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Does the Internet Enhance Our Social Life?
In just the last ten years, technological advancements in the ease and speed of Internet connectivity have altered the fabric of our social skills and habits. I believe, and will share examples on how the growth of Internet usage negatively affects people’s social lives. The Internet inhibits the development of social skills of individuals isolating them from reality. Interactions in an online environment cannot be of the same quality as face-to-face communication. And more often than not, the excessive Internet use leads to neglecting existing close relationships with friends and family and can lead to unpredictable negative consequences.
No one argues that the Internet helps people to get connected to each other. However, with all its fictitious chat rooms, forums, blogging and instant messaging, the Internet creates a virtual reality, thus, giving people a false sense of being with people and among people. This limits the individual’s participation in a real society or neighborhood community with established norms of behavior. Staying all the time in a virtual online world often leads to isolation and produces social hermits. In addition, the mentality of feeling comfortable only in an online social environment triggers serious consequences in mental well-being, which often leads to depression and anxiety. Today, psychologists often link the excessive Internet use to causes of depression. Psychologists from Leeds University found “over-engaging in websites that serve to replace normal social function might be linked to psychological disorders like depression and addiction” CITATION 1.
Moreover, studies show that interactions in the online environment cannot be of the same quality as face-to-face interactions. Some researchers “concluded that online interactions are, in general, of weaker strength and poorer quality than off-line or face-to-face interactions, based on surveys” CITATION 2. Most Internet users socialize in the online environment anonymously, and this anonymity can lead to irresponsible behavior. One can “speak” rudely or “behave” inappropriately in an online chat room or forum because no one will ever know the person’s true identity. Relationships that are built in online settings are less sustainable, and one often ends up with no close friends. For instance, a blogger may have 300 online “friends”, but not a single close friend with whom he can have a long-lasting meaningful relationship.
Another negative impact of the Internet is its effect on family relationships. “According to a study on media influence done by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 8-18 year-olds spend over seven hours a day using entertainment media” CITATION 3. Rather than being involved in family activities and interactions, kids spend a lot of their time on gaming and online chatting. However, not only children are at fault. The adult addiction to their mobile devices such as iPad or smart phones deprives parents and kids from spending quality time together – reading books, playing family games, or just simply talking to each other. The lack of parental attention may lead a teenager or young adult to get mixed up with the wrong online crowd.
In conclusion, the Internet has gone beyond all boundaries of the traditional ways of communication and has given people an opportunity to socialize with each other across continents. However, not all that glitters is gold, and we should be aware of the negative aspects of online interactions – isolation from real life, deterioration of the quality of social interactions, and damage to family relationships. The Internet is here to stay, and most likely there will be more Internet services that will attempt to replace our social life. However, we need to find ways to limit the usage of the Internet in order to stay in the real world with our real friends and family, to sustain these real relationships, and to use our common sense not to become victims of technology.
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