It is evident that technology has changed the manner in which people interact and relate with each other has changed over the years. Nowadays people have overcome the boundaries created by race, culture and political inclinations among other factors to socialize without limitations. Although some might argue that changes in socialization have been primarily instigated by time bringing about inevitable change, my opinion is that technology has been the single most contributing factor to socialization and will continue to have the biggest impact. Gender, social class, and race have existed since the beginning of civilization, and their influence on socialization have been relatively constant. However, technology, particularly the recent explosion in technological innovations concerning communication and transport, has been a new factor in the equation of socialization influences. Nevertheless, the impact of technology on socialization has been both negative and positive. Throughout this essay, I will elucidate on the current impact of technology and continue to give compelling arguments as to why I believe that in the future, technology will be the biggest influencer of how we socialize with others.
Arguably one of the major defining factors that differentiate human society from animals is communication. Although animals communicate, their communication is primitive and rudimentary when compared to humans. Consequently, society and socialization largely depend on communication skills to be functionally sound. In this regard, technology has affected the core of socialization which is communication. Over the last three decades, advancements in communication technology in the form of the internet and mobile devices has not only encouraged interaction but also eliminated boundaries, geographical or otherwise, that limited such interaction. Through the Internet, people can communicate with the touch of a button regardless of their location in the world. Communication through text that took weeks or months from sender to receiver is now instantaneous through instant messaging apps and emails. Social media sites have also exponentially increased the audience which we can socialize with statistics indicating that 60% of people with an online presence are likely to meet a new person every week albeit virtually (Jackson and Rogers, 2007). Moreover, social networking sites (SNS’s) have continued to blur the line between social and professional interaction. Unlike yesteryears when professional courtesy was observed during interactions of a professional nature, SNS’s have made it such that businesses and corporate circles are scrambling to be less formal in their interactions with consumers on social media to attract favorable evaluation and support. In so doing, technology has overturned the norms of socialization (Taylor and Kent, 2010). Moreover, people can now socialize anonymously resulting in more truthful and straightforward interaction. This has, in turn, led to increased participation in discussing matters touching on public interest. People are no longer afraid to air their views on public forums albeit anonymously.
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Apart from enhancing communication, technology has also advanced the transport sector such that geographical limitations no longer affect our ability to communicate face-to-face. In so doing, socialization has also significantly shifted from virtual and voice-only interaction to physical interactions. Today, strangers on different continents can meet through Facebook or other social sites and agree to meet on the same day. This is far from the reality a few decades ago when the probability of meeting someone new from another continent was virtually nil unless by coincidence. By eliminating the distance barrier to socialization, technology has encouraged people from diverse backgrounds to interact physically leading to cultural diversity.
However, technology has also affected socialization negatively. The virtual world enabled by the Internet and social media also has limited human contact and consequently socialization. Although there exist many platforms on the internet where people can socialize, research has it that people only spend less than half their time on the internet socializing. Most of the time people are either browsing through content that piques their interests or engaging in arguably harmful or illegal activities such as watching pornography, playing video games, or downloading content. In so doing, technology becomes the barrier to effective socializing by isolating and confining such people to their computers or smart devices. Even when such people visit SNS’s, they browse through their timelines without engaging people in conversation. Moreover, with companies developing video games that are technically smart enough to rival any human player, gamers are increasing becoming more susceptible to the negative effects of technology on socialization. Such people isolated from the real world and lacking human contact are more likely to develop psychological disorders including low self-esteem.
The applications of technology go beyond the communication and entertainment sector. As such, the manner in which technology can disrupt or contribute to effective socialization is virtually infinite. Furthermore, with new technological innovations being unveiled on a daily basis, the impact of technology on socialization continues to grow at a similar rate. For instance, the growing trend of people to work from home coupled with the inevitable and looming invention of artificial intelligence creates uncertainty on how the society will develop, structure itself and function as a unit in the future. In light of these scenarios, it is evident that technology has and will continue to impact socialization the most as compared to other factors such as race, gender, age, or social class.
Jackson, M. O., & Rogers, B. W. (2007). Meeting strangers and friends of friends: How random are social networks? The American economic review , 97 (3), 890-915.
Taylor, M., & Kent, M. L. (2010). Anticipatory socialization in the use of social media in public relations: A content analysis of PRSA's Public Relations Tactics. Public Relations Review , 36 (3), 207-214.