A loss of human touch Communication, in simple words is a means of letting people know what your thoughts, opinions and feelings about everything in your life are. Matters related to professional life and social life is discussed with friends but when it comes to your intimate feelings and emotions, you tend to be secretive and discuss it only with your parents, siblings or close friends. People close to us had certain importance in our life and hence any communication related to the emotional aspect of life was reserved to be shared with loved ones. Well, not anymore. This is the age in which people talk on Facebook status about their ‘first kiss’ and ‘loss of virginity,’ end the romantic relationship through text messaging, and try to seek ‘help’ through internet discussion forums instead of talking to their parents, teachers, or friends. Welcome to the world of interactive communication where the personal and social boundaries have vanished and people have become the victims of mistaken identities.
Change in concept of society:
Gone are the days when social interactions used to take place over a beer or a coffee. They happen on the internet nowadays. Pubs, coffee shops and parks were the favorite spots for people who enjoyed being social and having fun with friends. However, this has changed now. Group concept has moved from public places to the homes. Networks are being formed on the Internet, and people are interacting rather than physically interacting on the social network site. This has led to a decrease in the need of interactions with parents, siblings, teachers, neighbors and friends (Wellman 2005. p.251). The the question is, is this change a positive change?
Citizens are getting used to talking on the telephone and internet. the nature of communication is changing from being a social network of households to social network of individual (Wellman p.252). On the internet people find it easier to meet and interact with people of similar nature, interest and age group. They join a group of like-minded people and this is how a network is formed. However, even though this looks very healthy and positive on the surface, it is a very negative and unhealthy thing.
Negative Impact of Social interaction on the internet:
Social interaction is an extremely important factor in developing social confidence, creating ambition and giving a broadminded attitude towards life. Competitive nature is developed when people interact with each other and decide to do better than other. However, all these positive aspects of social interaction is missed when people choose to interact on internet rather than physically.
The internet has made people very rigid and narrow in the matter of who they interact. Most of the times, as the interaction is among the people who is similar to you, there is a lack of opportunity to learn new things and seeing things with the different perspective. No doubt, internet has increased the reach and has made it possible to interact with people all over the world. However, learning happens only when you meet people from different field, age, culture and having different interests. Watching and meeting different people make you to broaden your point of view about life. Live contacts and interactions have a potential of changing attitudes, habits and sometimes, the whole life of people. People can transform lives. This sort of opportunity is not possible with the interactions in the internet. People inspire people. The body language, the eye contact, the touch, the way people talk and the way they behave are all the human elements of communication. However, these human elements vanish on the internet. What you get to see are just words and the cartoon faces are showing emotions. What is lacking is the human touch. Having a role model in life is a life-supporting thing. Children use to see a hero in their grandfather, their grandmother, their teacher or their parents. But with the advent of internet, the communication between the family members have become scarce and hence the process of children taking inspiration from adults to lead a fruitful and happy life has come to an end. This is one of the major drawbacks of the virtual communication. It has led to a lack of opportunity of learning from people.
Students and the internet:
The use of the social networking sites plays the dominant role in the life of young people. However, sites like Facebook and Myspace have been found to be very successful. Recent research has shown that on many levels, Facebook is fascinating to young students with the features like groups that share lifestyle and hobbies, quizzes, tests, calendars and different interesting applications.
