The beginning of the twenty first century was a crucial period in the social life of people, because this was the moment when human communication was changed completely. In terms of globalization and unprecedented technological development, the lifestyle underwent some considerable modifications, therefore interaction between people was brought on a new level. The appearance of social networking sites was a major influence on human communication and life in general. Social networking site is a web based service with the help of which people now can keep in touch with their relatives and friends, no matter what distance is between them; they can share private photos, videos, meet strangers or even date on-line; moreover, despite the fact that many claim social net-working sites lead to isolation and alienation, researchers suggest that soon it will be possible to transmit not only visual information and sounds, but also a touch.
For the last couple of years, social networking sites have become practically indispensible attribute of a civilized life. At first, these were predominantly teenagers who were the most active users of social clubs; however, they are becoming more and more popular among adults, too. One might be wondering what made people substitute face-to-face communication to the virtual one. The answer may be in the plenty of opportunities social networking sites give to their users. Anyone who creates an account have the opportunity to make their own virtual world and be fully in control of it. With the help of social networks, it is possible to share private photos, funny pictures, videos, Internet links, music and much more. One can text friends and meet new people from all over the world. An obvious advantage is that there is no need to speak about one’s personal information, since it is written in the profile, and the interlocutor can read it any time. That is just a perfect way to find friends, for one can read the account and, if there are some common interests, start a conversation.
Social networking sites could be compared to telephone communication, but they have many more options which make them more easy to use. The first obvious advantage is that it is much cheaper. It does not matter if a person talks to a neighbor or a friend who lives abroad – it is almost free either way. Secondly, social networking sites provide their users with additional services, for instance, they can create groups. In this case, the participants of a group can share useful information, hold discussions, exchange experience, and what not. It is also worth mentioning that these are not only text messages by means of which one might communicate. Nowadays, it is also possible to make so-called video-calls, when one can not only hear, but also see a person he or she talks to. Thus, it is an almost perfect reproduction of a face-to-face conversation, except for one cannot “reach” the interlocutor. Such option makes it possible to hold conferences, give lectures and private tuition classes, so one might use social networks not only for entertainment, but for work, as well.
Generally speaking, Internet communication has become so wide-spread that many people integrated it into their daily practices. At first, it seemed to be amusing, and everyone got engaged into the new means of communication very quickly. The popularity of Internet communication might be predetermined by the fact that it is publicly accessible and extremely cheap. It gives the opportunity to always be on-line, thus be familiar with what happens around. Internet communication has also some psychological advantage over face-to-face interaction. Firstly, in terms of text messaging, one has much more time to come up with a “decent” answer to a question, than during a real communication. Secondly, with a virtual conversation, it is always possible to stop a dialogue when it takes unpredictable direction by simply going off-line. Thirdly, it enables users pretend being who they are not. So, by means of Internet communication one can forget about personal drawbacks and complexes and acquire a complete freedom in behavior and language.
These days, there exist plenty of social networks, but one of the most popular is probably an American based social networking site called “Facebook”. Founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, it became an ultimate global phenomenon, since it boasts millions of users from all over the world. To start using it, a person has to create a profile by indicating the name, sex, sphere of interests, etc. “Facebook” has a developed range of privacy settings, so the users can decide themselves what information they want to share, who they want to communicate with, etc. Unlike many other social networks, “Facebook” suggests multiple options for interaction: messages, a user’s wall, status, and even “pokes”.
No matter how popular it is, Internet communication still has many opponents who suggest that it does not make people closer, but, on the contrary, leads to alienation and isolation. Despite plenty of opportunities, people do not interact more. As Kiger says, “We seem to like, and actually fall in love with the medium more than we do of each other...what I see and hear as I travel around the world, an increase of fear to connect on a so call street level. People have become afraid of other people”. This means that spending much time with their computers people lose their communication skills, so it is becoming more difficult for them to have decent face-to-face conversations.
In spite of the plenty opportunities social networking sites already give, researchers have no intentions to stop on what has been achieved. There have been many debates as to drawbacks and advantages of internet communication. The major downside that is ascribed to social networks as compared to face-to-face communication is a lack of physical interaction which is sometimes essential for interlocutors. However, according to Kiger, Lovotics might have found a solution to this problem, for they have invented a brand new robot which provides people with a possibility to kiss while being at a distance. So, this is how the robotic kiss works:
The lips contain pressure sensors and actuators. When you kiss them [the robots], the shape changes you create are transmitted in real time over the net to a receiving Kissenger. There, the actuators reproduce the mirror image of the pressure patterns you created — magically transmitting your smacker to your partner.
Such invention provokes a number of heated discussions on whether it is useful for people or not. Anyways, it seems to be at least some solution for couples that are far away from one another.
To sum up, Internet communication is a breakthrough in human interaction. Various social networking sites, such as Facebook, give their users plenty of opportunities, like communication with people, sharing personal information, photos, videos, creating groups and even making video calls. Moreover, scientists promise that soon it will be possible to transmit not only massages, but also touches and kisses. Hopefully, this will bring human socialization on the advanced level.
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