For a few decades now, the internet has been an important gear in the ticking clock we like to call everyday life. Its significance and usage is ever growing, as well as the number of areas in which it has crept in. The phenomenon that is the internet brought power at the click of a mouse, but as it goes with power, consequences are inevitable.
The internet is, undoubtedly, the largest source of information today. It is also a practical tool for managing bank accounts, staying in touch with friends and communicating with people all over the world, with technology that enables you to simultaneously talk while looking at the person on screen and even hold video conferences. But practicality and availability of information are not the only things that attract internet users. In online social communities, forums and game rooms people are given the opportunity to be whoever they want to be. The internet gives us virtual clay which we can use to mold our identities in any way we want. Especially in game rooms, people tend to fantasize and invent characters in order to compensate for the lack of their own. That is how a regular John Doe can go to his boring work every morning, but come back home, turn his computer on and become Zyborg, the hero from outer space.
The cyber space can be used as a resort when real life is difficult to deal with. For example, people with low self-esteem or people who lack social skills will probably find online chatting much easier than talking to the person face to face. Such use of internet can make one’s life more interesting or less stressful, but too much time and dedication to it can lead to serious social and psychological consequences. If a person spends too much time on the computer, with its virtual character and virtual friends, he develops a virtual life which he may prefer more than the real one. Consequently, even though he might feel satisfied and safe, he does more damage than good by neglecting some important parts of his regular life such as time with his family, health, responsibilities and productivity. Lately, a diagnosis called Internet addiction disorder has been introduced for people who are thought to spend too much time on the internet. This issue is facing its beginning and it is still disputed whether it is a real disorder.
But according to Dr. Maressa Orzack between 5% and 10% of internet users suffer some form of internet dependency and she lists withdrawal, loss of control, and compulsive behavior as some of the effects. Online dating sites, which people visit in order to find a partner for romantic or sexual relationship, have made courtship easier, but, paradoxically, there have been many cases in which the internet was the prime cause of ending a relationship, marriage or even filing lawsuits.
With internet becoming more and more integrated into our lifestyles it is only normal that the effects, both positive and negative, be visible in all aspects of our lives, including socializing. It is nice to be able to see your sister who lives miles away smile for you on screen as if she were in the room with you, or exchange e-mails with a person who you normally wouldn’t have the courage to come up to, but it would be a scary thing if cafes would become empty and internet networks overloaded with Zyborgs.