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Published on February 14, 2011
Tags: Internet Communication
Whatever your views on the internet, there is no doubt that its influence is ever-growing and that more and more people are using it as time goes by – there are currently over 1.6 billion users of the World Wide Web. As internet use increases, there is a growing debate about whether or not it actually helps to bring people closer together. Certainly when web designers create websites, it is often for companies who are looking to reach out to their customers and keep them up to date with what their business is working on, suggesting the intention to bring people closer together is there in theory. So does this actually work, or does the internet only serve to isolate us?
The Internet brings us closer together
Probably the best argument in favour of the internet bringing people closer together is the fact it is a global phenomenon. People from all over the world are online, sharing content and using the same websites. This gives both individuals and businesses more opportunities than ever before to extend their networks and reach out to people they may otherwise never meet.
This is best seen in the growth of social networks, which are massively popular. Facebook is probably the best example of this, which has over 500 million active users and is still growing. People often use the website to connect with friends and contacts, such as people they knew at school but have since lost touch with. Seen in this manner, the internet does bring us closer together as it offers a platform through which people can interact not just with people they know, but with people in other countries.
Businesses and web designers have obviously noticed this trend, too. Facebook’s own statistics suggest that over 10,000 new websites integrate with the Facebook site every day. This suggests that there is massive potential for interaction on an online platform and for smaller websites to benefit from the success of larger ones, thereby connecting different groups from different industries through a central hub.
This can also be seen in the recent predilection for organising grassroots campaigns through the internet. It is widely thought, for example, that without planning through the social media and the wider internet, Barack Obama would have found it much harder to mobilise the grassroots voters in the US who ultimately helped him reach the White House. We can also see it in the UK, where mass campaigns have been organised online by a variety of groups. For example, UK Uncut have arranged tax avoidance protests, 38 Degrees and others are campaigning to save the forests and UKpling are working to organise an online campaign to save the libraries. We can easily argue that, without the internet, all the people involved in these campaigns would not have been bought together.
The Internet doesn’t bring us closer together
Of course, every argument has a counter argument and this debate is no different. Many people have argued that even though there has been tremendous growth in communicative technology – most notably those platforms operated through the World Wide Web – it has actually had the effect of driving people further apart.
This can perhaps be best seen through the idea that although people are now more able to get in touch with others than ever before, the quality of communication you experience with someone through a social networking site will never be of the same standard as if you were talking face to face.
There is some merit in this – when you consider that many people who work in the same office now frequently email each other instead of going to speak to each other directly, you can see how the internet can end up isolating people.
There are also arguments to be made about internet governance; as a global entity outside of effective international legislative control, there are very few laws to regulate the internet and its operations. Of course, there is an argument to be made that this is a good thing, as it means people have a space in which to interact away from their everyday lives. However, when you consider that some websites are blocked in countries such as China, North Korea massively restricts internet use and the Egyptian government recently switched off the internet in an attempt to control protestors, it can also be argued that there is a power to be found in controlling the internet and that those who are not online are isolated from those who are through the denial of communication. Therefore, even if the internet works to bring its users closer together, it pushes those who aren’t online further towards the margins.
Both sides of this debate have merit and they are, of course, much more complex once you get further into them. Perhaps, though, this is the point – on the surface of it, the online world is a brilliant opportunity for global connections to be made and it offers users the chance to experience different lives and cultures by proxy. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Skype, Google and many more provide portals of communication that are unrivalled in human history.
However, as the internet grows and becomes more influential, as governments move many public services online and campaigns are organised through social networking sites rather than the town hall, it suggests that those who aren’t part of the phenomena are indeed more isolated than others. This suggests that there is still work to be done to make the internet a truly connective, interactive platform and that the debate isn’t over, not by a long way.
What are your thoughts on this topic? Why not complete the comments box below to let us know and we'll publish your thoughts here.
priyaCommented on March 13, 2012
i took some information for my presentation.
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