“The 21 Century has given us a boon, a revolution in the form of electronic technology. It has augmented opportunities of networking like never before. But this interpersonal and socio cultural virtual networking has indeed created a rift between human to human real relationships. It has destroyed emotional bonding emanated by physical presence thereby destroying the spiritual connection between lives itself. “Yes we all are distracted, we face an erosion of attention and there is a Dark Age looming ahead of all of us”. Maggie is absolutely correct in her observations in Distracted that the modern man is engrossed in everything else but the true essence of life for which he was born. (Jackson 2008). Do ‘new media’ restructure social relations? Is something like “network sociality” different from older forms of social interaction? Does it displace the latter, or add to them? The answer is explicitly a ‘No’.
The new media like the internet has undoubtedly made it possible to communicate with a person from two distant corners of the world to see and talk to each other through video and voice conferencing. It has lured them to make new friends through social networks like face book, Wayne, Gene and Orkut. It has brought lonely hearts together into matrimony and has made social, cultural, educational and religious interaction miraculously true. The ubiquitous ness of the new media has converged this world into a small global village connected by newer and newer technology of communication. From wired to the wireless, the unseen bridges are connecting millions of people unknown to each other every fraction of a moment from all corners of the world. But is this really a connection? Does it have the virtue of a human touch? Does it have the ability to wipe away tears? Does it reach out to a desperate soul in time of need without giving commands? And most of all does this virtual relationship network build emotional well being or vice versa?
Supporting the argument that “media and new communication providers divide cultures and create no access” (Bucy, Eric et al 2004). It is evident that the new media does not restructure social relations but virtually divides them. It illustrates that this network sociality is contradictory to the older forms of social interaction in its true sense as this form of interaction demanded time and physical presence which is prevented and denied by virtual interaction. A sense of security is derived in the new media due to non exposure and physical absence of the singular communicator His emotions are camouflaged. He is not concerned about the reactions he invokes as he is at a safe distance from his opponent or deponent. On a personal level, such a communication encourages manipulations, conspiracies, emotional blackmail and irresponsible behaviours on the part of each person unlike the bare truth exposed in actual human interaction of the olden times. There was immense personal growth in individuals in the orthodox styles of interaction where as the new media only promotes gullibility of honesty in electronic communication through the internet. It displaces interpersonal connectivity and divides hearts and minds under the pretext of uniting them or creating a healthy social circuit between people.
Comparing concepts of individual, intercultural, cross cultural and international communication, Edelstein and Alex observe that students perceive messages quickly through the new modes of technology. Students demonstrate this facet of extensive influence of technology over their lives in all types of communication. They validate the merits of the new age interaction by blending perfectly with youths of different countries and diverse walks of life. But the abject loss of their own identity under the impact of modern networking is obvious in their personalities facing distortion crisis amidst peers.
The mass media transfers information, news, entertainment, culture, philosophies, religious doctrines and educational contents to the youngsters without constraint of age, sex, caste, colour and creed. It has neither distinction nor discretion of what to disseminate to whom and where and when. The new media plays havoc with the minds of vulnerable people isolating them from society while connecting them to the farthest with casual ease but without a purpose. This fast speed, comfortable and convenient interaction does not build or restructure relationships but breaks the delicate weave of a social fabric needed by all of us. We thrive on constant physical, mental and emotional give and take because we are naturally conditioned for such an environment.
Cross cultural interaction broadens horizons of narrow minds. It has the ability to give ulterior perspectives to individuals and society as a whole within the confines of a secluded door. But the marvels offered by actual travel around the globe facilitates the finer faculties of human beings resulting into amalgamations of other cultures, traditions, views which bond these people together instead of ostracising them by dependence and addiction to technology as of today.
The new technology distracts humans from each other. It allows them to be physically present in one place while being mentally absent from the same. It mixes different cultures without harmonising their purpose. It unites people from different races but divides them from their own families. It bridges the gap of information but disseminates unwanted contents dangerous to a particular time, place and age. It displaces roots and dissolves identities which live under the illusion that technology is helps them to reinforce their goodwill far and wide.
This has resulted into social and emotional starvation in netizens. An identity crisis in the global world. Chaos and confusion of origins and a frantic hunt for roots that have got lost in wires and wireless technologies called the new media.
In Understanding of the Past Tuchman quotes “As Charles Wright (1986) reminded, American sociology has been concerned with the topic of media since its origins at the turn of the century. In 1894 George C. Vincent and Albion Small, then head of the first sociology department in the United States (at the University of Chicago), devoted a chapter of their introductory textbook to the media as “the social nervous system” of the social “organism” (Small and Vincent, 1894). The media plays a vital role in emotional and intellectual transactions between human beings. It has the power to attract attention and exploits basic instincts of humans. But the indiscriminate social interaction through new media and high tech communication has robbed humans of ethical moral essence in social and personal relationships in this century.
Lazarsfeld’s Personal Influence elaborates upon how the media delineates a two-step flow of communication:
Media make information accessible to opinion leaders (individuals interested in a specific topic who pay particular attention to media information about that topic) and opinion leaders (whose expertise on a topic is socially affirmed) exert personal influence on friends and relatives.
Emphasizing the interaction between individuals (those who influenced and those who were influenced), Personal Influence was a social-psychological study, whose design would have enabled its financial supporter, Macfadden Publications, to demonstrate to their advertisers that each ad had a potential impact on more individuals than those who had initially attended to it. For the study found that personal influence was more important than media influence in affecting individual decisions about following fashion, buying products for the home, choosing movies to see, and deciding which candidate to vote for.
