Essay on the Social Impact of the Internet
According to Jule Klotter, editor for Townsend Letter, as social networks spawned by Facebook, e-mails, and other Internet technologies increase, direct contact with other humans is decreasing. People get so enmeshed in their connections, and so snuggled up on their smart devices that they are neglecting each other. The evolution of the Internet along with globalization is reducing human interaction in real life because it is keeping people busy, distracted, and tangled up in this big endless virtual span. Robert Kraut, a social psychologist who studies human-computer interaction explained the Internet paradox and how greater use of it was associated with declines in communication between family members in the house, declines in the size of their social circle. The irony of being connected 24 hours a day is that it’s actually bringing us apart with those who are important to us and to our minds and bodies.
It creates an unrealistic virtual version of themselves. The Internet and smart devices have brought social relationships to the virtual level by creating a new genre of interpersonal relationships. Less than a decade ago relationships were created primarily through face-to-face interaction. In the 21st century is no surprise that many people get to know each other and sustain a relationship through social networks. Being accepted is the desire that drives many people to modify their photos and their words online. People are presenting a falsely idealized version of themselves to the world, explains Navneet Alang, a writer whose works explore the intersection of media, technology and culture. The reason these relationships often don’t stay solid is because this digital version that people choose to show to the world doesn’t always match who they are. As the relationship emerges from the virtual world and jumps into the real world, people began to interact more closely with one another. Misunderstandings and disappointment start to prevail, because they start to realize the other sides of that person that was not posted on social media. Seen from this aspect, being on the Internet at such a level of communication can cause the relationships with ourselves or others to be strained and probably to spiral downwards.
As a non-frequent user of social media and fanatical about my privacy, I always posted about happy moments because I thought I could somehow inspire others. I never shared problems or hardships with others on social media. From my best friend’s point of view, I had a perfect life. That certainly was not true. The fact that I chose to share just the good moments, created an unrealistic version of myself. My friend was comparing her life to mine and the inability to reach ‘that level of happiness’ had led her to feel sorry for herself and somehow affecting our relationship. The Internet was supposed to nourish people’s relationships, but it’s doing the opposite-degrading them.
People are getting addicted to the Internet. Carolyn Jabs, a writer focused on complex social issues, points out how Internet addiction can crumble a relationship, and also the consequences for families can be devastating. She explains that, “Millions of adults are at risk of destroying their family life by becoming overly involved in online activities, ranging from gaming and gambling to chat and cybersex”. The advent of the Internet and its rapid inclusion in communication has led to the birth of many new diseases, often known as digital diseases. In addition to the birth and development of these diseases, rehabilitation centers have been built to treat affected people. Man is failing to control his own behaviors, and the negative consequences that technological devices have brought. That fear of missing something and the anxiety of being away from smartphones is called ‘nomophobia’. It is clear that for many people, technology and the Internet are no longer an option, they have become an addiction. Internet addiction is associated with social anxiety in young adults.
There are several reasons supporting the idea that the Internet enhances social relationships, but when closely analyzed, none are very substantial. First, many readers will probably argue that the Internet brings people closer no matter the distance or time. The Internet, instead of isolating people, is actually helping them connect and express themselves in different platforms. I partially agree with this point of view. Furthermore, this idea actually supports my point because a relationship cannot stay healthy unless there is a steady communication. So, the Internet can give people a chance to get to know each other, but the access that the Internet offers lies solely in the virtual. The closeness that the Internet offers is far more distant than it seems. In order to nourish the soul and enhance any kind of social relationships, one need human interaction. Thus, supporting this idea will make people believe that it is good to overuse and ‘being tangled in the Internet spam’, just because of a good purpose: getting closer. Today, social networks like Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and many more allow users to send photos, audio, and videos making it the closest digital invention to human interaction that helps communication without being physically next to one another. Although this sounds great, because the Internet allows people to connect wherever they are, it is followed by a sense of disconnection.
While many may say that having the possibility to use social media and the Internet can decrease the feeling of social isolation among people who are housebound. While it is true that spending time online can diminish the feeling of loneliness, but online communication does not have the same power as in-person communication that involves voice tone, body language, energy, and human touch. Steinfield et al. explained that while studying the relationship between the possible benefits of creating and maintaining interpersonal relationships, self-esteem, and the use of social network site in American college students, it turned out that those with low self-esteem benefited most from use of Facebook compared to those with higher self-esteem. These people choose online interaction over face-to-face communication because of the lower risk involved in online communication. This will result in enabling them to hide, and control the less positive aspects of their appearance and behavior. Staying hidden and secure behind their screen does not help the social relationships of these individuals with others. Moreover, what will happen is that these people will find it even more difficult to interact outside the world of the Internet and build healthy relationships.
The more access people have to the Internet, the more they will use it, engaging in technological devices, and therefore, becoming even more isolated from society. The vastness of information that the Internet offers undoubtedly attracts many people to its network. It is alluring and compelling, in its own way, and keeps people hitched to consume more and more hours to the screen. People get so enmeshed in their connections that they neglect what is more valuable – human interaction. They start pretending someone they really are not and destroying healthy relationships they already have for some temporary online entertainment. Also, it is dangerous to believe that the Internet can be used as a medium in communication and replace human presence. Some communication cannot be replaced because the relationships we build with others: partner, family, friends, and coworkers will always need the real interaction. The Internet has reshaped the landscape of our social life, but is it not offering us the life a better life.
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