In ‘The Sociological Imagination’ by C. Wright Mills, Mills explains the way we use the sociological imagination to comprehend the nature of history and biography and their relationships within society. We encounter social changes, innovations, and developments which become more embracing and more intricately connected with one another every day in our lives; however, little do we grasp the nature and the influence of changes without possessing the sociological imagination to look further and beyond them. Mills poses a set of questions concerning structural changes, one of them is, “What is the structure of this particular society as a whole? What is its essential components, and how are they related to one another?”. In the flow of modern history, our society is shaped by technology whose main components are the Internet, social media, and smartphones. They are the most significant new developments in society during my life.
We are ushering in the era of advanced technology with a sense of freshness and dependency. Few decades experienced the technological explosion in computing which paved the way for the social media as we see today. Until the year of 2006, Facebook was launched and became the most popular social media networks on the Internet and in the world. After the birth of Facebook, a variety of social networks rose and joined the fray. The massive rise of social network has marked an end to traditional media to some extent and revolutionized human communications. It is undeniable that social media brings us valuable opportunities and benefits that traditional media fails to do. Social media has revolutionized the way we communicate. It provides a mean to meet new people and make friends beyond geographical obstacles and maximize exposures to groups of people who share passions and interests. Some social networks also provide a platform to access to a large network to find a suitable job. Due to the great benefits and the rapid development of social media, our society has witnessed a vivid spectrum of how social media and technology changes not only our individual life but society as a whole. Social media has afforded people opportunities to voice their opinions and share their thoughts that can reach a large community of millions people. Hence, social media becomes an extremely useful tool to deal with the challenges encountered by the world such as human rights violations, climate change. The MeToo movement is an example of the use of social media to provide a space and mean for everyone to participate in humane campaigns. The movement virally began to spread in 2017 as a hashtag on social network and acted as a strong movement against sexual harassment and assault and supported survivors. In terms of businesses, social media has afforded companies to promote their products and connect with their potential customers. Companies can take advantage of social media to respond to customer complaints and provide customer service in real time, which in turn will increase loyalty among customers and quality in customer service.
However, we, as a younger generation, are becoming so highly dependent on technology and social media usages that we could barely survive without smartphones and the Internet. We spend a great amount of time on Facebook, Instagram meeting people, chatting and gradually escaping the real life. We prioritize media communication over face-to-face interaction and deteriorate our social skills. The urge to be accepted, praised, and liked by so-called online friends on social media has led people to be the version that will be accepted and welcomed by the majority on the media. Therefore, social media becomes an outlet to operate things anonymously. We lose trust of people on the Internet and social media becomes an invisible weapon to verbally attack others. Moreover, we will lose ourselves and eventually gain truth in our own lies while we try to elaborate our profiles and crystalize our lives. When lies shape our identity, do we still have a self?
In ‘The Sociological Imagination’, Mills says, “It is not only information that they need- in this Age of Fact, information often dominates their attention and overwhelm their capacities to assimilate it.” This paper was published before the rise of social media and smartphones but it addresses the same problem we are facing today. We are living in the age of information and can easy get access to what we want to know by typing few words and hitting enter key. We urge to consume information about the world around us and people in our circles which may result in privacy risk. Mills expresses the concern over the thirst of information to serve individual purpose, “What they need, and what the feel they need, is a quality of mind that will help them to use information and to develop reason in order to achieve lucid summations of what is going on in the world”. Availability of personal information on social network sites makes people vulnerable to online crimes such as identity theft, stalker, cyber harassment. People upload their profiles to social media containing a bunch of personal information which can be leveraged to steal your confidential information and abuse your digital identity.
When I asked my grandmother what the most significant developments she has had during her lifetime, her answer was August Revolution and a political economic renewal campaign (Doi Moi) in 1986. August Revolution marked an end to French colonialism, defeated the Japanese fascists, and declared independence. The victory of August Revolution paved the way for Vietnamese people to become the masters of the nation.
In early 1980s, Vietnam faced an economic crisis. The nation economy witnessed a substantial increase in inflation rates, the significant decrease in GDP and export revenues. At that time, Soviet Union cut down on economic aid which resulted in an increase in Vietnam’s isolation in the global market. Due to pressure from economic depression, diplomacy and political issues, the leaders of Communist Party of Vietnam were urged to take reforms. As a result, the campaign shifted the nation economy from centrally-planned economy to a socialist-oriented market one by removing investment restrictions, building economic relations with ASEAN countries, and liberalizing policies. The implementation of Doi Moi Reform revived the nation economy and made major changes and progress on economy stability which resulted in the high GDP growth rate, the reduction of inflation, the increase in export revenues, and poverty alleviation. In terms of agriculture, a major step toward privatizing property rights was made which successfully led to the privatization of the agricultural land. In terms of industry, the economy was moving toward a multi-sectoral economy. Moreover, the reforms removed quotas and restrictions on foreign trade. As a mark of the effectiveness of the campaign, Vietnam became one of the big three global rice exporters.
To sum up, there might be no similarities between my list and hers. However, as Peter L. Berger says in ‘Sociology as an Individual Pastime’, “He will naturally be interested in the events that engage men’s ultimate beliefs, their moments of tragedy and grandeur and ecstasy”, we view the world in the same way. Each period of time in the flow of history encounters different issues, changes, and developments. The way we view the world is affected by social, politics, and economic changes. We do not experience all the events together, and we share values, experiences and thoughts differently due to generation gaps. Therefore, we make different interpretations of the world based on different personal encounters, but we use the same mechanism to view the world, which is sociological imagination.