With the continuous expansion of the media as an entity in both the physical ‘legacy-media’ space as well as online, the exposure of mass audiences to a variety of platforms has become something of a norm. In this sense, it could be said that the audience itself is broadening with the media. Increased accessibility through smart technologies, in combination with an increased dependence on such has seen interaction with the media beginning earlier, as well as extending further, into an individual’s life. It is this concept that has caused widespread debate within society – ‘Is the dominance of technology limiting actual communication, thus making us less social?’.
With the arrival of email and mobile phones in the 1970’s, a decline in the overall dependence on physical communication styles began. Professor Philip Zimbardo, of the Stanford Shyness Survey, believed that the introduction of such technologies had begun to loosen the “social glue” of the regular contact humans exhibited. He argued that the society was heading towards “a new ice age” of non-communication, where the ability to go an entire day without physically communicating with others would be done at ease. In his context – a time where social networks and smartphones were something of sci-fi films, he had a point.
Flash forward 40 years, social media is in full swing (Facebook opens in 2004, as does MySpace), and the foundation for smartphone innovation – the iPhone, makes its entry into the technological marketplace (2007). Communication has moved from purely a physical platform into the digital sphere. Sociologist Sherry Turkle describes the state of society as ‘alone together‘, referring to the idea that although people appear ‘alone’ in a physical sense they are in fact ‘together’ online.
Still, many argue that increased dependency on technologically based communication platforms encourages social-isolation amongst individuals. In one sense, this is true, however these platforms also provide those who struggle to communicate within a physical setting the opportunity to interact with a broader audience. On the other hand, many insist that it is not the time spent on technology that is making us less social, but rather the instances where you are taken away from the present – in one way damaging physical communication, as opposed to completely replacing it.
So maybe it isn’t the increased dependence on online communication platforms that is making us less social, but rather, our inability to remain present.
Let me know what you think; comment below.