The Social Impacts of a Connected World
The Internet; possibly the most influential innovation of the past thirty years and the medium you are reading this article through right now. All current high school students have never lived in a world without the widespread, global connection that the internet offers and the odd culture that has been created because of it. However, a topic that is often touched upon by those who lived before this world of constant connection is whether or not the influence of technology is beneficial to our society as a whole, some viewing it as a miracle, others seeing it as a thinly disguised curse.
One of the main points that must be discussed with this issue is how the internet has made it possible to get what you want faster and in some cases, almost instantaneously. The positives of this are shown through an ease of access to almost all desired information, being able to communicate with others at virtually any time of day or night via instant messaging and social media, and being rewarded by various games and apps for completing, usually simple, tasks. On the other hand, being accustomed to this instant reward for actions seems to cause people to become less patient and more focused on achieving goals with the least amount of effort possible. However, as the world grows more automated, wouldn’t it make sense for society to reflect this change, for better or worse? Will this cause people to innovate in order to make things even more efficient to see the impacts of actions even more quickly, therefore benefitting society? Or could it cause people to work less hard on average, only doing simple tasks that offer instant gratification?
Another interesting feature of our present is how technology has influenced communication patterns. It’s possible to carry conversation for hours with people in different cities, to ask teachers questions about homework and a few minutes later receive an explanation, and to share opinions with people around the globe in a few seconds. That’s the same usual drivel talked about when speaking of technology and its impact, but instant communication has a stronger influence than just that. When posting on social media, there is a veil of anonymity that often allows for people to be open about their personal lives and thoughts with complete strangers. At times, this veil can cause people to be more cruel, emotional, or share more than they would be in person. Directly regarding interpersonal correspondence, often when texting people tend to share more than they do in person, or even over a phone call because they don’t have to say the words aloud or look at the person’s face. Most aren’t even conscious of how much more is shared via text in comparison to reality, especially with those high school age and younger who have grown up using instant messages for the majority of their lives. For example, something that seems to be unique to the younger generations is the action of carrying on two separate conversations at once, often one over text and one spoken, or messaging in multiple apps or even just group chats with the same people or person. This odd phenomena is not common amongst older generations and illustrates a stark difference in our communication patterns.
So, what is the effect of having generations raised on constant connection? Well, no one can be sure about the long lasting impacts of this until our generation has grown up, and it is possible to compare things, such as employment and productivity rates. Until then, all that anyone can do is observe what is occurring while comparing it to the past and predicting the future.