He emphasizes the process of how the new media captures the minds of individuals thereby leading to mass movements of the same product, cult, theory or art. Criticizing the effects of the media he points at those individuals who use it for personal gratification generated by social factors. “More simply, the reasons people use the media help to determine the media’s affect on people.”(Tuchman) in Lazersfelds Personal Influence.
Eisenstein indicates at the printing press to be an agent of change in society and cross cultures in medieval Europe.
“To leave significant innovations out of accounts may also skew perspectives”. “I am convinced that prolonged neglect of a shift in communication has led to setting perspectives ever more askew as time goes on (1979). Echoed by “In the nineteenth century, pioneer historians of the press laid the foundations of modern media research.” (Curran 2002).
Pointing at the penetration of the media into domestic domains and their linkage to cultures of the unseen world “the Flow of Communications into the Home will be used to describe the access and availability of new communications”. “This work will help in linking culture to societal systems” explains the widespread network of the new media. (Ball-Rokeach, Sandra J, and Cantor, Muriel G).
Discussion on role of media and its effects on social interaction “focus on different types and levels of communication helpful in defining and broadening the term. Communication in the form of movement of messages, mutual exchange of messages, and communication as social construction help in developing an argument regarding where communications technology is leading us, and whether it is for the better or not” (Eeman, Ross).
We are trying to live in a virtual world when we have the ability to live in harmony with the real one. It is costing us dearly to be wired to our mobiles, internets, ipods, television sets and high tech gadgets that have made us their slave while we glorify them to be our best assets. Humans are born with the basic sense of touch, smell, sight and taste. These are getting redundant as virtual reality does not offer them as yet. A caring hand, a tender voice, the fragrance of a rose and the taste of home made food made lovingly by a close one will never be a substitute for the best from the cyber world. Our connections through electronic mediums of modern life are degenerating our biology. The basic human virtues are at stake and we are not in power but in constant failure of our natural systems by trying to use technology against nature. We live in a utopia that we have achieved progress.
“Are we not on the edge of chaos? Pursuing the narrowing path of our today? Only to be living with burdens of guilt and result oriented stress that we ourselves have brought upon each of us?” (Jackson 153).
The new media is an illusion of social networking. Virtual interaction diffuses relationships instead of strengthening them. It does not add to interpersonal growth but disturbs the harmony that can be achieved by real human to human communication. the new age media links the whole world no doubt but in that endeavour to connect and interconnect it has created a knotted weft and weave in the social fabric of individuals as well as groups that neither belong to nor segregate from each other.
This marvel, revolutionary new media social interaction has snatched away the charm of actual public relations. The lightening speed of electronic technology has minimised distances by fast messaging but it has also magnified the gorge between genetic virtues and their imitations. It has provoked manipulations through misuse of media.
The capitalistic economy governs the social psychological and even emotional capital of society today. Media exploits masses. The electronic or new media has the potential to positive progress of individuals and society as a whole but it is still a myth to believe that
‘new media’ restructure social relations. That “network sociality” is no different from older forms of social interaction and that does it add to holistic human welfare.
Media, culture and society will always be intricately entangled. But to accept that the new media is a blessing for convenient communication is just a mirage in an urban desert.
Gurevich remarks “few areas of enquiry have expanded as rapidly as the study of the media over the last 20 years” (1982). In Theories of the Media Theories of Society “Bennet Tony outlines the relationships between the more important schools of the media theory and the broader concerns of the traditions of social theory on which they depend in a way that makes clear the connections between particular empirical concerns and their supporting theoretical foundations”(Gurevich1982). Media, culture and Society have always been symbiotic to each other but the catastrophic results of its impact are only evident in the drastically changing social scenario of the every dissolving geography of modern society and its citizens.
“A commanding insight into the historical developments of media studies with an informed appraisal of the connections between the new developments, debates and controversies typify recent works in this field” (Gurevich 1982).”New interventions reflect events outside a discipline but have effects within it” (Stuart, et al 1980).
Results of research and findings of the new media and its intricate connections with society and culture conclude “the perspective on where media studies have been, where it is now, and where it is likely to be going” (Gurevich 1982) (Eaman). But the essence of all these studies is valuable only if society, culture and media take serious note of them and take preventive measures to minimise the demerits of each upon the other in order to save society and the social animals from ultimate destruction under false claims that ‘new media’ restructure social relations, “network sociality”favors older forms of social interaction and that it adds to them.
Ball-Rokeach, Sandra J, and Cantor, Muriel G. Media Audience and Social Structure. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1986.
Bucy, Eric P., and Newhage, John E. Media Access, Social and Psychological Dimension of Technology Use. London: LEA Publishers, 2004.
Curran. Media and Power (communication and society) Routledge. London. 2002.
Eaman, Ross A. The Media Society. Vancouver: Butterworths/Divison of Reet Inc, 1987
Edelstein, Alex S. Communication & Culture: A Comparative Approach. New York: Longman, 1989.
Eisenstein, Elizabeth L. The Printing Press as an Agent of Change: Communications and Cultural Transformations in Early Modern Europe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979, 80-88; 129-36.
Gurevich, M.Culture Society and Media. Metheun and Company Ltd.1982.
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Jackson, M and Bill Mc Kibben. Distracted: Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age.N Y 14228-2119: Prometheus Books. 2008
Stuart Hall, Dorothy Hobson, Andrew Lowe and Paul Willis.
Culture, Media, Language: Working Papers in Cultural Studies, Cultural Studies Birmingham: Unwin Hyman Publishers Ltd. 1972-79.
Tuchmano, Gaye. Mass Media Institutions. 11 May 2009