We live in a world in which the internet reigns. It is in our pocket, at home, at work, at university. With the increasing number of social apps, social networking websites and internet communities, one could suggest that the internet does a lot towards enhancing our social interactions as a society. But is this really the case? Is the internet a distraction from interaction, or does it actively increase it? LS Debate asks, does the internet make us more sociable?
Third Year Computer Sciences
Throughout history all new technology divides opinion, but none seems to do it quite like the Internet. The Internet means many different things for different people; some see it as the platform for free speech, some see it as a valuable source for information and some see it as a chance to become an anonymous keyboard warrior and vent hate towards the world. But, in reality, the Internet is just an extension of our society, and, just like society, the Internet has its good parts and its bad parts.
The arguments against the Internet making us more sociable seem to be mainly based around the idea that all people are naturally sociable and easily partake in day to day interactions. This is obviously not true. There are many individuals who find social interactions difficult and, for these people, the Internet becomes a viable and necessary outlet for social
When writing this article I visited an area of the Internet I hadn’t been to before, reddit.com. Reddit is full of people discussing topics ranging from board game design, to My Little Pony to politics. Surely there is no other medium that allows people with such varying interests to interact. This is the great thing about websites like Reddit: people who do not share mainstream interests can feel part of something. The Internet provides a space in which these communities evolve and extend into ‘real’ life; there is a strong “meet up” culture on Reddit.
Without the aide of forums like Reddit, these individuals could potentially be labelled by society as social outcasts, as geeks. But with help from the Internet they can form their own communities and, in their own way, become more social. In this, the Internet makes the world a whole lot smaller. It doesn’t matter if our friends now live in completely separate corners of the country, or if we have only ever met these friends online, the Internet makes it easy to bring them back together and that can only be a good thing.
So now we turn to social networking. You might send a few Facebook messages and tweets but not really consider those things social interaction. To be honest, I’m not sure I do myself. But, for me, the thing that makes social networking so social is that it can facilitate our social lives in the ‘real world’.
Since the rise of social media in the mid noughties the way in which we organise events has changed completely. Think back to the last event you organised, chances are you did so on Facebook through officially creating a ‘Facebook event page’ or casually messaging a friend. Now think about how difficult it would have been to organise without the Internet.
The Internet has not only made us more sociable as a society by
facilitating real life social events and creating online social communities, but it has also completely redefined what it means to be ‘sociable’. The Internet is a world of words: it is a space to voice an opinion, chat with a friend, start a community and, ultimately, be more sociable.
Fourth Year English Language and Literature
With the omnipresent tyrant ‘social networking’ looming in our midst, the word has become pitifully redefined: there is very little that is truly social about social networks. Indeed, there is very little that is social about the
Internet at all.
We’re all au fait with the competitive nature of the social networking world. Bragging statuses that range from a night in with ‘the one’ to declarations of career status litter our news feed in jarring cadence. Photos are displayed that echo a cheekbone of our true selves yet the complimentary applause becomes a virtual pat on the back. Scratch that – they become an actual pat on the back.
The social networking self and the real life form have become an
intertwined identity, with the reclusive nature of peering at a screen making the Internet a meta-social sphere. Cultivating our obsessions and magnifying our insecurities, online social contact is a bittersweet pill for friendship that so few of us are prepared to live without.
Facebook has irrevocably altered the way we interact with one another on a daily basis. Making ourselves vulnerable as we subject ourselves to chat screens, ‘seen’ links and status updates; the endless stream of content about our acquaintances becomes the antithesis of sociability.
With the power to examine every friend of the website in eye watering detail, events that would be discovered in hours of conversation are at the click of a finger, creating a distinct underworld of nosy aperitifs.
On the other hand, those we have just met can easily fall short of onscreen approval. Encouraging the judgmental voice within, the people in front of us become 2D shadows of selves, blurring our perception of reality. The monster is one that constantly needs to be fed and has become the ultimate procrastination method in university life.
It’s strange to think that sites based around interacting with other people can be so debilitating to our ‘physical’ social lives. As our avatars become burdened by the weight of constant accessibility, there is an increasing apathy for face to face gatherings.
Although many may argue that the platform for socialising has changed, how the Internet debilitates our attention span and capacity to engage with friends is nothing short of astounding. It is now common parlance for meet ups to be interrupted by the demands of the Internet. We speak with our eyes tracing our phone screen, checking emails, tweets and updates as we half-heartedly sustain a conversation. Attention spans wane; the person in front of us is no longer enough.
Although the Internet is undeniably a pedagogic masterpiece, it is slightly alarming to register our relentless dependence on the web as the Omni prop of 21st century life. Although some will be able to happily exercise the faculty of control, the vast majority of us are concentrating far more effort into our Internet presence than our one in real life. Ultimately, the internet is making us less sociable.