Internet and iPods: Don’t Blame the Messenger

January 12, 2010
By , Houston, TX
Every American uses modern technology and electronics on a daily basis to send and receive messages, listen to music, connect to the web, and gaming with friends. Those who fail to acknowledge the new and changing ways of communication tend to be critical of changes in technology. Criticizing communication technology as an “evil” of society is a major mistake. Modern technological advances, particularly the internet and iPods, have had a positive impact upon the social abilities of today’s youth.

In one article, internet and iPods are said to interfere with the teachings of civilized behavior. According to previous definitions of civilized behavior, structured environments teach children civilized behavior. In the article, Mr. Postman proposes that social values take years to become internalized and that “technology does not coincide and interferes with the ‘making of civilized people’” (Source A). His circular logic fails to give any evidence of support and has the makings of a hasty generalization. The future of education lies in technology. Man’s survival has been his ability to adapt to new environments and designing learning techniques based on the past makes no sense in an evolving world.

Another article asks the question on whether iPods promote anti-social behavior or do we promote it. Kryste Song argues that the iPod promotes anti-social behavior (Source E). The iPod in this case is used as a false cause of anti-social behavior. While iPods can be used anti-socially, iPods can’t create the anti-social behavior any more than windows on a building, fences in a neighborhood, or rainy weather. Anti-social individuals have always found ways to isolate themselves. The fact that they use an iPod as one or more ways of creating the isolation is only one isolated example of iPod usage.

If anything, using technology such as the iPod can help create a new social environments. “In reality, a tool like the iPod has created a new social environment on college campus.” Harris describes how “students use the iPod to make their college experience fuller.” (Source D). Young people are inventing new ways to interact using technology like iPods and are able to avoid labeling and bandwagon behaviors that in the past would have isolated individuals. In the play, Pygmalion, the author, Shaw, criticizes language as a way of separating classes. He argued that education was a way of removing those class barriers. The use of modern technology like the iPod can be compared to the Shaw’s ideas about breaking down class barriers only using technology instead of education.

Some say that the internet leads to depression and lack of friends. Mr. Alfonso argues that the “internet has a negative influence on individuals and their social skills” (Source D). He cites a Carnegie Mellon University study that links internet use with “misery and loneliness” and failure to keep up with your friends (Source D). “Less family interactions and daily stress” are also reported. Yet, the internet was reported to be a “tool for personal communications.” (Source D). It is common knowledge that today’s society is more fast-paced, high stressed, and less dependent on face to face interactions. To blame society’s ills on the internet is a slippery slope. In fact, the internet has become a tool for helping people treat depression. Information to help address our sufferings is more readily available than ever thanks to the internet. Learning to use the internet is the solution not the problem. An example is a senior citizen who has his mobility and is able to learn to use the internet to replace his ability ot physically interact with others.

Many people try to compare internet users to non-internet users. Statistical studies like that of Nie, Norman, and Hilgers support Mr. Alfonso’s arguments about the internet decreasing social interaction (Source D). However, the statistics tend to generalize the non-internet users and internet users when the individuals may also have other personality traits that might affect their social activities. Internet users might be more intellectual and less likely to pursue parties or sporting events. They may have developed more skills in focusing their attention on their careers or main interests allowing their social skills to degrade. The internet shouldn’t be blamed for the personalities it attracts. This form of selective sampling will lead to logical fallicies and make the shortcomings of technology more important than the benefits.

In fact, the internet increases quantity and quality of social behaviors. Coget, Yutaka, and Yamauchi support the idea that the internet helps to “keep in touch with friends” (Source C). In the past, an individual was limited by his physical environment when creating social circles. The internet has removed physical boundaries. A comparison would be in the physics of the universe where every star no matter the distance has some effect on another star. In the internet world, human interactions reach across distances in the same way. When the telephone was invented, it only served to increase human ability to speak across great distances. Because the internet is multi-dimensional it offers the ability to get closer to creating a better relationship without the physical barriers. In fact, Coget, Yutaka, and Yamauchi discuss how the internet transcends our physical discriminations and allows us to develop relationships on a deeper level than those based on appearance (Source C). Those who suffer from depression over their physical disabilities can overcome personal insecurities to find a world willing to accept them as they are.

Today’s youth use their iPods and the internet in ways never imagined. They serve as communication tools creating new social abilities that have evolved with a new generation. Most technological advancements have been criticized in their early stages. Yet, most arguments tend to be disproved over time. Man has adapted social skills interaction with new technology and the evolution has led to improvements in man’s social skills and relationships. Perhaps, the new generation with their improved communication technology will send the message more clear and honest. If the result is still poor, then you can’t blame the messenger.

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