Human beings are social beings. Communicating and passing information and understanding one another are of vital importance if we are to survive in society. Earliest types of communications included vocal (language) communication, signals or even pigeons, in a more civilized society, before technology took its turn. Communication is not a choice, it is a necessity. And so, technological advancement in the field of communication has been achieved over time to make it more efficient.
One of the earliest technology feats in the communication sector were achieved by Alexander Graham Bell by the invention of the first telephone in the 19th century.
With the birth of the telephone, people can just pick up the phone and talk to anyone, from their neighbor to a person half way around the world. Distance could not stop people from getting closer anymore. Phone helped international trades and businesses by making the process of negotiation easier and even possible. (Ferderer, 2008).
During the 19th and early 20th century, the radio and television were also developed and in the late 20th century, finally, the World Wide Web (WWW), internet, was developed which changed the way of communication once and for all.
Internet was developed by the US government to improve their military communication methods. Today internet is public and it is the most widely used means of communication than any other means. Cyber communication gives people valued learning and independence. Communication via the internet has dramatically expanded the social circle.
Online networking websites, like Facebook and Twitter have become the most popular means of instant communication. These websites allow users to communicate with friends, family and clients from moment to moment. Users can add images, update their status (telling everyone what they are doing), start a fan page for your business, send personal messages, and more. The idea behind these websites is to give users the opportunity to connect with people, even if they are thousands of miles apart.
Websites like these are bringing people together irrespective of their race, culture, geographic location or their physical appearance. Young people geographically remote, disabled, or housebound due to illness may find online chat an important form of communication (Wakefield, M. A., & Rice, C. J., 2008). Cyber communication has been proved to be helpful in children to overcome shyness and improving their social interaction skills by using the online interactive tools like Facebook, Twitter and other like those. Internet allows people to express themselves who otherwise would feel uncomfortable doing so in person. Internet has made communication cheaper, faster and available to everyone from an individual to businesses. Internet is being used for communication in the educational field, for example, online forums, online books etc. Websites like YouTube allows people to communicate via posting videos or music files on the platform. YouTube has eased communication in various fields. People can watch anything from educational videos to participating in political discussions. Internet is a necessity in today’s world. Tourists use the internet to find direction for popular hot spots, students use it for communicating educational ideas for schoolwork, shoppers use it to stay connected to distant friend and relatives by e-mail, instant messaging or chat. Internet both expands and changes the communities in subtle ways.
With the technology advancing at such a pace, phones could not stay in their current state either. Today, we have mobile phones which can be taken with us anywhere in the world. Development of smart mobile phones has made communication possible on a device merely half the size of our palm. Smartphones enable users to use normal phones functions on the go, which are calling another mobile phone or landline. But it also allows you to use internet and e-mail functions to keep up to date with your social activities. Text messaging through mobile phones is increasingly becoming the way to communicate quick thoughts to friends, family and clients.
Technology is described in the dictionary as the branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of technical means and their interrelation with life, society, and the environment, drawing upon such subjects as industrial arts, engineering, and applied science. The rate at which technology is evolving, is unbelievable. Who knew that the hard-wired telephone invented by Graham Bell in the 19th century would soon transform into a device which you can keep in your pocket and take with you wherever, whenever.
Technological advances in communication have changed the face and the pace of the world. But none of these benefits come without a flip side. As much as technological communication has improved our way of life and business, these advances do have their downside which may outweigh their positive effects.
The state of the art communication technology poses a lot of risks and negative effects in our daily lives. For instance, whilst mobile phones have been proved to be tremendously beneficial for communication purposes, they are responsible for a lot of negative effects.. Mobile phones are quite renowned as the single biggest contributor to hazardous driving. Drivers frequently use their mobiles phones to text, call or chat while driving which poses a major threat to the oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Use of mobile phones while driving has been linked to many car crashes also. Research has clearly shown an increased risk of traffic accidents, some 3-4 times greater chance of an accident, when mobile phones (either handheld or with a “hands-free” kit) are used while driving (World Health Organization, 2005).
Mobile phones pose a threat to our health and social environment. Behavioural scientists and researchers have pointed out that a high usage of mobile phones leads to loss of concentration on immediate tasks at hand. According to a research conducted by Gaby Badre, M.D, of Sahlgren Academy in Gothenburg, Sweden, on effects of mobile phone usage on sleep patterns. Teenagers that use excessive mobile phones experience chronic restlessness, difficulty falling asleep at night with disrupted sleep and they also experience fatigue and stress (Heath). According to a 2007 American Academy of Otolaryngology study, people using their mobile phones for more than an hour per day are at an increased risk for hearing loss. (“ehow.com,” 2012)
Mobile phones pose greater negative effects on teenagers and pre-teenagers. Frequent use of mobile phones and chatting applications affect sleep patterns, mentioned before, but even behavioural instincts and patterns. The use of mobile phones for texting and chatting has been found to have an impact on student’s writing and grammar. The use of abbreviations, utilised in chatting, has been frequently used in essays and English writing in schools. Edutopia.org conducted a poll and found that 50% teachers feel texting is harming students’ writing and grammar (Blake, 2011).