How are the profiles created:
The social networking sites are largely organized on the basis of number of users they have signed up to their site. Anyone who is interested in joining the site has to sign in, create a profile based on the information asked for, publish their profiles and information that they might want to Share and also create links for other users on the different network that they are associated with. Apart from getting in touch with the old friends online and making new ones, the users can also join virtual groups which are created on the basis of specific common interests with users from different networks. This leads to sharing of similar interests, hobbies, job description, employer information, personal phone numbers and even romantic relationship status. Many students find Facebook addictive as proved by the names like “Addicted to the Facebook” (Alemán, Wartman, & Ana 2008)
However, this sort of addiction to the internet social networking can prove fatal to the relationship and social health of a person. Bok and Bowen ( Gurin, 2004. P141) have found that the interaction between different people from different backgrounds, social groups and walks of life provides a better learning environment for college and University students. However, if more and more students start using the internet to talk to each other, the ‘human.’ element in the interactions will be lost. Research conducted by Jones and Soltren (2005) on MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) students showed that the class of 2008 had created their profiles as soon as they heard about Facebook. The majority of the class of 2008 had already joined the site from June 2004 to August 2004. So one valid argument against the social networking sites are the it has created a disconnection between students to an actual campus experience and academic issues. The survey conducted of over 2,000 students regarding their primary use of Social networking showed that the students used these sites for ‘social searching’ the people they have on their social network is the same people who attend their class or share University halls with them. This shows that rather than interacting with their friends and classmate personally, students are choosing to interact with them on networking websites (Jones & Soltren 2005).
Dangers of Internet interactions:
The internet has become a paradise for people who want to talk about things that are normally considered immoral or wrong by society. Sex, violence, suicide, torture, and criticism of politicians and social figures are common topics for these people. Children having violent tendencies and self-destructive habits like deliberately cutting oinjuring themselves discuss the ways of cutting themselves in safe way and methods of keeping it a secret (Bower 2006. p.199).
The amount and the easy accessibility of sexual content and double meaning the language used on the chatting sites are the the biggest concern for people today (Bryant and Zillmann 2002. p.309). It was found that in the flow of the conversation teenagers and young people forget that they are revealing the most intimate thoughts and the information to totally strange people on the net. This not only makes them vulnerable to the sex predators but also a victim of blackmail or a threat. The consistent and the regular involvement in this sort of chatting rooms can eventually make children develop a careless and violent attitude towards people around them. How can these life-threatening are situations prevented?
Involvement of parents play an important role the way the children get initiated in using the internet. Internet has great potential to be a blessing if it is used for right things. What is needed is a constant monitoring on children and being alert to the changes in their behavior. It has been observed that teenagers use the blog and the chatting rooms to express their real feelings and the problems they face in their life. They come to the chat room and share the secrets of their lives with total strangers. This might be because they can actually discuss things that they want to discuss without really thinking what other might say about it. However, what they do not realize is that this can put them in grave danger of revealing too much as, in the flow of emotional involvement, they end up revealing their e-mail addresses also (Bower 2006.p.202). It is observed that the students from the background of low income families are using internet beneficially for academic purpose. But the point to be noted here is that their parents keep a tab on what they do when they are on the internet. What’s important here is the intervention of parents as they monitored their child into not getting involved with strangers. So the role of parents is extremely important in children using the internet. It was found that teens use the internet without knowing the complexity of the internet and it is very late that they actually realize the danger of revealing personal information on internet (Bower 2006. p.202). Hence they do not take the care early. That is the reason it becomes important for parents to guide their children in knowing what is good and what is bad when they are on the internet.
Negative impact on physical health:
Virtual Communication has affected not only the emotional and the mental aspects of life but also the physical aspects. Constant use of screen, sitting at one place and remaining in the room for hours and hours can have bad impact on the health of the children. Sitting on the computer and choosing to interact with friends on social sites can lead to obesity, weak eye sight and lack of enthusiasm in physical activity. Children learn a lot through games and physical activities. Qualities like motor co-ordination, decision making and team building improve only when children go out and participate in sports and games. However, children’s growing interest in computer and video games is making them lazy and introvert. Parents have to see to it that they divide equal amount of time in indoor and outdoor activities. Parents should also note that the more the children use internet for interactions with friends, the more are the chances of them losing out on healthy emotional development.
Impact of internet and mobile use on emotional life:
It is said that eyes are the mirror of the soul (Eye Quotes). Looking into the eyes of the people we come to know if they ‘mean’ what they are saying as eyes never lie. That is the reason eyes play an important role in romantic relationship. But is this possible in the world where romantic relationships are being made and broken with the aid of the text messages on the mobile?
