The contemporary sociological paradigm suggests that nowadays people are becoming increasingly attached to technological devices, associating a large portion of their experience with these objects. As a result, a number of conventional notions undergo a series of alterations, being assessed through the prism of technological advancement. Communication is traditionally regarded as one of the principal pillars that constitute human worldview and one of the fundamental factors of self-identification. The technological development introduces a number of means that make communication easier and more accessible at any time, yet the price people have to pay for such convenience is linked to the limitation of personal contact, and overall, has more drawbacks than benefits.
At present, it may seem that it is centuries that separate people from the popularization of such commonplace devices as computers, cellphones and tablets. Furthermore, in the modern technological era, almost each person’s daily routine includes logging on to their social network account, reading the news, playing games, and, most commonly, communicating with other people online. In fact, the 2013 report suggests that some 73% of adults that use the Internet are active on social networking websites, and more than half of them claim to use multiple social networking platforms (Duggan and Smith). While this tendency would have been completely alien to the society several decades ago, it is more than regular today. Moreover, an image of a group of friends “glued” to their cellphones or tablets instead of conversing in real life is no longer grotesque.
One of the main factors that make people sacrifice face-to-face communication for online interaction is connected with the principle of anonymity, which barely applies to personal contact. From this perspective, Internet can be interpreted as a world of make-believe, in which personal identity is a vague phenomenon that often has little correspondence to reality. The code of real-life interaction suggests that people involved in the act of communication possess a certain degree of knowledge about one another, which often creates communicative barriers. For a student, for instance, this may be associated with school social hierarchy and an individual’s desire to be identified as a member of the particular group, thus limiting the contacts with the “undesirable” persons. However, on the Internet, people are free to “rechristen themselves with fanciful pseudonyms” and communicate with any individual they want without being judged (Wood and Smith 49).
Likewise, the same principle allows Internet users to get through their personal “communicative blockade”. A number of people have reported that they find it a lot easier to start a conversation under a fake identity, while being too undetermined to do so in real life. This may derive from psychological problems, such as appearance fixations, bullying or labeling, all of which can easily be hidden behind a mask online. Naturally, this form of communication is less troublesome for such people, and this contributes largely to its attractiveness due to the possibility to relieve social anxiety (Subrahmanyam and Greenfield 119). It is noteworthy that although being involved in active communication online, people of this type often voluntarily abandon personal contacts with their online conversation partners out of implicit fear of recurrent traumatic experience. Apart from that, Internet connects people worldwide, allowing them to converse notwithstanding their location; this is a form of communication that is physically impossible otherwise. Whereas this can be considered an unquestionable privilege, it increases the amount of time spent online at the expense of personal interaction.
Despite all benefits of contacting people online, there is a series of drawbacks that counterweigh this form of communication. First, online interaction implies lack of physical activity, which produces a negative impact on human health. Apart from that, in the majority of cases, technologies provide users with a chance to stay in their comfort zone, which is undesirable from the viewpoint of psychology, as it decreases the number of stimuli people are expected to react to in the real life, and thus, decelerates psychological development. For instance, problem-solving and conflict resolution abilities are reduced, given the opportunity to abandon the issue by logging off, while personal contact often requires immediate action.
Furthermore, giving preference to Internet communication often leads to the decadence of real-life relationships. Hence, becoming overly immersed into the virtual world, a large number of individuals find it hard to distinguish between face-to-face communicative patterns and those appropriate online. Similarly, they often fail to distribute time properly, which may trigger the feeling of abandonment and result in the loss of real-world friendships. In addition, technology-based interaction is known as the source of depersonalization, due to the constant disclosure of one’s true identity. Moreover, despite its communicative essence, Internet frequently isolates people from the society, making them outcasts in the actuality. Although somewhat trivial, online communication can be a source of real-life loneliness, as it is highly time-consuming, and decreases one’s chances to find a partner, as well as reduces social support received from other individuals. Internet communication may be as illusory as the Internet itself, and the spectrum of emotions one can experience online is defective, some feelings being virtually “amputated” from human perception.
In conclusion, technology-based communication can be estimated as an ambivalent phenomenon that possesses both advantages and drawbacks. Naturally, in the modern world, it is impossible and even unadvisable to avoid this type of interaction. Hence, balancing the two types of communication according to individual needs and preferences would be an optimum solution to avoid addiction, yet “stay tuned” for the recent updates in the technological world. However, it is highly recommended for each person to remember that it is the real world he/she exists in, and by preferring Internet communication, people deliberately deprive themselves of a large portion of life experience.