What dangers are there for a society which depends on computer screens rather than face to face contact as its main means of communication? Introduction
Communication has been the center of human society since time immemorial. Human beings are social beings. This renders communication a cog in the wheels of daily interactions. Online interaction consists of communication via electronic mail, chatting, blogging and social networking. These keep human beings glued to their mobile phones and computers. Sending text messages is another dimension of electronic communication. These methods are fast and convenient. They have gained fast popularity in the human population. Individuals are hooked on social media sites, chat rooms and e-mail accounts. These modes of communication and interaction are becoming acceptable to the general population. However, this kind of interaction comes with dire consequences.
This essay endeavors to explain the dangers that dependency on social media and online communication pose to society. Research has been carried out in the area of social media and online communication. The effects of electronic communication and social media on human interactions have been investigated .The data obtained is the basis upon which reliable conclusions can be drawn. Psychologists postulate that the withdrawal from face to face communication is a danger to the society as a whole. Individuals withdraw from the interactions with each other. This undermines the social nature of human beings.
Thesis statement: A society that depends mainly on electronic communication is likely to disintegrate. This is due to the lack of holistic communication presented by electronic means of communication.
Dependency on social media and electronic communication leads to degeneration of social skills. 75% of the human population in a study carried out in 21 countries uses their cell phones to text. 50% of the population in America is actively involved in social networking (Pew Research 2012) Adults who use electronic communication regularly find themselves unable to deal with one on one communication. Face to face communication needs practice. Human beings need regular interaction with each other in order to develop and polish their communication skills. Electronic communication is one dimensional. This can be attributed to the fact that this mode of communication is solely based on typing and reading. This kind of communication mutes the experience offered by one on one interaction. Communication consists of words, emotions, body language and personal presence (Joinson 2007). Words and smiley faces cannot capture the essence of communication. Authentic communication involves what one is saying and how one is saying it. A good example is a termination message sent via e-mail to an employee. The words alone cannot convey the tone and expressions of the employer. The employee is likely to draw conclusions based on how he or she feels about the termination.
This example illustrates the gap created by electronic communication. This gap creates assumptions which lead to misunderstandings. It is impossible to communicate regret, trust, confidence etc via electronic media. Communications skills are necessary for personal development and growth. Majority of the individuals found online are teenagers. Social media is a meeting point for teenagers. 73% of 18-19 year olds use their cell phones to access internet (Pew 2012) Teenagers are able to meet and relate with friends from all over the world without having to meet them physically. This trend leads to neglect of communication skills. Young people learn to interact superficially. They avoid face to face communication. This means that they will never get a chance to practice actual one on one interaction. This kind of conditioning endangers future relationships. Individuals will find themselves unable to maintain meaningful relationships. An individual who is accustomed to updating his or her status, tweeting, sending short text messages and chatting will find holding a conversation difficult and cumbersome.
Communication is the backbone of human relationships. Human relationships are the basis of a functional society. A society which does not have functional relationships is a dysfunctional society.
Online communication perpetrates crime. Social structure requires boundaries (Joinson 2007). Without boundaries, chaos is likely to result. Social media lacks human boundaries. Anonymity is a predator of society. Anonymity removes the human face of an individual. Social media and online interaction provide means of masking one’s identity. This leads to a trend dubbed ‘online dis-inhibition effect’. This refers to the phenomena whereby an individual is freed of social norms.
This freedom results in a variety o interesting phenomena. Individuals tend to be more trusting and gullible than they would normally be. It is difficult to judge a person’s character online. Body language is crucial in character discernment. People can pretend to be who they are not. This pretense is easily propagated online. This is one of the reasons as to why online crime thrives. It is easy to commit crime when one’s identity is hidden. Individuals easily divulge personal information online. The boundaries that protect an individual in face to face interactions are absent online. This increases the chance of an individual becoming a victim to cyber crime. Another effect of anonymity on social media is cyber bullying. 32% of teenagers on social media say that bullying occurs online (Lenhart 2007).This mostly affects the teenage population. Cyber bullies are cruel and vicious. Anonymity gives them the courage to carry out atrocities that they would not attempt in broad daylight. A society that chooses online interactions and other forms of electronic media is likely to suffer the ravages of crime. Anonymity is a tool that fuels the dark machinations o perverted human beings.
Social media and electronic communication violates privacy (Austin 2003). Social media sites are the biggest violators of privacy. There is a general presumption of privacy within social media circles. Twitter is a social media site whereby what an individual tweets can be re-tweeted infinitely. 6% of tweets are re-tweets (Sysomos 2010). In this kind of scenario, the original tweeter has no control as to how far and wide his or her tweet will travel. Other social media sites have options for sharing photos. A user may decide to tag private photos to certain friends.
However the chosen friends can decide to share the photos with all sundry. This limits the privacy that an individual can maintain online. Privacy is a personal treasure. It is difficult to deal with violated privacy. It undermines the integrity of the individual. A society with reliance on online communication and socialization is likely to forget the tenets of privacy (Joinson 2007). Everybody’s dirty laundry will be aired online for the whole world to see. This will degrade the moral values of the society.
A society that chooses online interaction and electronic communication will disintegrate due to lack of proper communication skills. The members of this society will be prone to crime. Crime and cyber bullying will increase due to anonymity. The society whose members are hooked on to their computer screens will have no respect for privacy and personal space. It is therefore imperative for people to consider stepping out of their comfort zones and indulging in some old fashioned face to face communication.
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