they interpret who they are and their place in the world. “Rather than having a single identity, people have several overlapping identities”, the scientist claimed.
The research also stated that sixty per-cent of UK Internet users are now members of a social networking site, many of these being celebrities and high profile personalities.
Interestingly, Gary Lineker recently announced on Twitter that he would be leaving the social networking site for personal reasons, claiming that it was taking over his life. However, less than ten days after suspending his account, Gary was back on the social networking site.
So are we becoming addicted to social media?
The government report did touch upon this phenomenon. It claimed that in some cases, people may socialise more successfully online as they are able to express themselves with greater freedom and this is leading to many having a separate online and offline identity.
Consequently, “traditional notions of identities are likely to become less meaningful”, thus resulting in changes in the way that people are living their lives. The study’s results indicated that traditional elements that tend to shape a persona’s identity are now becoming less significant, such as religion, ethnicity, job and age.
Some have philosophised over the concept that if people are not on social media then this will result in them becoming isolated and communities less cohesive. More worryingly perhaps, it is being claimed that due to the Internet’s unlimited storage capacity, there are no constraints on the amount of personal information people may be giving away online.
The uses of this personal information are endless, with some claiming that in the future it may be linked to facial recognition technology and spatial tracking, which would ultimately reduce our anonymity in public places.
“The collection and use of data by government and the private sector, the balancing of individual rights and liberties against privacy and security and the issue of how to tackle social exclusion, will be affected by [the trends found in this report]. I hope the evidence in today’s report will contribute to the policy making process”, Prof Beddington told BBC News.
It will be interesting to see how society develops as a result of increasing social media usage. Will our communities become less cohesive? Will our public information be used for unwanted purposes? From this, it is clear that the importance of keeping sensitive personal information to a minimum when posting to social media platforms is just as important as ever.