Sandra Barron in her article ‘R we dating?’ has very accurately described how the people are playing with each other’s lives and emotions by starting, developing and ending the relationships on the mobile phone. With the advent of the internet and the mobile phone, communication has become instant, is not limited to space and time and is constantly changing (Bower 2006. p. 200). Today’s hectic and fast paced life has made us a slave of the cell phone and the internet. To save time and energy, we prefer messaging our friends or lovers instead of calling them and talking to them. Finding five minutes out of our daily life to say ‘Love you’ has become difficult for us. But is it really a lack of time that stops us from calling our loved ones and talking to them? Or is it a lack of care and feelings about those people? Do we really ‘feel’ about our relationships or do we just ‘think’ about it? Let us face the truth. We are losing touch with our emotions. We no longer love the way we used to, no longer care the way we used to and no longer touch people’s lives the way we used to. Today’s device dependent life has made young people restless and impatient. They get into relationships fast, indulge in sex fast and get out of it faster. The dates are decided through messages, feelings are expressed through messages and relationships are discussed through messages. This shows how desperately young people are avoiding talking to each other and getting things done without really being there physically. It is an attempt to avoid emotional involvement and human contact. What they fail to understand is that there are many dangers of this kind of involvement in relationships. The most important drawback is the danger of identity fraud and the misunderstanding in the communication. Firstly, when you are communicating with a person through text, there are many chances that the person is not as you think he is. He might turn out to be a totally different person. Secondly, as text messages lack the tone and the voice, they are difficult to decipher. You might write the message in despair but the person on the other side can think that you are tired (Barron 221). This can lead to development of misunderstanding and lead to a bitter break up. Thirdly, some people who are emotionally weak and vulnerable can get emotionally shattered with the break up. The words on text and mobile have as strong effect as face to face conversation (Wood and Smith 2004. p. 67). These are some of the dangers of developing the relationship on the phone. This kind of involvement can be a result of having a fear of failure, lack of confidence to approach directly or then identity problem.
Identity and virtual communication:
Internet has given a chance to people for being anonymous. Avoiding direct interaction and getting emotionally involved with a stranger through internet or through text messages is like getting involved with someone who does not exist in reality. People who prefer communication online are those who are not willing to take responsibility for their actions, statements or language (Wood and Smith 2004. p. 64). These people are not comfortable with who they are and are afraid of coming out in open and say what they want to say. People who like opening up only when through text messages or chat are those who have conflict with their identity and are not comfortable with who they are. They are socially and emotionally maladjusted. Having relationship with these people lead to despair and sadness. It is better to avoid romantic involvement over text messages or internet as you are actually not aware of what kind of person is playing with you from the other end. Sandra Barron was lucky to get away unscathed. But there is a possibility of getting involved with psychologically disturbed person who can be a threat to your happiness and peace.
Young people and virtual communication:
Virtual communication is proving to be extremely dangerous for young people. They get involved with strangers who somehow introduce sex in the conversation and start going from there. It has been noted that teenagers reveal their e-mail addresses and phone numbers on the chat rooms and blogs. They discuss their personal life, problems and secrets (Bower 2006. p.202). This has made them vulnerable to the dangers of being victim of the sex predators. Educating young people about the dangers of revealing personal information on-line has become extremely important. Moreover, what is important is to promote and increase their involvement in social activities by taking them to watch games, plays, arts, music and parks. These activities keep you in touch with creativity, broadmindedness, healthy emotional development and humanness. Your emotional, social and physical health depends on whether you are the user of the internet or an addict to it. Any technological development is a boon as long as you are a master of it. It becomes a curse when you become a slave to it. It is for us to decide whether to become a master or a slave.
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- Barron, Sandra. (July 24 2005) Are we dating
- New York Times Bower, Bruce. Growing up online Science News. (June 17 2006)
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- Eyes Quotes Retrieved on June 1, 2009 From < http://thinkexist.com/quotations/eyes/ >
- Gurin, Patricia., Lehman, Jeffrey., & Lewis, Earl Defending Diversity: Affirmative Action at the University of Michigan. University of Michigan Press. 2004
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