Over the past twenty years, the internet has evolved from a foreign and highly technological concept to a staple part of our everyday lives. Before the popularization of social networking sites, blogging, and other forms of virtual communication, interpersonal interactions held a whole different meaning.
Life without the virtual world literally at our fingertips is a thing of the past, and it is almost a necessity in our society. The flux of information available to us about anything and anyone has permanently changed our social norms and expectations.
Before the internet was used as a primary means of communication, people had to go out in the real world and speak with each other on a daily basis. The only forms of regular communication aside from these interactions were over the phone or in writing. Because of this, people were forced to continue developing their interpersonal skills throughout their lives, even though some conversations could be uncomfortable or unpleasant. Now, people in this day and age can hide behind their technological walls, avoiding socially uncomfortable situations. However, in doing this we unintentionally rob ourselves of the opportunity to adapt to social situations.
The use of sites like Facebook and Twitter has led to an entirely separate cyberworld full of virtual projections of ourselves and others, which are not always accurate representations. Because others cannot receive any information you don’t choose to share, we have the ability to create entirely new identities.
Virtual forms of communication are so ingrained in our daily lives and interactions that it can be difficult or even impossible to differentiate between how you perceive someone based on their virtual presence versus their true and physical self.
Electronic forms of instant communication like Facebook chat and texting have created a new breed of conversation. In person, you talk in an entirely different manner than you would online, and we understand more from non-verbal cues like facial expressions and posture than from what someone is saying to us.
Text-based exchanges eliminate many of these necessary elements of a conversation; indicators like tone and voice inflection are no longer present. This disconnect distorts human interaction and makes it possible to receive entirely different information than what was meant to be communicated without even knowing it.
While the technology we have allows us to communicate with an almost automatic ease, true and enriching conversations are often much more difficult to have and can be intimidating. This has fostered a decline in social functionality and impairs our ability to build relationships with each other.
Virtual communication has a simulated feel, and if we rely too heavily on it we run the risk of losing the ability to really relate to one another. Face-to-face conversations make a much more authentic social world.