Bambang Ramdhan
Feb 26, 2015 · 10 min read

Actual communication has been declining these years. Technology is the one to blame.

We've been witnessing, for some people, determining, an enormous growth of technology. In order to make everything better, technology has entered so many aspects of human’s life. We can’t deny that technology has affected human race in a number of ways. For some reasons, technology opens patches for us to walk on easier paths in life. That’s why we should thank to people who were there in the very first place.

Yet, technology also has negative impacts.

Due to the increase of technology devices, how we exchange information has been slightly different. How we communicate to each other is no longer similar. Positively and negatively. It is irresistible that technology of information and communication has also been changed.

Technology includes all tools, machines, utensils, weapons, instruments, housing, clothing, communicating and transporting devices and the skills by which we produce and use them. — Read Bain, 1937, Sociologist.

Based on what Bain said, technology involves all the smallest to the greatest things around us. Positively, life has been much easier, hasn’t it? A lover doesn't have to fly by an expensive airplane just to reach his lovely dear who’s studying in New York. A mother doesn't have to wait months just to receive a single line post-card from his working-abroad son. Everything is much simpler. We are spoiled. But, are we fooled?

Well, everything is also much scarier.

Many families no longer sit together during dinner. Some friends no longer see each other face-to-face. Technology has indeed affected actual communication.

How technology changed the face of Information and Communication

It is crystal clear the development of technology also impacts the field of information and communication. In results, the change of communication behavior has made some harmful effects.

One of the common communication technologies is handphone which already evolved into something smarter called smartphone. The device allows us to connect to the world instantly. To see the world in one second through the World Wide Web. There’s no boundaries here. Unless you’re in some countries where Internet is banned, there’s a huge boundary of course. Or you’re out of the civilization where the smartest thing around you is a jumping monkey so you don’t really give a s**t over the Internet.

Back to where it began, handphone is an actual evidence that technology has also evolved into something more handy and cheap. People use it everywhere. Almost around the globe. But it doesn't mean it has no expenses. Especially in my country, Indonesia, mobile devices grow like trees in rain forests.

It was introduced in Indonesia in 2004 by Wimar Witular who brought along with him a black device called BlackBerry. Ha-ha, BlackBerry? Don’t underestimate BlackBerry. Even though it is not as strong as it was, BlackBerry was one of a kind. Wasn’t it? It killed the life of Nokia (Symbian). Perhaps, BlackBerry is now facing its karma. Slowly but sure, it’s being killed by Android and iOS.

According to Forbes, Indonesia is one huge market for gadgets. IDC research stated that Indonesia first quarter smartphone shipment last year reached 4.5 million units. In the third quarter, the shipments surged to 7 million. That’s an increase of 55%. The same thing happened to tablets where during the same period, its shipments has doubled from 747,000 in the first quarter to 1.76 million in the third quarter.

“These are cheaper smartphones that are not necessarily top-of-the-class, but good enough for consumers making a switch from feature phones to smartphones. A good example is Advan, a local vendor which was barely presented two years ago, and had 12% share in the smartphone market in the third quarter.” Forbes stated.

It is indisputable that mobile devices give its user a bunch of positive functions. I remember the day we used to communicate difficulty by letters. It was more personal of course, but the day i had to wait for weeks just to get a reply really bored me. By a smartphone, I can reach my long time friends just in seconds. Of course I have to pay for some price first to use it. Hence I become more consumptive. Another effect, isn't it?

In major field, aside its positive effect on economic sectors, the penetration of smartphones could be much worse. Here are some of them.

The Blind Side of Social Media

From the slide we clearly see that Face to Face Communication has been changed. It only took 4 years long to decrease the usage of actual communication. Source: ligo.co.uk

Since it’s now possible for us to browse Web through smartphones, mobile devices also opened patches to social media networking.

Social media’s effect on our ability to interact and communicate is visible throughout all areas of society, so what does this mean for interpersonal communication?

According to Paul Booth, PhD, an assistant professor of media and cinema studies in the College of Communication at DePaul University in Chicago, social media certainly affects how we engage with one another across all venues and ages.

There has been a shift in the way we communicate; rather than face-to-face interaction, we’re tending to prefer mediated communication. We’d rather e-mail than meet; we’d rather text than talk on the phone.

In the other side, social media helps its users to expand their social networking in simpler ways. We don’t have to walk miles away to meet our dear long friend. There’s beneficial use of social media that covers us from such things. Let’t don’t forget its buddy. We also get instant messaging where communication through phone lines mostly cut off. Unless you have a very insecure lover who need to be called just to make sure you’re not cheating, who needs a phone call when you’re able to text people every minutes on a cheaper price?

From the fact, people tend to leave phone lines for text messaging. We don’t talk anymore. They said, who need to talk if you can text? Source: ligo.co.uk

How is the effect on actual communication? It is clearly visible. Glance your eyes at a restaurant. We commonly see people texting or instagraming their food instead of talking to each other in the very first place. Talking has been some people’s last priority.

We tend preferring this easy way to communicate with people rather to talk directly. But, it doesn't mean using a handphone or a smartphone to use our lovely social media is deniable. It just simply affects us.

The effect is visible throughout all areas of society.

According to Booth, whom we discussed earlier, studies have shown that people actually are becoming more social and more interactive with others, but the style of that communication has changed so that we’re not meeting face-to-face as often as we used to. He said, our interactions on social media tend to be weak ties — that is, we don’t feel as personally connected to the people at the other end of our communication as we do when we’re face-to-face.

