As the digital generation in the 21st Century continues to stay online, there is a need to critically examine the issue of whether or not there is a correlation between the amount of time people spend online (including surfing the web, social networking, instant messaging, online gaming, etc. ) and its effects on their social behaviour. This essay will focus on how people interact online based on certain theories that may explain the increase of internet addiction and the potential consequences these issues may bring to our next generation.
In comparison to the previous generations who have grown up mostly with books and outdoor activities, the generation Z or the “internet” generation today are integrating the digital culture into their early lives. For these generations, the Internet, playing videogames, downloading music onto an iPod, or multitasking with a cell phone is no more complicated than setting the toaster oven to bake or turning on the TV.
However, it is important to note that internet was first developed for the military and was not used commercially until 1990’s when its information-sharing and communicative functions attracted the interest of corporations and then of the general public (Gackenbach, 2007, p. 18). Nowadays, it is a mandatory condition for employees to use internet at work, to use e-mail and share files. Furthermore, due to the rapid development of the internet and other innovative tools such as smart phones being able to be connected anywhere all times, it is unimaginable how much one can do in a small amount of time.
Thus, if people today do not participate in online activities, they usually tend to feel excluded or powerless or, at the very least, out of date (Gackenbach, 2007, p. 19). As much as the internet being the new way to communicate and share information efficiently, Karl Marx pointed out that “certain new technologies have incredible power to shape human behaviour and social structures” (Wallace, 1999, p. 13). Whether his theory is the complete truth or not, through various research and past investigations, one may hypothesize that excessive usage of internet for a long period of time may actually shape human behaviour.
On the contrary to the hypothesis, several studies have examined the association between time on the Internet and social and psychological factors, and these studies seem less likely to find negative associations. Morgan and Cotton’s (2003) study of college freshmen found that increased time spent shopping, playing games and doing research was associated with higher levels of depression, but sending e-mail and visiting chat rooms was associated with lower levels (Shields & Kane, 2011).
This may be true as many college students tend to communicate through online chat rooms to either family or friends, or send e-mail to loved ones as a stress-relief from studies or work. Thus, just spending time on the internet may be too broad of a term, and need to be more specified as to what type of internet usage. From the journal “Social and Psychological Correlates of Internet Use among College Students”, Gordon et al. (2007) also argues that the reasons why individuals use the Internet must be taken into account in order to understand associations (Shields & Kane, 2011).
Our personality is the source of our emotions, cognition, and behaviour (Amichai-Hamburger, 2005). Most of the time in the real world, only the surface of our personality may become visible to others while the rest of it remains unrevealed, and on the contrast to the real world, there exists a more protective environment over the internet that sometimes encourages people to express themselves more freely than they would in a real world interaction (Amichai-Hamburger, 2005).
This type of interaction may be found within internet discussion forums where people with anonymous or virtual IDs being able to discuss about certain matters on a topic/idea or on issues from around the world. This is also quite visible within online chat rooms where people get to communicate with others from all over the world without publicly sharing their identification from the start. The idea of being unidentified may give users the comfort to reveal more of who they really are or give the option to be someone completely different.
Disinhibition is defined as the inability to control impulsive behaviours, thoughts, or feelings, and manifests online as people communicating in ways that they would not ordinarily do offline and can be positive or negative (Gackenbach, 2007, p. 58). The concept of disinhibition can be quite surprising for example, Nidederhoffer and Pennebaker (2002) were amazed when, in post-experimental interviews, students who had just engaged online in “overt invitations for sex, explicit sexual language, or discussion of graphic sexual escapades” (p. 4) were demure and shy (Gackenbach, 2007, p. 59). This idea of disinhibition may be translated into people are still being themselves online but it is being part of themselves that they generally keep fairly hidden. Suler explains six general reasons why people extend their emotional expression of the self while online: Dissociative Anonymity, Invisibility, Asynchronicity, Solipsistic Introjection, Dissociative Imagination, and Minimization of Status and Authority (Gackenbach, 2007, p. 59). 1.
Dissociative Anonymity: Although not a formal pathology, the sense of self while online becomes compartmentalized into an “online self” which is perceived as alone and anonymous, and an offline self that is different. Because the Internet feels so virtual and boundary-less, it is tempting to perceive “the other” as not real; 2. Invisibility: No need to worry about how you look when chatting with someone online; 3. Asynchronicity: For many online communications, one can respond at one’s leisure and the pressure of an immediate response is gone; 4.
