What does being “social” mean? It means we depend on others, perhaps a reason for marriage and families. Research has shown that people cannot survive alone; we are not islands in any culture. We have so many interdependent social and emotional needs that we need to live in a societies. Cultural patterns become determinant upon ways to socially organize ourselves. We can be organized by location, by language, by customs and/or traditions we celebrate; by the religions we practice, by statuses in a clan, chiefdom, or other more complex organization. Today, we may even be organized or categorized by the kinds of social media websites we frequently visit..
All of the above customs and traditions are cultural features! Sometimes we may be organized into sets or pairs, such as mother-daughter, father-son, husband-wife, student-professor. Or we may be organized in groups by gender, age, age sets, family, occupation, or political party. Social organizations may also be structured so that we have a common cultural focus, such as in a school or church.
Social organizations can be small scale kinship based, like families, where certain tasks may be the responsibility of a specific family member. Task-oriented social organization is common among tribal peoples. Organizations can also be large scale in large-scale societies. Large scale societies are involved in extremely complex divisions of labor, where tasks are divided into specialties such as a car mechanic or a lab technician. Each specialty is carried out by designated individuals who are skilled that particular specialty.
Different cultures may create social groups according to age sets or age grades, similar to how American education systems are set up. Children begin public schooling at about age five when they are enrolled in Kindergarten. This age set is continued throughout the education process, when those same age sets or grades all graduate from high school at the same time. In tribal societies these age sets or grades may be designed to pass through stages such as from boyhood to warrior status, or from girl to womanhood, or parent to Elder. Within many cultures there are organizations that are secret, or those just for adults. Belonging to specialized social organizations may promote status such as illustrated in these pictures.
Those belonging to these organizations have achieved statuses. In other words they had to work for the status and put forth effort to gain the status. However in India and parts of Southeast Asia people are born into an ascribed status, which is one where social mobility is not allowed. Such an ascribed status may be termed a caste or within a caste system. Caste categories are lifelong and unchangeable.
A common category of social organization is often defined by “race,” which has no biological or scientific validity. There is only one race, the human race. Even so, “race” classifications are perpetuated worldwide. A better way to organize different populations is according to cultural and/or ethnic identities. It is imperative that we understand that being social is our human necessity. This is why we form athletic teams, and clubs. It is why we have concerts and high teas, rituals and celebrations. It is also why we have weddings and funerals, why we congregate in churches and why we go to movies in a theater. Whether sad or happy, these occasions are social and we get to see and be with our fellow human beings, which gives us a sense that we are all somehow connected and that we aren’t alone.
Do internet social network sites fulfill our needs to be social? Or is social media an artificial cultural adaptation to fulfill fabricated social needs? Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a report, “The Impact of Social Media Use on Children, Adolescents, and Families.” It warned that social networking sites may contribute to teen depression stating, “Pediatricians are in a unique position to help families understand these sites and to encourage healthy use and urge parents to monitor for potential problems with cyber-bullying, ‘Facebook depression,’ sexting, and exposure to inappropriate content.”
More information about this article may be found on the American Academy of Pediatrics website at https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2011/03/28/peds.2011-0054.abstract –
There are also studies that indicate frequent use of social media is contributing to failed marriages. The “potential problems” seem to be culture based, so it may be important for everyone, whether adults or children, to take stock of this fairly new, and possibly destructive, socially organized way to be social without actually being social in face to face contexts.