Internet: communicate or isolate? Maybe it’s a little of both.

March 21st, 2014

By Naomi Dolin-Aubertin

There seems to exist a difference in consensus about whether the Internet is bringing people together or driving them into an unnatural (for humans) isolation, especially in the United States. A Pew Research Internet Project article cites a study in which "They depicted the rise of internet and mobile phones as one of the major trends that pulls people away from traditional social settings, neighborhoods, voluntary associations, and public spaces that have been associated with large and diverse core networks." The opposing opinion argues that the internet provides a medium for people from diverse backgrounds to interact with one another and also brings together communities of people with shared interests.

The Internet has the unique ability to connect any user with any other user, according to any quality possible — relationships, beliefs, viewpoints, goals, problems, identity, or interests. For example, using email and chatting software, connecting with family and friends who are far away geographically is cheaper and easier than calling or writing letters. Using a combination of the World Wide Web, chatting software, email, and discussion groups, minority groups that may have been ignored by traditional media have come together online to share information, support each other, and organize events. [1]

Checking SmartphonesPersonally, I think that a combination of both sides provides a clearer picture of the actual situation. For instance, I've been in group situations in which everyone is sitting around and absorbed with their phones rather than interacting with each other. I've been guilty of it. Taking a step back, it's ridiculous. I completely agree that there is a time for technology and a time for conversation and interaction. There's nothing wrong with taking a photo to record a moment or taking occasionally taking a call (like from your Grandma), but the constant blue screen on face look should be a passing fad rather than a long term trend in my book.
Best WhatsApp alternatives for Facebook hatersOn the other hand, the sheer number of social media, messaging, and sharing apps belies the idea that Americans don't want to connect with their fellows. Take for example, free messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, Skype, Kik, and others, three of which I have and use across my various devices to stay in contact with family and friends across the country and world, some of whom it wouldn't be possible to speak to on a regular basis otherwise. Or the plethora of online dating services aimed at connecting people whose social spheres wouldn't otherwise overlap. Or Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and others that let you send or share updates, usually in photo form.
Humans are social creatures and we adapt well to changing situations and technologies. Personally, I embrace the new technologies that we carry around in our pocket (as if this was the way things always had been!), but I think the trick is to not lose sight of traditional methods of communication because a combination of the two can be the most enriching.

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