The advancement of technology has transformed how humans communicate, creating a global network that operates in real time. However, technology has also altered communication in several ways, some of which are negative. Even though some of these adverse effects are relatively modest, they have dramatically impacted users’ lives and well-being in certain instances.
An Omnipresent Distraction
Cell phones and other mobile devices enable users to remain connected while away from their computers. This can be a considerable advantage, particularly in an emergency, but it can also be a deadly distraction. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people are injured in incidents involving a distracted driver, and texting and mobile phone use are the leading causes of driver distraction. While it may only take a few seconds for a driver to read a text message, his vehicle could travel the length of a football field while he has his eyes off the road. As always-present instant messaging applications and social networks can divert a user’s attention away from more pressing problems, technology can also be a source of distraction at home and in the workplace.
Dehumanization and Depersonalization
Technology can also impact communication quality. One of the most significant advantages of the Internet is its anonymity, which enables users to explore and connect without revealing their personal information. Sadly, this can also result in users behaving entirely differently than they would in an in-person conversation. When the Internet reduces a person to a faceless screen name, it might be difficult for some users to recall that there is a natural person behind the avatar, which can lead to antagonism and exclusionary behavior. Young people are particularly vulnerable to online bullying, with 43% reporting having experienced it once or more, and 25% reporting experiencing it repeatedly.
Online, sophisticated social networks can be created by technology, but they might suddenly lead to social isolation. In certain instances, online communication replaces face-to-face engagement, lowering the time users spend in the presence of other people. Moreover, these social networks often substitute a small number of strong social ties with a significant number of relatively shallower connections, causing users to have many “friends” but few faithful in-person companions. This can lead to depression and isolation, and the absence of a support structure might make it difficult for users to seek assistance for these concerns. Polling reveals that the percentage of adults who define themselves as “lonely” has doubled since 1980 and that spending more time online with social networks can harm a user’s level of happiness.
The lack of privacy is yet another possible risk of technological communication. Your Internet communications may be unsecure, allowing third parties to access your email discussions and intercept your instant messaging. If an outsider compromises an email account or program, he may obtain access to months or years of communication. Encryption can help safeguard messages from prying eyes, but it might be impossible to protect every step in a social communication chain. Malware authors are already beginning to target mobile phones and devices, perceiving them as always-accessible windows into their owners’ private lives.
Consequently, although the Internet has improved our lives, it still can produce chaos. Its impact on a community or business is primarily determined by our decisions when employing it. But with the judicious application, we may gain its benefits while avoiding many of its problems.
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