Introduction of the internet and e-mail opened new doors for communication to our society. We can now talk, chat, video chat and socialize via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, educational forums etc. Things that once were thought to be of magic or folklore are now achieved through advancement in communication technology. But even these advances present a variety of negative impacts on society. Websites such as Facebook and Twitter are used by millions of youngsters, young adults to socialise. Teenagers waste time on these websites which is reflected in their poor grades, incompletion of schoolwork and most of all, procrastination. As easy it is to find information on the internet, is it very easy to go wrong in the internet too. Teenagers are susceptible to spam and junk mails and even pornographic material. As internet is a free tool, there is no training given to anyone on the correct procedure of using the internet and quite frankly, teenagers today are stumbling upon pop-ups and restricted material on the internet quite frequently.
While online networking promotes socialising, it also promotes online stalking and bullying, in conjunction with smartphones. It is very easy to make an anonymous account on Facebook or Twitter and change your identity to talk to someone. Research reveals that one in five youth ages 10 to 17 received unwanted sexual advances online (Wakefield, M. A., & Rice, C. J., 2008). Cases of murder and rape have been reported relating to murderers and pedophiles using different identities to communicate with unknown people and then arranging to meet in person where they inflict harm on them. Also, smartphones can encourage bullying. Students who encourage and enjoy bullying want to show what they have done to students. As smartphones come equipped with video cameras, bullies upload these videos online, on websites such as YouTube for the whole world to see and ridicule their targeted person. Cyber Bullying is also done via the creation of false Facebook/Twitter accounts to inflict emotional damage to the targeted person and also via text messaging.
The internet and phones can be used to violate our privacy. In 2006, reporters at the tabloid, News of the World, illegally hacked into the voicemail messages of phones of people of interest to the newspaper. The court hearings for the News of the World phone hacking scandal continue to this very date. Also, hundreds of viruses are sent in spam and junk mails to people. Only a click is required in order for important data and files in our computer or mobile to be visible to the hackers.
Morality has changed with the technology. In earlier times, it was not moral to flaunt one’s private photos and private life to the public. Today, websites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and various blogging sites are functioning on the basis of sharing personal information with the world in order to be social. The factors influencing decision making have shifted from moral, etiquette, conscience to materialistic forms such as profitability and aesthetics. Technological advancement in communication is being closely followed by its negative effects. Technological advancements need to be weighed in terms of their need, their benefit to society and their negative effects to the society.
It is fair to say that technology helps in easing our lives. However, not all technological advancements are required; some may do more harm to society than good. It is not right to be a neutralist and say that technology is neither good nor bad; it depends on how we use it. While it can be agreed to some degree, it cannot be given a hundred percent approval. Invention of the telephone was a great benefit to humanity. It saved people from travelling long distances for personal visits and businesses. Today smartphones have become a part of our lives. But comparing it to the first invention of the phone in terms of its benefits and drawbacks, the smartphones have more drawbacks as mentioned before. Technology is surely changing the world for the faster and easier but it is not necessarily changing it for the better.
The fact is that with the new technology people do not communicate on the personal level with each other as often as they once used to. Technology has made communication so easy and effective and cheap that it has created a barrier in personal, face-to-face communication amongst people. People do not feel the need to go meet someone or wish someone on their success when they can just send a text or post them a message on Facebook. This ease of communication has in turn created isolation from one another.
As a result, people are becoming lazy and they do not feel the need to go outside of their home to find entertainment and activities such as team sports with friends or going out for shopping, instead, ordering stuff through the internet. As communication is getting better and better, we are becoming totally dependent and attached to the new technology. People have lost skills and confidence in themselves and they’ve started trusting technology over themselves.
Technology is a privilege but it is not a substitute for interaction with other people. One needs to be responsible for one’s own actions and not blaming technology for it.
People need to start acting more responsible. Higher values which give better moral beliefs need to be adopted. People need to start making decisions which will help the society and the environment and not the opposite. One needs to understand that not every technological advancement in communication is a beneficial one.
Development of communication through technology needs to have more moralistic reasons than profitability and fiscal reasons. Only then might the society benefit from the technology.