The birth of the internet some years back, came with the adjustment in how people communicate and interact. The modern communication and interaction on social networks is a precise indication of how the internet has revolutionized communication and brought about new forms of interaction that have a significant influence on the enmeshment of the current society and the world as a whole. The original form of communication for time immemorial has been the face to face interaction between individuals, and it is still functional up to this day. However, the internet fills in the gap of people who would love to communicate and interact but face a challenge because of various factors like distance. It is arguable that the internet and especially social networking sites have introduced a quicker way of interacting and communicating with people from across the world. Therefore, the internet has its advantages and drawbacks to how people communicate and interact in todays society.
The internet provides a form of flexible communication and interaction. According to Kraut et al. the internet remains as one of the modes of communication that can be accessed twenty-four hours every day as long as one has an internet connection. Its flexibility is also evident in how it is readily available in areas that other forms of communication may prove to be problematic. For example, in instances where one is traveling and needs to communicate with family face-to-face communication will be impossible. However, through the use of various social networking sites such an individual will reach his or her family and pass along the expected message. Therefore, it offers a form of guarantee that one will continue to communicate no matter where he or she is just as long as there is accessibility to an internet connection. Its flexibility also means the development of a standard level of communication for everyone.
Internet communication plays a role in the provision of a leveled communication where those who are often reserved and overpowered by the loud and outspoken during face-to-face communication. According to Caplan, not every individual will be at the same level in issues that concern social interaction. There are those who will be quiet and reserved while others will be outspoken and loud. In many instances, the reserved individuals will remain unheard because they lack the power and opportunity to give their opinion. However, the internet offers an alternate form of communication that gives the reserved individuals and opportunity to air out their views and not necessary be outpowered by the loud people. On the internet, it is not ones intensity of voice that gives him or her an edge over the rest put each person gets and equal opportunity to communicate. While providing a free and fair ground for communication, the internet also keeps a record of the type of communication and interaction that occurs at a particular point in time.
Unlike face to face communication or other ways of interacting which end there and then, internet communication is durable and can be recorded and revisited. As Barghs study indicates, the internet offers a storage space for individuals to keep the memories of moments shared with friends as they interact. A social networking site like Facebook will provide the user with an opportunity to upload videos and pictures which the individuals have the power to keep or discard and his or her will. In many instances, people will share information or content that affects another person in one way or the other. The information will be available for people to revisit at any time they would wish to because the internet will keep the memories for as long as it takes. With the significant and resilient storage capacity of the Internet comes the ability for its users to share information that demonstrates issues taking place in society.
Social networking sites often provide the opportunity for people to share with friends their day-to-day problems and experiences. People will talk about their problems on the internet, and they will get help on how to go about issues hampering their effective psychological and physical functioning. According to Katz and Ronald, it is a place where interaction and communication are unlimited and unbound. Therefore, everyone is free to interact with each other. People will exchange real life examples and get a platform where they can interact with those who may be influential in society including politicians, professors and much more. It is a platform that promotes socialization and social learning because young people can emulate their role models who are often available on the various social networking sites. It is not as hectic as face-to-face communication which in some instances may not be possible to interact with those who are highly placed in society. As people interact and share their experiences on social networking sites, there is the gradual development of a relationship between these individuals that makes them a type of community that understands itself through the internet.
The internet helps in the development of a community which offers support to its participants whenever necessary. In many instances, people will share with others issues that are affecting them especially sad news like the loss of a loved one. The internet provides a broader community where one can celebrate and gain comfort from those he or she interacts with during the good and bad times. In acting as a source of comfort and support, it results in a community that understands each other and can communicate through the internet. As Katz and Ronald state, Involvement in the Internet as we use it means participation in a jointly produced social, civic, or community activity (5). It means that people become part of the community they create with those they interact with on the internet. It is never an individual effort but a joint venture where everyone is ready to get involved in one way or the other. Despite these advantages of communication and interaction through the internet, society faces adverse effects as a result of their use of the Internet.
