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The traditional process of human communication has always involved a certain degree of direct personal interaction between individuals yet with the introduction of new technology preferred methods of communication have become more impersonal resulting in an increasingly isolationist society.
As technology improves methods of communication have steadily become more convenient wherein people are no longer limited in their ability contact one another but rather can choose from a plethora of choices.
The creation of mobile phone technology has enabled people to be contacted at anywhere at anytime through either a direct phone conversation or a more discreet text message. Online methods of communication such as email, chat messengers or even online video conferencing services such as those on Skype have made it so that global methods of communication have become far easier and affordable compared to the situation two decades ago where international communication was an arduous affair often involving significant delays, costs or even an inability to be contacted due to ones location.
It was through the greater interconnectivity of countries through globalization that communication similarly became more globalized thus making it more convenient for the average user. Despite the current ease of use most people have with utilizing an assortment of methods of communication, as of late the most popular methods of communication such as texting, email and chat messengers have actually promoted a culture of isolation (Reid, 423 – 435).
This is due to the fact that as these popular methods of communication become the norm so to does the level of social isolation of its users increase due the lack of direct face to face communication (Gordon, 60). As such, this brings up the question if it is possible to become more isolated due to the use of popular methods of communication despite the greater level of communicative interconnectivity that technology has brought about, and if so what are its negative consequences?
Trend in Social Isolation
Direct face to face interaction in order to communicate ideas and gain insight has been replaced with the convenience and rapidity brought about by the today’s popular methods of communication. With the loss of direct interaction comes a growing trend of isolation wherein people prefer being able to communicate with each other through short rapid fire messages rather than the long eloquent styles often seen in face to face interactions (Denial of Isolation, 10).
As a result, emotional cues and responses usually evident in most direct conversations are absent resulting in more individuals becoming isolated both emotionally and socially from the world around them due to the lack of interaction (Cole and Cole, 40).
It is due to these factors that there has been an increase in social awkwardness among young adults who have become so used to popular methods of communication that when placed in an instance of direct social interaction they tend to stumble around the conversation because of a certain lack of practice in direct communication.
It is due to instances such as these that certain individuals have begun to prefer technologically based methods of communication since they are able to avoid problems related to their inability to properly communicate and socialize in public. This in turns continues to promote the trend of social isolation resulting in possible problems later on in life for individuals who experience this apparent “side-effect” of modern day communication.
Understanding the Effects of Modern Methods of Communication
In his book “The Shallows”, Nicholas Carr presents readers with the notion that the traditional method of reading books, essays and various other written works are superior to what is offered today on the internet (Carr, 3). For Carr, the internet is a medium based on the concept of interruption where multitasking and rapid fire reading is the norm rather than curious oddities.
Reading short articles, responding to emails and chatting at the same time has become so ubiquitous with internet usage that most people barely give it a second thought. On the other hand, as Carr explains, this has resulted in people losing the ability to enter into a slow, contemplative method of thinking normally associated with reading novels in print (Carr, 14).
A crowding out effect can be seen where people find it harder to concentrate on lengthy articles, books or essays and a growing preference has developed for short rapid fire articles which can be browsed within a few minutes. It must be noted that with the development of the internet people have in effect become able to communicate their ideas to an audience through a massive scale.
Blogs, internet article sites and various other online means of posting ideas have become so ubiquitous with modern day society that it is hard to imagine our current culture without the various articles we read on a daily basis which are a form of communication between a writer and reader in which the ideas they have regarding sports, politics and society in general are relayed to us on a daily basis.
While the internet on any given day produces hundreds of thousands of pages of content, easily rivaling and surpassing the traditional publishing world in the amount of material produced however most of what is actually created is of poor literary quality, incomparable to what is written by professional writers and scholars.
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Such a case is similar to the observation made by novelist Harvey Swales in 1951 during the rise in popularity of the paperback novel in which he stated that it could be the start of either an increase in the value of produced material or the inundation of trashy literature into an already polluted ocean of books and novels.
As such it can be said that the traditional method of communicating ideas through journals, books and various other forms of printed media have steadily been replaced in popularity through an apparent flood of literature that does not even reach the same literary heights. For Carr the perceived value of the internet is one of human deterioration where people lose the ability for solitary single minded concentration in favor of rapid fire multitasking due to the proliferation of articles that can be easily consumed and read (Carr, 8).
Positive Effects in Communication
It must be noted that Clay Shirky in his book “Cognitive Surplus” states that the internet has provided people with a platform in which to collaborate, communicate, experiment and as a result create effective social change through various collaborative works (Shirky, 5 – 10).
