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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Internet: Good or Bad?

In these modern times, it is quite evident the impact that technology and the internet have on society. These advances in social networking and information sharing have greatly improved our effectiveness in communication methods. However, the opposite can be argued as well. People have become so connected that a new form of bonding with the human race has formed. And now, thanks to the increase in the number of people buying smart phones, people can network almost anywhere, anytime. Information gets by faster through the internet than in any other way, which is no surprise considering the number of people that use it. But is being so connected with each other necessarily a good thing?

First of all, perhaps this idea of "connection" should be defined. Personally, I believe there are two kinds of connection: formal - the kind of connection you make with someone you know as well as the contact you make with people in person, and informal - the kind where you simply share information. Basically, social networking is a medium for informal connection. There is nothing necessarily wrong with informal connection. It is appropriate in many situations. However, many people get these concepts confused and often boundaries are broken because people do not know how close they are to someone they talk to online. For example, take someone who talks to someone else who they do not physically know on a social networking site. Perhaps they can be quite friendly with each other and talk everyday about their lives. They can consider themselves friends, but then when it comes to physical face-to-face interaction, things change. People wonder if they are like how they portray themselves online. People wonder if things will be awkward if they met in person. People may even be scared about how other people think they portray themselves or what kind of agenda another person has when meeting them. Sometimes people may make a relationship to be more than it actually was, and sometimes people can be completely unaware of another's desires. No one necessarily knows who is who, online. You could talk to someone and think they are friendly and then you find out that they have bodies hidden in their basement. Although, this happens outside of the virtual world as well. No one really knows another person, anyways. Should they? There has also been an increase in the need for people to share their personal information online. Perhaps anonymity is part of what makes the human experience.

I know that it can be relieving to share secrets and let people know about what your life entails. In the end, I think people just want to be understood. I, personally, have taken part in this. However, part of what makes a person interesting, is the things that they don't say. Isn't it much more meaningful to share secrets with the people who you care for most instead of with the whole world? I would rather have a few people know everything about me, than millions of people. That's why celebrities have such a hard time, at least. Western Civilization is all about sharing information to the maximum potential. I do not think many realize this, but it can be a bit smothering at times. I had recently read a book titled Blind Faith which was about a futuristic society where everyone uploaded every single experience they have per minute onto social networking websites controlled by the government. People shared so much, that it became a requirement, especially at work, to keep up the social appearance. And this was not modest. People uploaded videos of sex, death, birth of children, going to the bathroom, everything. Many women did not wear shirts because the sexual desire for getting what you want instantly (much like with communication methods) prevailed. There was no desire for discretion. Now I am no one to say that people should limit what information they say, and only be cordial and like-able to others. I do not believe in that at all, actually. I am all for crudeness and discomfort. It makes things interesting. However, there is a lot of meaning with discretion. Predictability is a whole other factor. It is a good thing to change things up a bit. Sometimes silence says much more.

Another thing we see with social networking and texting is confusion and ambiguity. I do not know about you, but I have had many experiences were I was not sure what exactly someone was implying, if it has undertones, or if it was meant to be sarcastic. Technically, only 7% of communication is through words. The main way we communicate is through body language, and with texting, it is not there. Subtleties in the way certain words are pronounced and emphasized (through this context of body language and how one perceives what they are saying) are important factors in understanding humans. So, when people only communicate through texts and emails, that touch of human perception and understanding is lacking. Sure, people may figure out objectively what is being said, but do they know and feel, emphasize, see, hear, touch, taste, or smell what is being said? It is hard to necessarily comprehend using all of the senses, but people use more than eyesight and hearing to communicate. People are so concerned with sight and hearing that they forget about the other senses, some of which are incredibly important in human interaction. You don't truly know someone until you can sense how they feel, smell, and taste. It probably sounds crazy, but it's true.

So is internet good? Not necessarily. Is it bad? Not necessarily. While technology makes the world around you easy, although it's okay to indulge somewhat, do not forget to live. Relationships with human beings are not easy, and although social networking tries to make it so, it is not. Just remember that. Moderation is key. Never replace people with the convenience of objects. After all, you cannot take them with you. All you really have is the memories and experiences you have had in your life, and people truly make those experiences. No one, while on their deathbed, wishes that they had more time to spend with their iphone. Don't forget to experience real communication with a human being, because although informal ways may be convenient and appropriate at times, they should not be priority.