The Internet: Connection or Disconnection?
The Internet is an incredible invention. It brings a whole world of information to our fingertips. It can literally connect us with people across the globe; people who we otherwise would never have the opportunity to connect with. However, as Dr. Alex Lickerman shares in an article on Psychology Today.com, “even as the Internet has shrunk the world and brought us closer together, it is threatening to push us further apart”. The threat, the danger, is that Internet connection with whole world will ultimately disconnect us from the most important and vital relationships in our lives.
Human beings are created for relationship and have a deep drive and need to be connected with others. Cheryl Coyle and Heather Vaughn of Bell Labs Human Factors Group in New Jersey state that humans are social beings and need relationships with others in order to survive (13). They also reference that this need to emotionally connect was documented as early as 1958 by psychologist, Harry Harlow (13). Though today, in our Internet world, we define social networking as connections made through social web sites such as facebook and twitter, Coyle and Vaughn define them as a “configuration of people connected to one another through interpersonal means, such as friendships, common interests, or ideas (13).” With this definition in mind, the argument can be made that true interpersonal relationships needed to fulfill our desire for quality connection cannot possibly be made and maintained online, where there is no voice connection and no physical connection. Consider for a moment how voice inflections and tones are lost through online communication. Think of how a single smile can immediately brighten your day. Ponder how laughter is contagious. Reflect for just a moment on how a hug can instantly comfort you. Remember how just hearing your mom’s or dad’s or grandparent’s voice could make you feel completely safe and secure. The true, desired and needed effects of these interactions cannot be part of Internet relationships. Dr. Lickerman warns that we should not “expect more from online relationships than they can give.” He further cautions that problems arise when we begin to substitute our online connections for physical ones. Though some would argue that with new technologies such as video chatting voices and laughter are heard and smiles are seen, I contend that as connecting as they seem, they still cannot replace the physical connection gained with face to face interaction. There is no doubt that Internet connections can be a great source for communication but they cannot replace traditional face to face relationships.
There is growing concern about the amount of time that people are spending on the Internet. A survey completed by Ipsos in 2011 reports that the amount of time Americans spend on the online is averaging more than thirty hours per week; and that people between the ages of eighteen and twenty nine can even spend up to forty hours a week on the Internet (Demographics). These are staggering and sobering statistics which should cause great concern for our families. If mom, dad, brother and sister are spending most, if not all, of their free time on the Internet how is the family dynamic being affected? In a article entitled “Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships” Patricia Greenfield and Kaveri Subrahmanyam disclose results from a four year video study of the how technology has affected modern family life. The study included thirty families with children whose parents both worked. Not far into the video study, it was reported that when a member of the family was occupied with a computer when the father arrived home from work, they would only greet him one-third of the time, and that only with a mechanical “hi” while continuing with their electronic activities (Greenfield). It was also reported that half of the time the children would ignore the...
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