Government Report Says Social Networks Are Changing Who We Are

By Khurram Aziz email: k.aziz@mobilenapps.com | Jan 22, 2013 01:35 PM EST

Share This Story

  • Print
  • Email

Constant Internet connection is blurring distinctions between online and offline identities, as well as public and private, according to a report published by the British government's chief scientist,  Prof. John Beddington.

Follow us

The 71-page study, Future Identities, brings together a variety of academic research and concludes that people who refuse to participate in social networks such as Facebook and Twitter could find themselves marginalized as the majority increasingly express their identity online.

"This can be a positive force, exemplified by the solidarity seen in the London 2012 Olympics or a destructive force, for example the 2011 riots," says the report. "Due to the development of smartphones, social networks and the trend towards (greater) connectivity, disparate groups can be more easily mobilised where their interests temporarily coincide."

"For example," it says, "a 'flash mob' can be mobilised between people who have not previously met".

Much of this change is being driveny by "hyperconnectivity" which keeps people on the Internet 24/7. The result is the blurring between work and social identities, so that people check their work emails, Twitter and other social networks when they're off the clock and employers start to look at social online presence as well as professional qualifications for prospective employees.

Beddington led the study as part of the Government Office for Science's Foresight program, which looks ahead to highlight emerging trends in science and technology with a view to informing policies across government departments.

"The most dynamic trend (in determining identity) is hyper-connectivity," Beddington told BBC News.

"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 these trends," he said. "I hope the evidence in today's report will contribute to the policy making process."

The report undertook 20 separate reviews of areas affected by identity including social inclusion and mobility, education and skills, crime and mental health.

It warned that those who do not nurture an online identity, particulalr the elderly, could be left disenfranchised in the future.

However, it says there are plenty of positives social networks offer as well as a negatives, and policy makers need to be aware of both.

"You saw for example, two things that have happened in the past couple of years: first of all the [London] riots, which we had in various cities but also we had the [London] Olympics," Beddington told the Telegraph. "Both these generated new sorts of identities and social groupings and so on. I think, therefore, that government needs to be very agile in monitoring how these things are developing.

He concludes that there is a real potential for using these sorts of social networks for good and there is a "potential to cause harm."

Get the Most Popular Mobile&Apps Stories in a Weekly Newsletter

© 2014 Mobile & Apps All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

Join Our Conversation

Smartphones
2014 Google Nexus familyNexus 6, Nexus 9, Nexus Player on Google Play: Available models, prices & shipping estimates
Sony Smartwatch 3 pops up on Google Play, sports $249.99 price tag
New Moto X (2014) on Verizon $49.99 this weekend only
Apple unveils whopping 27-inch Retina 5K iMac: Specs, features, pricing & availability
Tablet / Laptop / PC
Dell Venue 7 and Venue 8Dell unveils Venue 7 and Venue 8 Android 4.3 Jelly Bean tablets
Retina iPad Mini facing delays, may not launch until early next year
Refurbished 128GB iPad with Retina Display now available on the Apple Online Store
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 – 2014 Edition: Pricing and availability now official
Gadgets
Amazon LogoAmazon reportedly to launch ‘Firetube’ set-top box before 2013 holidays
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and Galaxy Gear India launch: Pricing and availability
Samsung Galaxy Gear Android smartwatch now up for pre-order in Canada
Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 reportedly in the works already, may debut at CES or MWC 2014
OS / Software
HTC LogoHTC reportedly considering Android/Windows Phone dual-booting smartphone as Microsoft pushes for deeper Windows mobile integration
iOS 7 Chrome Incognito mode leaks private searches due to bug
Sprint HTC One Android 4.3 Jelly Bean already rolling out, AT&T, T-Mobile & Verizon to follow
Microsoft Windows 8.1 now available for pre-order
Internet / Social Media
Google DowntimeGoogle blacks out for two minutes, causes 40 percent drop in world’s Internet traffic
Xbox Music web player is live and ready for Xbox Music Pass subscribers
Facebook Android app collected phone numbers even if users never logged in
Firefox 22 brings support for web video calls, 3D gaming, and Unreal Engine 3
What's App
Flipboard for Windows PhoneFlipboard for Windows Phone finally available, but requires 1GB of RAM (VIDEO)
Vine gets major update, lets you upload previously-shot videos & more (VIDEO)
BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) finally hits Windows Phone – Available as a free download now
Instagram releases Bolt ephemeral messaging app in select markets to challenge Snapchat
Copyright © 2014 Mobile & Apps All rights reserved. mobilenapps
Real Time Analytics