What does it mean?

Communication through social media is manipulative. As we all know, gestures and facial expression in Communication Studies is two of the most important parts of interpersonal communication. Social media doesn't (?) have them. I call it manipulative because when we’re talking to people using social media or instant messaging, we are welcomed to include facial expressions and gestures disguised in so-called emoticons. Robotic emoticons. The question is, do they really represent your feelings at the mean time? Are they able to replace the real expressions and the gestures?

The answer is definitely NO.

For some people, it’s better to meet each other by face to face than screen to screen. Source: ligo.co.uk

Thank God, there’s a study stated 7 out of 10 people tend to go on a face to face contact when asking out a potential date. A date is still important I see. Of course it doesn't determine whether they did it because face to face communication is better or they did’t want to wrongly pick a date. You know, many times pictures cheat. But the thing is, some things are still kept old fashioned. In some way, that’s good.

No matter how cute or lovely emoticons are, they cannot replace our feelings.

Why it’s easier to kill people through social media

Now, let’s talk about bullying. Since it has been easier for us to reach our distance friends through social media, hence it’s also easier, for some people, to meet their enemies. For some bad people, it’s simpler to mock and to bully.

Bullying is everywhere. We cannot avoid this fact. We've seen bullying at schools, offices, playgrounds or even at homes. But through social media, bullying is space-less. It knows no fences. The effect is far-reaching. When someone is being bullied at school, he or she can withdraw him/herself out from the environment. I know the effect is temporary. But at least there’s a little thing to do and the bullying stops right there.

A different case we found in social media. Due to its far-reaching effect, people can still be bullied even after they reach home. You may say we can totally shut our social media down, but remember it’s still there. Moreover, it’s documented. People still can see it even after a year or two has passed by. That’s the power of Internet.

Wikipedia defines cyberbullying as, “The use of information technology to repeatedly harm or harass other people in a deliberate manner. According to U.S. Legal Definitions, Cyber-bullying could be limited to posting rumors or gossips about a person in the internet bringing about hatred in other’s minds; or it may go to the extent of personally identifying victims and publishing materials severely defaming and humiliating them.”

Nicholas David Bowman, PhD, an assistant professor of communication studies at West Virginia University stated that cyber-bullying is marked by its persistence. The bullying messages don’t stay in a particular space, such as a playground, but can follow the child home. If we consider that bullying’s effects on an individual can build over time, then there is a real concern that increasing contact between bullies and their targets in persistent and digital interactions might exacerbate the problem.

From the explanation above, cyber-bullying is worse because digital age brings a “perfect” situation for bullies. For the targets, it is hardly to find a room to breath.

Cyber bullying stories: The Megan Meier Case (1992–2006)

The worst result of cyber-bullying is death. In the past decade in America, there have been multiple cyber-bullying cases that ended with the victims taking their own lives. To bold-line the misused of social media, Internet, let’s take a look into a very sad example.

In December 2007, Tina Meier founded the nonprofit Megan Meier Foundation. The non-profit was named in honor of Tina’s 13-year-old daughter who hanged herself in a bedroom closet in October 2006. Megan struggled with attention deficit disorder and depression in addition to issues with her weight. About five weeks before her death, a 16-year-old boy named Josh Evans asked Megan to be friends on the social networking website MySpace. The two began communicating online regularly, although they never met in person or spoke on the phone.

In mid-October, Josh began saying he didn't want to be friends anymore, and the messages became more cruel on October 16, 2006, when Josh concluded by telling Megan, “The world would be a better place without you.” The cyber-bullying escalated when additional classmates and friends on MySpace began writing disturbing messages and bulletins. Tina said on the Foundation website that it was about 20 minutes after Megan went to her room after leaving the computer that the mother found her daughter had hanged herself in her bedroom closet. Megan died the following day, three weeks before what would have been her 14th birthday.

Aftermath: According to the Associated Press, it was later that fall when a neighbor informed Megan’s parents that Josh was not a real person. Instead, the account was created by another neighbor, Lori Drew, her 18-year-old temporary employee Ashley Grills, and Drew’s teenage daughter, who used to be friends with Megan. One year later, the case began receiving national attention. While the county prosecutor declined to file any criminal charges in the case, federal prosecuted charged her with one count of conspiracy and three violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for accessing protected computers without authorization. A federal grand jury indicted Drew on all four counts in 2008, but U.S. District Judge George Wu acquitted Drew in August 2009 and vacated the conviction.

We may conclude that Internet is one of the new cause of unwanted death of so some people (victims) around the world. Yet, we cannot blame the Internet as a single source though because there’s a user who sit behind the wheel. The sad side, it’s difficult to drag the suspects because in the eye of law, everywhere in the world, Internet is still young and the line between what’s criminal and what’s not is still blurry.

The (b)right side of everything

Behind all of its useless, fatal and sad results, Internet which is intertwined with technology, especially information and communication technology, marked the new era of human civilization. No one can deny that. Beside its harmful effects, Internet gives us so many opportunity in a positive result. We can make any benefits from it since the beneficial side of the technology is toughly strong.

Despite what all the articles tell you about the technology when it comes to love, it does help some people approving their mutual attraction relationship.

We use the device as a tool to overcome unwanted situations. And effectively, it affects others around us.

But no matter how important technology is, there’s some aspects in life that cannot be replaced. That Internet cannot facilitate.

There’s two sides effect. So, before we jump into the water, we better learn and understand how deep it is.

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