Continued use of the internet results in addiction. It is a new form of addiction since the inception of social networking sites, and many sociologists together with other research are trying to understand the issue. As J Kluss et al. state Nevertheless, it still appears relatively unclear what individuals get addicted to as online, they can engage in a multitude of behaviors, possibly with different consequences (21). It is an indication that people will get addicted to internet use, but because of the diversity of activities they engage in, it may not be easy to identify a specific addiction. Addiction to the internet will mean that face-to-face communication is significantly limited. A high prevalence of the addiction is among adolescents and young adults which mean that a bigger part of their day will be spent on the internet and not interacting with other people physically or in activities that keep them engaged at physically. Internet addiction will mean exposure to various security issues like cyberbullying or online harassment.
Cyberbullying, online harassment and other forms of internet crime developed with the introduction of the internet. Over time may people will face adverse effects especially psychologically as a result of cyberbullying and online harassment. According to Brewer and Jade cyberbullying remains prevalent among the online generation made up of children and adolescents. In a study carried out by Kowalski and Limber, results indicated that students aged between eleven and thirteen years became victims of the perpetrators of cyber bullying (256). Another study carried out by Li identified that up to twenty-five percent of children aged eleven and fifteen percent of those aged twelve signified the perpetration and victimization levels of cyber bullying (256). It is clear that more children and adolescents continue to fall prey of cyber bullying perpetrators and they remain physically and psychologically distressed. In such conditions, it will be extremely hard for them to interact effectively with those they share their environment with. Even as security issues continue to rise as a result of internet communication, there is an adverse effect on interpersonal skills.
A significant amount of internet users spends a high percentage of their time in a day on the internet. It means that they will never find a chance to interact with other people or develop interpersonal skills. In a study carried out by Sinkkonen, Helena and Matti it was identified that internet users especially adolescents will lack effective interpersonal skills due to lack of interaction with the outside world. Many are often locked in their rooms on their smartphones or the internet communicating with friends. Others will be in public but focus on their phones to the extent that they lack knowledge of what is happening around them. It is one of the signs of internet addiction and the reason why these adolescents lack effective interpersonal skills (Mei). The absence of social skills will mean that they will be more withdrawn from society and continue to develop preferences in using the internet for communication and interaction.
The internet continues to make significant strides in the communication and interaction field. Each day there is the development of new social networking sites that make communication and interaction fast and easy. It offers numerous benefits to its users with the major one being the provision of a great platform for family and friends to interact and communicate. It also reduces the distances that would have taken days or even months to mere seconds through its ease of access at any place globally. However, internet use comes with adverse effects on its users including problems with security especially cyber bullying. It will also lead to reduced interaction with the society which means that the ability of the individual to develop interpersonal skills is hampered. Technology is advancing at an alarming rate which means that the internet is changing too. Therefore, society should be ready for more advantages and drawbacks of the internet like never seen before.
Brewer, Gayle, and Jade Kerslake. "Cyberbullying, self-esteem, empathy and loneliness." Computers in Human Behavior 48 (2015): 255-260.
Caplan, Scott E. "Preference for online social interaction: A theory of problematic Internet use and psychosocial well-being." Communication research 30.6 (2003): 625-648.
J Kuss, D., et al. "Internet addiction: a systematic review of epidemiological research for the last decade." Current pharmaceutical design 20.25 (2014): 4026-4052.
Katz, James E., and Ronald E. Rice. Social consequences of Internet use: Access, involvement, and interaction. MIT press, 2002.
Kraut, Robert, et al. "Internet paradox revisited." Journal of social issues 58.1 (2002): 49-74.
Mei, Songli, et al. "Problematic Internet use, well-being, self-esteem and self-control: Data from a high-school survey in China." Addictive behaviors 61 (2016): 74-79.
Sinkkonen, Hanna-Maija, Helena Puhakka, and Matti Merilainen. "Internet use and addiction among Finnish Adolescents (1519years)." Journal of adolescence 37.2 (2014): 123-131.
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