Technology has evolved drastically over a short amount of years and has gone from an educational tool to that of a way of life. Services that were previously developed to aid professors and students communicate and learn have become regular in the lives of the majority of society. In this “reality television culture” of today, it seems that individuals find more entertainment from another individual’s life than ever before and social networking websites such as online communities offer their users with the ability to become involved or even consumed by the lives of others around them.
Social networking sites have already proven that they offer many positive aspects in the world of education and communication, but I strongly believe that society has become obsessed with this new virtual world that offers little to no limits. Even positive things become negative when used in excess, and just like any drug, online communities are abused and many individuals are consumed by the world that these sites offer. Online communities offer many positive aspects including convenient communication, an unlimited amount of entertainment and also practical avenues for the world of advertisement.
Members of online communities are able to communicate with friends and family much more easily, while maintaining a sense of involvement without actually making any physical contact. Today’s society is a busy one and with the ability to communicate so readily accessible, the average individual is able to maintain personal and also business relationships much more easily. From an entertainment aspect, online communities offer limitless possibilities.
Today’s internet provides every source of entertainment imaginable, including music, movies, videos and games, at the click of a mouse. Online communities are specially geared towards the catering of its users’ entertainment, allowing an individual to “link” websites of all kinds, display videos and upload music, all of which can be “shared” either publicly or to specific individuals on the user’s “friend’s list”. Online communities seem to be spreading like wildfire and the amount of individuals utilizing the online community world grows daily.
The popularity of these sites opens an extremely practical avenue for advertisement and companies are taking advantage of the opportunity to reach millions of users all at once and seemingly much more efficiently than through any other means of advertisement previously used. There is no doubt that the internet creates many opportunities for communication that improve the average individual’s life, and mass advertisement allows for better chances for improved sales which in turn helps the economy.
Despite the positive aspects that online communities offer, many negative aspects seem to be rising closer to the surface including terms like “cyber bullying” and “cyber stalking”, and also the newest issue: internet addiction. The term “cyber bully” is reserved for those who use their online abilities to harass and belittle other users. Cyber bullies make threats, cause arguments, start gossip, create rumors and otherwise mentally torture their targets, the majority of which are all broadcasted publicly.
Public, online confrontations allow and almost invite uninvolved individuals to read and sometimes become part of the harassment. Online bullying in some aspects can be much more devastating to the victim than normal bullying because it can feel as if “the world is against them”. Cyber stalking is the common term used to define an individual who uses online communities to spy on another individual, usually out of jealousy, sexual desire, revenge or the desire of power and control.
Cyber stalkers become obsessed with learning their target’s activities, interests, job information, address and even phone number, all of which can be readily available with the click of a mouse. Although most cyber stalkers remain “cyber”, some take their obsession to new levels and use the information that they have gathered to manipulate the real world and achieve sinister goals. Internet addiction is also a very real problem that is errupting onto the social scene. According to Michael Fenichel, Ph. D. Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) is a very real issue that seems to be becoming much more prevalent in society. Fenichel argues that it seems that those individuals that are the least socially interactive in the “real world” are among the most socially active on Facebook which seems to indicate that those who cannot handle normal life are becoming consumed with the virtual world. He also argues that Facebook, which was at first only accessed with a computer, has now become integrated into “the real world” even more with new smartphone applications that enable users to bring Facebook wherever they go.
According to Fenichel’s article, many individuals cannot go more than an hour or two without checking their mail or their status updates, and asks the simple question, “When is constant behavior an addiction? ” (Fenichel) Although there is much being done to suppress these negative aspects of online communities, technology is advancing quicker than ever and online communities and their users becoming increasingly difficult to control. These issues are very serious and need to be fixed, and in the meantime I am left to wonder if social networking sites are starting to create more negative aspects than positive.
Social networking, specifically online communities, offers the ability to maintain communication with others all over the world and help build and maintain personal and business relationships. Although online communities create many positive impacts on society such as increased personal entertainment, convenience, mass advertisement and even economic growth, it seems that the negative aspects are starting to outweigh the good. Cyber bullies and stalkers create stress, fear, and paranoia; online community users are becoming wrapped up in this virtual turmoil.
Online addiction such as Facebook Addiction Disorder (FAD) is becoming a real issue that is affecting many individuals, enough so that they have now begun studying this issue and labeled it an actual disorder! Nothing is entirely bad when used in moderation, but everything can be detrimental when used in excess. Society is becoming entirely too wrapped up in the virtual world of online communities and I feel that this issue needs to be addressed immediately before this situation becomes entirely out of control and perhaps cannot be fixed.