We all have our internet presence: our identity that defines our behaviour online. But can the communities we form with other web users ever be negative or even dangerous?
The internet is becoming the town square for the village of tomorrow.
We’ve seen from previous posts that there is no doubt that the internet is a social place: the access to social media sites allows us to connect with other individuals and communities all around the globe: great for keeping up with childhood friends or family and connecting with like-minded people. But have you ever met someone who is completely different to their online presence?
Remember: what you see of people online is what they want you to see. Of course you only want to be seen at your best with perfect hair and always out with friends. Who is going to want to know that you spend all of Saturday night actually lying in front of the television in your trackies? You would much rather people think you were out being exciting and busy.
It can be argued that this contactless communication platform can cause a ‘desocialization of society’.
Instead of meeting up with a friend to talk over a coffee or go for an afternoon walk, you remain indoors, on your screen, speaking through the medium that is facebook chat: your conversation littered with smileys and gifs to show your emotion. Research suggests that meeting up in person allows more empathy to be passed on between individuals. Face to face interactions are suggested to give the participants a more accurate understanding of what point the speaker is trying to get across (Snow 2015). So maybe meeting up at the cafe after all isn’t such a bad idea when you want to have a proper conversation?
The internet also creates the opportunity to meet and communicate with like-minded people. But is this always a good thing? As humans, we hold a fundamental desire to conform. Our eagerness to fit in and be accepted as part of the crowd starts from the astonishingly young age of 2! Click here to find out more
Look at it this way: you may not like the latest craze in see-through t-shirts, but on social media, you can see all of your friends are raving about them. Do you risk looking like the odd one out and sticking to your guns? Or do you ignore your own opinion and give in to the peer pressure so you too can be ‘a la mode’?
Check out this funny video showing conformity at its finest:
Ok: so in this case, it can be funny but there is no denying that this desire to conform and fit in can be dangerous too. It is the isolation of like-minded groups that can create perceived normalisation of extremist attitudes (radicalisation).
So: the ultimate message from this blog post? Go out and do your own thing! Try out the newest cafes. Listen to your friends’ embarrassing laughs. Be the sitter-downer when everyone else is standing up!
Next week, we will look at the dangers of storing or entering your data online… you never know who may be able to get hold of it! Until then, surf safe savvy readers!