Is the internet largely responsible for the current erosion of our society?
When was the last time you sought out advice from a close friend or relative? Internet use has become routine in our culture. It was only 13 years ago that the first web browser was launched, now we have went from desktops and laptops to more advanced web enable devices. These new devices range from cell phones, cars, even refrigerator are now linked to the internet in some way.
Checking Email, chatting or updating our Facebook page has become commonplace in our daily lives.
Studies of the internet and how it relates to our social behavior has raised questions about how it is affecting the way we relate to others outside of cyberspace. Advocates argue that the internet has opened new forms of communication that allow us to reach out further and faster than ever before. Whereas, critics counter by saying the internet has caused us to become desensitized to personal interaction and become socially isolated. Taking a look at how the internet and other technologies affect us socially, we can see a shift in social behavior and a negative impact on our personal interactions.
In the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid” by Nicholas Carr, he observed, “for all that’s been written about the net, there’s been little consideration of how, exactly, it is reprogramming us”. The key word in this observation is “reprogramming”. Newer options are constantly being presented to make our means of communication better and more convenient. Thus, we tend to become programmed to be dependent upon those options and less on our interdependent social instincts.
Advocates might argue that new forms of communications brings us closer together in our ability to stay in touch over great distances, in groups or individual settings. The Pew Research Study published November 2009, “Social Isolation and New Technology”. Lead author, Sociologist Keith Hampton from the University of Pennsylvania, states “technology has helped broaden [our] social circle”. The broadening of our social circle has started a whole new trend in online and “real world” socializing.
Gatherings have become high-tech with the use of social networks like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and various other internet forums.
Groups are able to organize meetings or hold impromptu socials gatherings in real world locations. The term “Meet ups” has become the new social gathering catch phase. Sort of like a reverse masquerade ball where you leave your internet avatar behind. In doing so, the individual becomes a face to face participant in the real world. It does give credit to the internets use of new social networks to bring people out into the real world.
But do these types of gatherings bring us closer socially? Thus, creating a group of people with whom we can discuss matters that are private or personal. According to Pew research 2006, this network of people is referred to as our “core confidants”. This core group is the “tie” that binds us together socially in our community, homes and personal relationships.
These ties are slowly being eroded by the internet changing the landscape in ways that we socialize and interact; lessening our interpersonal skills and shrinking relationships. With the speed that we communicate, process and receive information internet users are less patient when it comes to slower real world interactions. Whereas, cultivating newer and longer lasting relationships with individuals that we would consider our core group of confidants is a process that requires us to have patients.
It has been noted since 1985, our “core group” of confidants has shrunk by one third (2004 Pew research study). Trusted friends and confidants have given way to collaborators, associates and acquaintances. It has been noted that within the American population, our core group has declined 33% and 12% has no core group at all.
Furthermore, the diversity and non-kin of the core discussion group is in sharp declined. With the distraction of the internet and other technologies we are not forging new, stronger or trusting core groups.
The seductiveness of the internet draws us into a virtual world offering an escape from our real world problems. Users become preoccupied with the utopian society the internet creates. With ease of online gambling, excitement of gaming and the anticipation online auctions create, these activities if not moderated can have a negative affect on our behavior. Dr David Greenfield, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, said, “studies have estimated anywhere from 3 to 6 percent of internet users have a [addiction] problem. This behavior change has a direct affect on how we relate to others and also our ability to sustain relationships.
From my prospective, we are willing contributors to the growing problem of the internet and how it affects our society. We are slowly becoming victims of our own
creation. Relying on the conveniences that the internet provides and losing our appreciation for personal face to face interaction and in some cases affecting our own personal health. People are now being treated for cases of sleep deprivation, depression, and internet addiction.
Centers are being crated to deal with these new conditions that the internet has brought about. Places like NetAddiction.com and re-Start Internet Addiction Recovery Clinic located in Falls City, Washington have procedures in place to recognize and treat internet addiction. It is said if you want to find cause of a problem or situation is to “follow the money”. Men and women are enrolled in detox programs for internet addiction which cost $14,000 for a 45 day recovery programs, this is a significant amount of money, which in my opinion emphasis point of the internets affects on our society. China has almost 300 million internet users; the government has declared internet addiction a public health problem (Benny Evangelista d.2).
With growth comes change, the internet is constantly growing and evolving, the conveniences of email, instant messengers, social networks, and other forms of technology is having a profound affect on our social behavior and how we relate to other individuals. The question is not how we are going to control the flow of information or communication, but, what are we going to do with it and what lasting effect will it have on our society.