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Archive for April, 2012

Networked Public

Personally I am pretty sure I am a digital native. I have always been around computers, although the computers I was raised with were far less technologically advanced than the ones we use today. Naturally, I was not a child of the internet but thanks to my computer technician father I was introduced to the internet at its birth. Because of this experience I feel I have an advantage over natives who still may see the internet as a fad or a new thing. Personally I no longer look at Facebook as a must have, the same with all sort of social media. I really see it as a hindrance.

My opinion of Facebook is poor; I would never give a total stranger who called to my door the personal information required to join Facebook, nor would I give an American guy whom I have never met the same information. I cannot understand how almost 1 billion people have done this.

Because of this hesitation to share personal information on line I feel my social ‘klout’ is tiny. My electronic footprint is tiny. My sole use of the internet and social media extend to educational and professional development and advancement.

Today’s generation have never known a time when they did not have access to the internet. I believe that living in the networked public will have vastly negative influences on society.

With the popularity and ease of texting and instant messaging, the art of handwriting will become obsolete. Because of convenience and environmental issues the printed word will cease to exist, with all information being made available only in digital form. This has the opportunity to create a form of social oppression through the control of information.If the wealthy and powerful control information, we will see a vast power shift as the masses will no longer be able to confirm truth; the digital word can be altered in seconds to create a lie.This subject has been touched on by Orwell and Clancy in their works.

“The control of information is something the elite always does, particularly in a despotic form of government. Information, knowledge, is power. If you can control information, you can control people.”
Tom Clancy

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past” Orwell

I believe the anonymity of the internet can increase social deviance. The internet gives users the power to conduct themselves in a manner they may not subscribe to in normal social circumstances. Because of this illusion of anonymity internet users are more likely to exhibit deviant behaviour than they would in a face to face setting. Through the perception of a safe and anonymous environment we have witnessed a rise in cyber bullies, on line sexual predators and aggressive behaviour .

The moral panics from the networked public are numerous, ranging from extreme violence and hard core porn to hate mail and biased views on sexuality. I would like to focus on the the issue of pornographic material. David Cameron has issued a change of internet terms. He has contacted the top 4 UK IP providers and enforced an opt in format for all pornographic material viewed in the UK. This to me is a very strong, positive step in the regulation of adult material and limits the danger and exposure of under age internet users to pornography.

Online Dating

With the prominence of the internet on today’s society people have based their entire life online. We use it to work, we use it to play, so naturally the progression is to search for love on line.

Today’s career focused society leaves individuals little time for social interactions. This reduces the ease of which people can find a suitable match for dating. the downturn of the economic climate also promotes on line dating.

Many people have changed the way they view on line dating, thanks to the incorporation of the internet in out daily lives. Internet speed have grown, as has peoples access to personal computers and thanks to these progressions the negative stigma of online relationships had dwindled.

It is evident , because of the remove of negative stigma from internet dating there has been a vast surge on internet dating participants – growing from 20million users in 2007 to 40 million users in 2012.

While the social stigma has changed it is argued that the internet provides many tools to promoting on line dating to the mainstream. These tools are :

  • Accessibility – the internet can be accessed from almost anywhere via computers, tablets and phones.
  • Affordability – internet access pricing have greatly reduced as its popularity has grown.
  • Anonymity  – the internet is faceless and offers privacy.
With these elements that make the internet easier to use, I feel it is important to identify both the positive and negatives aspects of using internet dating services.
Positives:
  •  Affordable
  •  An easy alternative to bars and club
  •  People are busy
  •  Risk-free flirtation
  •  Like minded individuals
  •  Not just dating sites, social networking
  • First date jitters can be removed
  • Interest can be shown without face to face rejection
Negatives
  • Increased potential for deception
  • Sticking to a check list may cause a user to miss a good match
  • It is difficult to fully get to know someone over a computer
  • Focusing on online dating may may cause people to miss a match in the real world.
  • Judgement of that “spark” is impossible over the internet.

Although on line dating has become more acceptable in modern times there is still a social stigma attached. The stigmas of online dating are:

  • Desperation
  • Lack interpersonal skills
  • Nerds
  • Perverts

Although previously mentioned as a positive element in online dating, anonymity can also be a deterrent for online daters. Users can doctor profile information and photos posing as someone they are not. People can also lie about height, weight, age and how recent their photograph is.

Communities

The traditional concept of community is based on geographical proximity of community members. Looking back at old Ireland, it is obvious that communities were formed around skill sets, services and goods.

For example, communities developed around people with various skills e.g. tinkers, weavers, farmers, blacksmiths. This was an example of communities formed out of necessity rather than personal opinions or believes. This proves that been part of a community does not require strong social ties, but rather a mutual goal or understanding . This is an example of a mutual assistance and sharing a common purpose rather than a moral commitment. Though these communities may not have been founded on common social beliefs, multifaceted social relationships often develop when people live in the same locality and interact involuntarily with each other over time (Anderson)

Though primitive societies formed out of necessity and mutualism, as society and industry advanced people were granted the freedom to form communities based on common norms, values and belief systems.

Being a member of a community, however, does not always require the presence of strong social ties.

With the development of the Global Village (McLuhan) people have been provided alternatives to interacting solely with their offline community. Instead, individuals now have the option of connecting to virtual communities instead of only subscribing to traditional ones.

Rather then relying of proximity, the internet provides the opportunity for groups of like minded  individuals from all geographical locations to develop virtual communities. These on line groups are generally composed of people who share a “moral commitment to a common purpose” (Anderson)

By joining an on-line community, people can find support that may not be available to them in an off line setting. Benifits of online society membership include:

  • Instantaneous companionship
  • Emotional support
  • Feeling of membership and belonging
  • Development of personal identity
  • Creative, non judgemental environment
  • Anonymity

There are many potential drawbacks to online community membership. These may include:

  • Poor social skill development
  • Judgement from members of the offline community
  • Removed from the “normal” life routine
  • Isolated, unsocial loners
  • Moral Panics

Moral panics have caused stigmas to arise, with online community members being labelled as weirdos or perverts with little to no social skills. Moral panics, coupled with the opinion from some offline community members that online communities are not real communities, it is inevitable that individualswill find solace in such fake communities.

At this moment, communities do not play an integral  role in my life. I feel the only offline community in which I interact revolves around college. On a daily basis I will interact with fellow students and classmates; because of the nature of my college assignments some of this interaction may be online via Facebook or Twitter.

On reflection, I believe teenagers have been pushed off the streets and forced to form communities on line. There is a negative social stigma for teens who ‘hang around’ on street corners or at “the wall”, many of whom may be labelled as “yobs” and “hoodies”. The anti-social behaviour of these teens has given birth to the ASBO society.

By congregating on line, teenagers can choose the communities they wish to join. This can have both positive and negative outcomes. In addition of the previously mentioned benefits of online community membership, teenagers are also likely to experience some negativity from the online world. These negative experiences can include:

  • Over saturation to unrepentant violence
  • Instant access to hardcore porn
  • Poor development of critical thinking skills
  • Biased or inaccurate information

In review of both online and offline communities, I have observed both benefits and challenges facing community members. In relation to teenagers, I feel the internet and on line communities can play a very important role in their progression to adulthood.

I feel it can be a non judgemental tool to acquire opinions and believes, shared among members of their community. They can grow up and develop without judgement on issues like sexuality, believes, understandings and opinions.

But, I feel with the uncensored nature of the internet,  teens and adults can access biased and often inaccurate information which, if not recognised, can lead to misconceptions and uneducated opinions.