Contemporary society as we know it has been under significant influence of modern technology both locally and on a global scale, which allows for interaction in various ways. The term “digital” is used to refer to data in the form of discreet elements (Gere, C, 2009) but digitisation is defined as the conversion of analog information into digital information (Dictionary, 2003) although computer technology and digital technology can be interchangable. The ever increasing digital world has turned into a phenomenon which we are dependant on and bound together regardless of distance between individuals who interact with each other.
Technology and digital networks are not a new concept as it has evolved with societies which have learnt and transformed along into modern times. With the ever increasing “mobile” technology we seem to find ourselves constantly fixated to technology. A fairly new and very influential piece of digitalisation is social networks such as MySpace, Twitter and Facebook to name a few. These online networking sites are a very useful communication tool which focuses on the individual and their family and friends together by being interactive via online means. But does it give a false sense of enmity by being behind the computer and how do interpersonal characteristics change if the individual is behind this virtual wall would it lead further improvements to their social wellbeing or to further withdraw and isolate themselves into a surreal world.
Although networking seems to vary and communication with one person to another is much more effective and efficient, it can be seen that digital factors have changed the way people interact with one another, thus creating a dependency for information and the need to be kept up to date with family and friends regardless of where we are in the world. With the varying types to communicate online and how our everyday activities revolve and are organised with social networks certain barriers can be created in a deeper psychological way socially, mentally and physically there could even be a certain degree of isolation on the individual. This essay will examine the history, impacts of digitisation and argue the ever increasing digitisation has had a positive and negative impact on society and individuals.
Social deviation of online networks
Before digital technology people would communicate with each other via means of speech, physical contact and by means of writing that is letters or notes. There was more thought, feelings and emotion into what was said and there was a physical visualisation of that person to whom we were speaking with.
With the introduction of digital technology there has been a large rapid usage of the internet and it has grown vastly across globe, as means of obtaining information and communication to one another is more easily accessible.
To understand the effects of technology and the digital era it is necessary to distinguish digital technology with contemporary culture, the intentions behind the technology that is how digital technology affects economy or what it provides for the economy and what role does social media play within this digital realm. Although digital communication and the internet and social networks are a virtual world which the individual can use to access better resources, educational material and global news and affairs users could be advantaged because digital technology as a channel the online world broadcasts by means of receiving and sending messages and or video conferences, a language with a shift from reading hard copy text to being transformed into digital form via online means and using language which is more technical rather than laymen and as an environmental factor of how technology and the digital era shape, form, strengthen and broaden our relationships and how digital technology is used and the intentions behind the design or disadvantaged because they are isolating themselves because the digital world seems to be less intimidating.
Digital technology is an important and a significant part of the rise of globalisation and free market capitalism, the increasing ubiquity of information and communications technology in contemporary society (Gere, C, 2009). With the introduction of high speed computers in the 1980’s, technology changed and accelerated dramatically over a very short period of time improving more and more over the years. Digital technology and new communication technology such as 3G, video recordings, laptops, cameras and camera phones can all record and digitalise images, videos, songs and link up just as quickly to download them. Since the introduction of digital technology it has become a mainstream phenomenon and is more important to have in our everyday conversations and reflections. Sherry Turkle (2011) writes that digital connections and the socialable robot may offer the illusion of companionship without the demands of friendship. Our network life allows us to hide from each other, even as we are tethered to each other. We’d rather text than talk (cited in Alone together, 2011). There are many worrying aspects about the digital technology and era that we are so dependant on. Our everyday lives revolve around digital media in that we access information, chat via conference, or send an email through the internet, we watch television for the news or for social broadcast shows and we like to be connected with what is happening around the world and who and what is affected. Digital technology has given a sense of community regardless of where we are, but are there a potential risks and consequences that may be unintended and does it isolated each individual and leave them feeling more lonely and isolated from what is reality and what is a created virtual world even though digital technology has become apart of mainstream society. The World Health Organization (2005) (WHO) defined wellbeing in the context of human relationships as the indication in many respects human health is a bottom line or integration component of well being since changes in economic, social, political, residential, psychological and behavioural circumstances all have health consequences of how the wellbeing is closely allied to health, but not entirely confined to the indicators that are usually used to chart the health status of people (World Health Organisation, 2005).
This ability is based on structures which are developed, act as a guide for interactions predicating behaviour, the environment and setting expectations to act in certain ways. Social identity is much more identified in a physical society as personal interactions can be read in a physical sense and a personal connection can be made of that person. With the digital technology there is absence of this and interpersonal relationships developed are weakened. In an article Social isolation and new technology written by Hampton, K, et. al., (2009) stated that people’s mobile phone use outpaces their use of landline phones as a primary method of staying in touch with their closest family and friends, but face‐to‐face contact still trumps all other methods. On average in a typical year, people have in‐person contact with their core network ties on about 210 days; they have mobile‐phone contact on 195 days of the year; landline phone contact on 125 days; text‐messaging contact on the mobile phone 125 days; email contact 72 days; instant messaging contact 55 days; contact via social networking websites 39 days; and contact via letters or cards on 8 days. (cited in technical and social isolation, 2009) .
Amichai-hamburger, Y et.al, are optimistic about how the potential social changes digital communication and technologies correlate on the internet. An experiment called “the real me” was conducted with a sample group consisting of 19 men 20 women, to show whether personality as well as extroverted or introverted personalities were an important factor to further isolation. It was found that introverted and neurotic people locate their “real me” on the Internet, while extroverts and non-neurotic people locate their “real me” through traditional social interaction. These results confirmed predictions. The social services provided on the Internet, with their anonymity, lack of need to reveal physical appearance, rigid control of information revealed in the interaction, and the ease with which it is possible to find like-minded people, provide an excellent answer to people who experience great difficulty in forming social contacts due to their introverted personality (cited in Introversion Extroversion and Neuroticism on the Internet, 2002).
The digital world does have some positive effects in that it allows people from very remote places to have access to the world and global society which they can share or also have a connection between family and friends through networking. Digital technology has become a dynamic way for different generations especially of the generation Y to build and explore their online communities and cultural interests. On a local domain of personal relationships that is family and close friends there is efficient ways of establishing and maintaining those relationships via support of certain networks regardless of distance. For other relationships such as romantic ones there is a slight appeal to that of online networks to aid in facilitating and developing on shared interests and circumstances.
Overall, the digital technology is improving, usage increasing and continues to be a strong influence on relationships. The effect that technology is very interesting as it shapes and constructs social identity and development in regards to control, personal appearance and self esteem behind the screen rather than on a personal face to face scenario. The deterioration of social relationships continues as the attractiveness of the digital world continues to beckon individuals who are already introverted and shy or have difficulty expressing themselves in regular physical relationships. With the rapid increase in digital technology and the ease of access to these technologies there is a need to be wary and to take responsibility on how this technology is used to construct the communities around us both locally and globally.
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