Social Informatics — Week 2 Activity Essay Example

In chose to review the article authored by Mihailidis (2014), titled ‘The civil-social media disconnect: exploring perceptions of social media for engagement in the daily life of college students’.

The article by Mihailidis (2014) starts by noting that recent scholarly works have indicated that although social networks provide connectivity to young people, rarely do the social media platforms provide meaningful engagement platforms in civic and social life. Mihailidis’ (2014) paper therefore seeks to verify the foregoing claim by other authors by investigating the perceptions of 800 university students. From the results, Mihailidis (2014) found out that most of the respondents relied on social media for all their information and communication needs. However, the research paper also found out that a significant number of respondents did not attach much value to social media despite their reliance on it for their information and communication needs. Specifically, Mihailidis (2014) indicates that respondents did not perceive social media as a communication mode that promotes dynamic and/or diverse civic engagement, and that they perceived social networks as shallow modes of connecting and networking with others.

Analysing Mihailidis’ (2014) article from the four constructs provided by Kling (1994), one gets the impression that the author was writing from a social realism perspective. Mihailidis’ (2014) article is based on observations made among the respondents, and consequently, the author makes conclusions and recommendations about social media usage by the respondent population. True to Kling’s (1994) view, social realists knit their observations into tight narratives just as Mihailidis (2014) has done.

Kling (1994) further claims that social realist authors rarely generalise their findings, or contrast their studies with others in the computerisation literature. In line with this argument, Mihailidis (2014) cites the unique nature of respondents (i.e. students) as a limitation of his study. He argues that students are less likely to gauge social media positively because of such reasons as peer pressure and/or stigma associated with social media usage. The author does not however offer any support from literature, suggesting that students are less likely to gauge social media usage positively.

Arguably, Mihailidis’ (2014) article proves Kling’s (1994) point that social realists base their articles on careful observation of the social settings as well as the conviction that their observation can change how people perceive technology and social life. In this case, Mihailidis (2014) is trying to tell the reader that although one would assume that people feel more connected as a result of an increased use of social media, that assumption is not necessarily true. Mihailidis (2014) goes ahead to indicate his findings and notes that the people included in his study did not attach the same value to networks created on social media platforms as much they would attach to traditional forms of networking. As Kling (1994) indicates however, it is debatable whether social realist observations form the basis for future predictions regarding technologies or social arrangements. Applied to Mihailidis’ (2014) article, the foregoing argument by Kling (1994) means that it is hard to predict whether the value attached to social networks by would change in the future.


Kling, R 1994, ‘Reading “all about” computerization: how genre conventions shape non-fiction social analysis’, The Information Society, vol. 10, no. 3, pp. 147-172.

Mihailidis, P 2014, ‘The civic-social media disconnect: exploring perceptions of social media for encouragement in the daily life of college students’, Information, Communication & Society, vol. 17, no. 9, pp. 1059-1071.