The processes of globalization largely influence and define the ways modern society develops and changes. The overwhelming tendencies to industrialization, computerization, and consumerism that were launched by society decades ago, boomerang against those who once spawned them.
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Observing the new trends in the ways people live, operate, and communicate, sociologists have arrived to a new definition of ‘network society’ based on the achievements of electronic communications. This new kind of society appears to bear both positive and negative perspectives.
On the one hand, due to ability to transfer and share information literally in a flash, ‘network society’ has the opportunity to develop an unprecedented working flexibility and operate much more efficiently in the sphere of collective knowledge. On the other hand, the importance of mass media and communication means has led to prevailing role of computers and other instant messaging devices over personal communication, and the resulting depersonalization of human relations.
In modern ‘network society’, flexibility is perhaps one of the most vital characteristics of a working person, and this quality is by large achieved through the opportunities provided by electronic communication devices. Information can be exchanged in a twinkling of an eye at any time of day and night.
Faxes, E-mails, mobile text messages are delivered to and from any part of the world which is vital for modern swiftly developing businesses. Cooperation and coordination within and among companies have never been as easy. In addition, employees can reconsider the standard image of a workplace and choose to work from home or whatever other place they prefer as their office.
This flexibility of working place entails also flexibility of working place and time — a breakthrough that allows endless working opportunities.
Apart from personal flexibility, the communication achievements of ‘network society’ promote more efficient collaboration and creating of common knowledge at a much easier and more efficient level. Assembling, processing, and sharing information that is presented in bright visuals promotes accumulating knowledge databases available not only for the select few but for the broad public as well.
Despite such optimistic perspectives, there is a fly in the ointment: as communication and media devices are increasingly gaining significance, people are developing relations with them that often border on psychological dependence and even addiction.
Computers, laptops, and cell phones become rightful partners as one cannot imagine running one’s business or even life without them. Communication with the help of machines gradually substitutes personal relations as people start communicating with machines proper. The whole life depends on whether the cell phone battery is fully charged; therefore, people start taking care of their communicating devices as if those were living beings.
As a result of such machine-dominated life, people lose real-life contact with each other. E-mails, chatting programs, and online dating websites substitute for personal contacts, and the culture of live communication is lost. Relationships become one of those online games where nobody is actually hurt or wounded. People gain a feeling of game and do not take real life as serious as it is. Socializing skills are lost, which bears the risk of de-socializing the society.
The unique phenomenon of modern ‘network society’ both delights and frightens. The unlimited opportunities for flexibility in work and communication are contrasted by machines dominating a society where people play with their lives and with each other. Such situation rings an alarm for protecting the value of true relations in order to preserve the social character of human beings.