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Online Technologies and “Kizuna” Opinion Essay


Technology is becoming increasingly central to the daily routine of individuals (Goode 583), not only in the United States but also globally. In education, the availability of personal computers in the 1980s and a multiplicity of internet-based applications in the 1990s have brought incredible transformation on how college students learn in traditional learning settings (Aziz et al 205).

But as noted in the article “An Ugly Toll of Technology: Impatience and Forgetfulness” by Tara Parker-Pope, technology is becoming so addictive that people are now more socializing with Facebook friends than those they have in real life, not mentioning that they are finding more fulfillment in online relationships than they can find in real life situations (Parker-Pope para. 1).

The issues highlighted in this article are not unique to the United States; on the contrary they are also prevalent in Japan and other countries as societies come to terms with the integration of social technology. This essay purposes to demonstrate that despite the obvious advantages offered by these technologies, they are somehow hurting our society and should be moderated.

The author of the article, while citing psychologists and other experts, argues that “…excessive use of the internet, cellphones and other technologies can cause us to become more impatient, impulsive, forgetful and even more narcissistic” (Parker-Pope para. 4). These issues, in my view, are also predominant in Japan, which is now known to be a “Tech-Savvy” country.

From kids to the elderly, Japanese people are surrounded by technologies and are comfortably using them. For example, almost anything a person needs can be ordered online, and people can watch their favorite TV shows and read their favorite magazines on their cellphones and tablets. Even while living abroad, Japanese students can easily communicate with family members in Japan using various electronic mediums such as emails and video conferencing.

Overtime, the Japanese society has grown increasingly dependent on these technologies as it is becoming almost impossible to function without them. Such dependency, in my view, is not helping to improve their integrity. Indeed, according to the author of the article, excessive dependence of these technologies is slowly turning into addiction (Parker-Pope para. 6), which has obvious negative psychological and health-related effects.

The emerging technologies have complicated communication among Japanese people. In the old days, it was common scene for kids to go out and play with neighbors outside. Individuals who live in apartments would venture out to borrow seasoning from neighbors and be invited to dine with them, enabling an environment that fostered personalized social communication and interaction. The sense of community was a key part of our life.

Today, people do not interact with their community in the real sense and neighborly interactions are no longer common. With technologies like short messaging service, email, AIM, chat-room, and Facebook, communication happens instantly without leaving home. With increasing online communication made possible through the convergence of technology, people are no longer communicating face to face, implying that social interactions are not possible. Such orientation kills the social fabric of society.

The lack of personalized communication not only reinforces a sense of distance among community members but also makes them to disregard how others in the community may feel. People no longer even see the facial reactions of others they communicate with, not mentioning that they have lost the purpose of why we communicate. Indeed, the author of the primary article argues that communication using technology platforms detracts us “…from our time with family and friends in the real world” (Parker-Pope para. 9).

People are now communicating for convenience and not for socialization that used to be commonplace. In my view, people now have less patience with each other as they can easily establish new communications with others. This view is supported by the author of the article, who suggests that exposure to technology is slowly reshaping our personality and causing us to become more impatient and impulsive (Parker-Pope para. 4).

Many students prefer to play online video games than getting together with their friends and enjoying face to face conversation while they play, implying that technology is even affecting the way we socialize during play. Ultimately, people are becoming less caring about the neighbors, friends, and family as the quality and depth of communication suffer greatly from technology-enabled communication.

The author of the selected article observes that people who develop excessive dependence on cellphones and the internet develops disorders that are characterized by neglect of housework, sleep loss at night and gambling problems, among others (Parker-Pope para. 6-7). In Japan, “Hikikomori” is one of the extreme versions of communication disorders largely caused by frequent use of technologies such as email and internet.

Available literature demonstrates that the term “Hikikomori” describes “…an extreme version of social withdrawal that is especially prevalent in Japan and affects hundreds of thousands of young men” (Scott para. 1). These people not only literally withdraw from social life but tend to seek extremely high levels of isolation and confinement because of a multiplicity of personal and social factors affecting them, implying that they do not venture outside their houses.

There are a number of reasons why these people develop such characteristics, among them being the fact that online technologies create an environment where Hikikomori people can effectively communicate with other people without leaving their rooms. The leverage offered by online communication prolongs the problem and, as time progresses, it gets worse. Available statistics show that an estimated 100,000 to 500,000 young men are hiding out in their own rooms with this form of mental disorder (Scott para. 4).

My brother was a “Hikikomori” due to exhibited behavioral orientations. Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare says a “Hikikomori” person exhibits the following: Does not take part in society and remains at home; does not take part in or have interest in attending school or work; does not demonstrate any close relationships other than with family; withdrawal exhibited is not a symptom of a psychotic disorder, and; symptoms exhibited persist for at least six months (Ballas 3).

My brother not only got fulfillment from communicating with other “Hikikomori” people through online technologies, but felt that online technologies had some positive side too as he was able to chat with strangers when he got tired with establishing personalized social relationships, which, according to him, was a quite relief. It is this addiction that has been so explicitly detailed in the primary article, and which makes people to develop pathological behaviors (Parker-Pope para. 6).

Indeed, we cannot stop the movement of technology because it has become an integral part of our lives. However, all stakeholders must strive to find a balance so that technology remains beneficial not only to the individual but also to society. The following highlights how the Japanese have been attempting to find a perfect balance.

Every end of the year, the Japanese monks decide on which Chinese character to use for the following year and, towards the end of last year, the word “Kizuna” was chosen to symbolize special bonds between people, solidarity or tie (UNESCO para. 1). In March 2011, we had a huge natural disaster in Japan and many people lost everything.

However, in the midst of tragedy and loss of human life, many people took refuge in Kizuna. People could not use the usual technological applications to communicate due to the destruction caused to the country’s vital infrastructure, but the rallying phrase “Kizuna” encouraged them to communicate with their friends and family members face to face as the bond underlines the need to encourage and assist each other through the establishment of special bonds.

People literally forgot about online communications and assisted in the rescue missions while others cooked and prepared baths for the affected. Indeed, the earthquake might have served as a reminder that people should neither forget their thoughtful hearts nor engage in communication approaches that seem to align the very purpose of communicating – establishing personalized social relationships and interactions (Goode 601).

Of course technology assisted people a lot too. It is therefore my view that both technology and “Kizuna” should be used complimentarily to improve lives and restore the bonds of family and society. People should always be encouraged not be do away with face to face communication even as we welcome the new frontiers offered by technology as it is these interactions that makes us human.

Works Cited

Aziz, Tahir, Mo B. Khan & Raj Singh. “Effects of Information Technology Usage on Student Learning: An Empirical Study in the United States.” International Journal of Management 27.2 (2010): 205-217. Print.

Ballas, Paul. “Hikikomori Disorder could Complicate Japan Quake Recovery.” Japan Today. 2011. Web.

Goode, Joanna. “Mind the Gap: The Digital Dimension of College Access.” Journal of Higher Education 81.5 (2010): 583-618. Print.

Parker-Pope, Tara. “The New York Times. 2010. Web.

Scott, Greg. Hikikomori: Shut away from the World. 2011. Web.

UNESCO. ‘Kizuna’ – A Message of Hope for Japan’s School Children. 2011. Web.

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