Internet and Intimacy
Maintaining constant closeness among family and friends is very important and technology makes this easier for most people. The introduction of mediums such as; mobile phones, computers connected to the internet among other modern equipment has helped people communicate more often. However, as much as this technology has helped connect people, it has also drawn them apart emotionally. The need to be together with family and friends becomes and non-existent and some people adopt a new personality when chatting with friends. This has proven to be quite a problem for the current generation as this has been their main way of communicating. Hence, this has led to the emergence of the argument revolving around whether this technology has done more harm than good. Therefore, this paper is going to focus on whether this new technology detaches us from the real life and makes us less human or not.
Constant communication through a technological medium does not make up for the intimacy shared between people. Intimacy is more based on the emotional, spiritual and mental aspects of relationships, which needs physical contacts and shared experiences rather than simply see pictures and blogs on the Internet. With the development of technology, especially after the prevalence of Internet, we have fewer physical communications and connections with our friends. Looking at the old generation, they had to physically approach their friends if they wanted company or needed anything, however, times have changed and the situation is approached rather differently nowadays. Physical contact is not necessary as one can easily get in touch with their friends through the phone or the internet and talk about anything. By simply logging into sites such as; facebook, My space among others one can easily find out where their friends are and whether their busy or not just by looking at their updates. This is a trend that has been growing for a long time and looking at the statistics collected most people are enjoying these services and more are enrolling each day. In addition, thanks to the convenience of Internet, not only does it reduce the opportunities for us to talk to each other, but also it cuts time to sit together and share experiences. As Nevada (4) says in the Las Vegas Review,"Intimacy requires time to emerge and grow. We make that time possible with constancy and commitment." So, we need time to build our intimacy.
However, the Internet is famous for high-speed processing, which intends to shorten the time we contact to each other. Even though the frequency rate of texting to each other increases, the total time we spend on the communications with our friends is reduced. For instance, when our friends encounter some difficulties or in bad moods, it is sarcastic that we simply see their diaries and post 20-words comment to encourage them. Nothing can be compared with the experience that you and your friends sit together and cheer them up via face-to-face talks. The smiling and tones can be their power to go on. When cyberspace is created and popularized, the decline of traditional patterns of communication make the intimacy an instant closeness.
The virtualization allows people conceal their identities or use their imaginations to create different identities. Because of availability of Internet, people are free from the physical connections to real life and allow themselves to create a virtual existence that may have no relation to the real world. This results in the decrease of communications with others in physical world. The anonymity and freedom in virtual world give them a sense of security. They prefer making friends on Internet, which draw them away from the friends in real life. In the long run, these people who are satisfied with the virtual world will develop an autistic characteristic. It is common that when asked whether to hang out by some friends during a short holiday, a person will prefer to stay at home surfing on the Internet and refresh the websites every minute. So actually, the Internet makes us lazier to try to communicate with real friends in physical world. So the virtualization of the Internet reduces the interaction in the real world and destroys the intimacy between their true friends.
The anonymity of the Internet makes it easier to quickly form connections and relations with others, even though we may not even know much about the other side such as gender, occupation, education etc. That trait of Internet gives people a false sense of intimacy because people use numbers or words as various identities, which create multiple"poker faces" for people on the Internet. The anonymous identities provide camouflages for such a group of people who utilize it to get any information from you and even harry you. In the long run, people lose trust in social networking and build a"wall" to protect them. Losing trust makes it more difficult to build intimacy between each other. However, Melinda Blau (3) says,"There's always someone we can turn to for advice, information, solace, validation, a good laugh, a thought-provoking suggestion–and there's always someone listening." It is more convenient for us to talk to someone for encouragements or advice, but before we start the conversation online, we have to ensure the"someone" may not let any private information out. We have to ask ourselves,"Can we trust them?" (Blau 6) Even though you always have good communication with the anonymous person and he/she may show you kindness, it does not necessarily mean that you know the person at a humane level. Think of no better example to illustrate this idea than the TV series Gossip Girl. The"Gossip Girl" is an anonymous person who sets a website to reveal, spot and spread the secrets of others. The program revolves around how the anonymous person discovers people's secrets and posts them on the internet for the whole world to see. Although the Gossip Girl is a virtual role in the fiction story but it is created according to the reality and can reflects some aspect of the reality. Hence, one can always learn from this to be quite careful when interacting with people whom they do not know personally.
The openness of the internet provides platforms for people to express their opinions freely disregarding the respects to others, which makes people narcissistic and aggravates the individualism. On one hand, people could ruin other's privacy. For instance, MySpace is about"me" and ask people to look at"me". Someone may complain about their friends or post rumors or secrets shared with friends, which may be very embarrassed. However, some people may argue that our lives are made abundant by the stories posted on the websites, which raise different discussion topics that promote the interactions between classmates, friends or even strangers. As Melinda Blau argues in The Relationship Revolution; The Internet as a new way of life,"Some 40 percent of adult users are also "content producers," who shoot photos, and produce videos and music for their own and others' enjoyment…"(Blau 15) She acclaims that the Internet obscures"the lines between private and public". Although it is true more and more users are participating in the cyberspace actively and enthusiastically, since the Internet is a space open to the public. One's privacy may be at a risk of being violated at any time since other people may post your videos or photos without necessarily having to ask for permission. As a matter of fact, in the current society, we should keep our eyes on privacy instead of mix up the public and the private. On the other hand, in some cyberspaces, people pay more attention on what they care about with no tolerance for disagreement. As Sandy Bank (par.6) says, the technology"has also promoted a cultural shift that inflates a loudmouth's self-importance and stokes a mob mentality." In term of Internet, on some BBS, for instance, when a person gets a comment that argues against his/her opinion, it is common that the discussion will finally ends with a quarrel with a lot of offensive words.
In general, the emergence of technology that boosts our communication has been quite helpful to most individuals. The fact that it saves time and one can still maintain communication with their friends is highly appreciated considering the busy nature adopted by most individuals. However, there have been various discoveries concerning the emotional turmoil that the technology steers in most people. People tend to get more detached from reality and venture into this virtual world created by the internet. With time people get less human although it happens gradually, the result is usually discouraging. Therefore, as much as technology has introduced an easier lifestyle for most people, one should be careful not to detach themselves from reality.