Solipsistic Introjection: The online friend becomes incorporated into one’s intrapsychic world. Some of these interactions are real and immediate, while others are somewhat less so, such as an imagined comeback to your boss. The online friend can take on a special status in our imagined internal dialogues, which can result in a felt sense of special closeness existing outside the boundaries of time and space; 5. Dissociative Imagination: Some people keep careful boundaries between their online selves and their real-world selves.
So, for instance, in online role-playing games such as Everquest, when the computer is turned off, the online self as a wizard is gone. This idea of separate realm provides the online self the freedom to do things which the offline self would not do, such as flirt outrageously or act aggressively; 6. Minimization of Status and Authority: An example may be although you know that your boss has a higher level of status from you at work, when responding to his e-mails, that gap minimizes.
Thus, it sometimes becomes easy to make a nasty or sarcastic comment by e-mail that would never have been spoken during face-to-face situation; (Gackenbach, 2007, p. 60) With these facets in mind, which can be revealed through interactions on the Internet, one may argue that unexpressed behaviours can be generalized from virtual world into the real world. Most of us enter cyberspace, however, lot of us just never give much thought to the online persona – how we come across to the people with whom we interact online (Wallace, 1999).
People in general do not give much thought into what the person on the other side of the screen actually think of them. This may be because many times those people are either their friends or family (people who are close in the real world) or they are someone completely unknown who may reside on the other side of the world in the real world that one may just don’t care about what they think of them.
However, there is an increase in how online persona is playing a larger role when it comes to first impressions as in this generation people rely on e-mails, Web sites, and discussion forums more for the first contact, and the phone call, letter, or face-to-face meetings less (Wallace, 1999). This increasing trend of communication through e-mail and online messaging tools are even thoroughly visible in the public workplaces, such as Government of Canada (GoC). Everyday, public servants send and receive e-mails using the common GoC e-mail messaging tool, “Microsoft Outlook” whether it is through lackberry or workstation (PC). As many of these people work in collaboration with others across the country or even around the world, there is a strong need to be careful on how their e-mail is written so that there are low chances of possible miscommunication with the other person. There is an issue that is currently visible due to massive amounts of e-mail and sharing of information over internet. The Library and Archives Canada (LAC) states that "globally, we send 35 billion emails per day; in the Government of Canada (GoC) we send 18 million per day. 0% of GoC business is now conducted by email; 99. 9% of government records are digital"() The issue is that some of the departments in GoC are now faced with these massive amounts of e-mails (both transitory which are personal e-mails and are useless to the organization; and of business value) and "it is estimated that 85% of corporate data resides informally in those unstructured formats outside of corporate custody and control, in the PC desktops under the custody and control of individuals or groups"().
Being able to communicate more efficiently is an important factor, however, the unlimited communications of cyberspace permitted by the web and networks nowadays and this exponential growth of information" means that one just cannot capture and preserve all of it.
There are many personality theories relevant to the interaction on the internet, such as the need for closure, the need for cognition, risk taking, sensation seeking, attachment, and locus of control, one theory that is considered by many to have the most relevance to the social aspects of the Internet Interaction is the extroversion and neuroticism personality theory (Amichai-Hamburger, 2005, p. 28). This theory is one of the developments of Carl Jung’s extroversion-introversion personality typology and is used to explain the possible relationship between extroversion, neuroticism and loneliness (Amichai-Hamburger, 2005, p. 9). According to this model, some people tend to hold a negative view of themselves and the world and as a result, perceive themselves as depressed, worthless, and lonely, regardless of their actual social network. From series of studies, it is found that only the correlation between extroversion and loneliness, and not that between neuroticism and loneliness, is mediated by the size of the individual’s social network. Thus, people who are high in neuroticism seem o be lonely not because of their difficulty in forming and maintaining relationships, but rather as a result of their general negative bias (Amichai-Hamburger, 2005, p. 30).
Academic Sources: Amichai-Hamburger, Y. (2005).
The Social Net: Human Behaviour in Cyberspace. Oxford University Press. Chen, J. V. , Ross, W. H. , & Yang, H. -H. (2011).
Personality and Motivational Factors Predicting Internet Abuse at Work. Cyberpsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace.
Choe, S. -H. (2010, May 26). A Fantasy World Is Creating Problems in South Korea. The New York Times. Gackenbach, J. (2007).
Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, and Transpersonal Implications. Elsevier. Shields, N. , & Kane, J. (2011).
Social and Psychological Correlates of Internet Use among College Students.
CyberPsychology: Journal of Psychosocial Research on Cyberspace. Wallace, P. (1999).
The Psychology of The Internet. Cambridge University Press.