For Shirky it is this ability to interact and create rather than remain a static passive observer that makes the internet a positive force towards the buildup of social and cultural development. In the eyes of Shirky, the internet acts as an open platform for contribution where user driven content and collaboration drives social and cultural development (Shirky, 11).
Collaborative efforts such as Wikipedia, Wiki’s and social networking sites such as blogs, twitter and online message boards all contribute to utilizing the aptly named cognitive surplus towards creating an ever increasing amount of user driven content that contributes towards societal development.
While Shirky does indicate that not all content is productive such as the internet meme “lolcats” the fact remains that people are actually doing something rather than remaining static that signals a progressive change towards dynamic social interaction (Ruberg 33).
Online projects such as Wikipedia, Project Guttenburg, Ushahidi and various other online drivers of collaboration help to improve the accessibility of information and promotes drivers of interactivity resulting in greater amounts of user driven content.
As it was mentioned earlier, the indicator of progressive social and cultural change is dynamic contribution with the internet being the latest and best instrument to bring about such changes to human society (Drezner 31). The only problem facing the contributions made on the internet to act as triggers to create change in society is in their inherent value and the amount of control asserted on them.
Social Networking, Communication and Change
On the other hand developments such as Wikipedia, Google Books, Project Guttenberg and various review sites have enabled users to contribute to the wealth of knowledge that the internet is known for further expanding the ability of individual users to gain access to all forms of information whether it be statistical, opinionated, encyclopedic or even a mere review.
Social networking sites such as Facebook, twitter and MySpace have helped to create collaborative online communities that can actually enact social change in the real world. The infamous online group Anonymous is famous for setting up the February 2008 protests against the church of scientology wherein literally thousands of people around the world protested outside various scientology establishments and churches.
The website Wikileaks has helped to encourage transparency in government operations and various other message boards have become spring boards for actually change in the way society has begun to operate on a global scale. Based on this it can be seen that true change is on the way for the internet, a true tool for societal collaboration to enact change on a global scale.
Preserving the Levels of Integrity
In light of the recent scandals involving corrupt public officials, self-serving politicians and criminal justice professionals who seem more in league with crime than justice what is needed is to create a set standard involving proper ethics and morality in order to preserve in the eyes of the public the necessary ethical standards people in such positions should have.
One standard that should be maintained is adherence to properly doing ones job, in various recorded cases it has been seen that various public officials and criminal justice professionals have in fact been slacking off with their duties resulting in the public wondering why such officials are in their positions in the first place.
While such actions are brought about by the tediousness of their jobs it must be noted that in such professions where the public is directly affected by ones actions slacking off is never an option due to the possible repercussions such actions may have on the general public good.
Another necessary standard is the need to preserve the integrity of one’s position despite outside influences in the form of cash bribes or other forms of altering one’s decisions. A position in a public office entails that need to prioritize equality amongst the people rather than focus on a particular group due to a self-serving attitude. It is only when public officials start to serve their own causes rather than that of the people that problems in the system occur.
Based on this it is important to maintain a certain degree of impartiality in order to maintain an effective public system that ensures all individuals are treated fairly and equally. On a relatively minor note, in such cases involving necessary standards for potential criminal justice professionals and public sector officials what is needed is to properly integrate standards in the production of literature or text in order to ensure its professionalism while at the same time using current practices in information dissemination in order to get the information to the general public.
It must be noted that no matter how professional a document looks it is absolutely useless if the information within it is not seen by general public. For criminal justice professionals and public sector officials maintaining their professionalism in light of the recent trends in trashy online communication is important however what must be taken into consideration is properly informing the public about information garnered by their profession so that the public can be well educated and can make informed decisions.
Carr, Nicholas. What the Internet is Doing to our Brains The Shallows. New York: Norton & Company, 2010. eBook.
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Drezner, Daniel W. “Weighing the Scales: The Internet’s Effect On State-Society Relations.” Brown Journal of World Affairs 16.2 (2010): 31-44. EBSCO. PDF. 08 May. 2011.
Gordon, Michael. “High-tech loneliness: How our inventions keep us apart.” Futurist July 1990: 60. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web.
Reid, Donna J., and Fraser J.M. Reid. “Text or Talk? Social Anxiety, Loneliness, and Divergent Preferences for Cell Phone Use.” CyberPsychology & Behavior 10.3 (2007): 424-435. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web.
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Shirky, Clay. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. New York: Penguin Press, 2010. eBook.