With the proliferation of various social networks and intrusion of technology into our living rooms and private lives one cannot stop to wonder where this new way of social interaction will lead us. There is a general consensus that the Internet technology will shape the twenty first century akin to the way the motion pictures shaped the previous century.
The end of the nineteen century, known as the ‘gay nineties’, ushered vast changes in the way humans interacted with one another; it was the age when the new technological advancements entered our homes in the form of a telephone and a telegraph making communication almost instant. Other advances such as automobiles, washing machines, refrigerators, and vacuum cleaners along with shortened work hours meant that people had more time for leisure and interpersonal relationships than ever before. Automobiles and telephones made the world smaller and more accessible. With the advent of motion pictures at the beginning of the twentieth century not only was a new and cheap form of mass entertainment invented but also an avenue for the elites and ruling classes to reshape the mass opinion, influence people’s daily life via subliminal messages in the shape of new and fashionable ‘must have’ items as seen on the silver screen sparking a consumer society.
Naturally, this new form of mass media later morphed into other forms such as television, radios, music records, and later in the century the personal computer. But with one major difference; television and radio used to be a central point for a family or friends to spend time together, while personal computer drew a person away from others into a solitary world of work related tasks or playing video games.
However, if we wanted to be in touch with our friends we either had to use the telephone or go out and meet them in person.
This all changed with the invention of Internet and its accessibly to almost everyone. What characterized the previous mode of communication was ‘delay’, a side product of the very nature of the said communication devices. The ‘delay’ had many positives; it increased our anticipation of content of the reply, it allowed the ‘second thought’ and the subsequent corrections of intended message.
The Internet is all about instant, in the now. Everything is live, real time, and always-on. The society has moved from the state of anticipating the future into the future, or better yet, we have effectively striped our lives from anticipation of the future and moved into instant ‘now’.
We no longer seem to have a need to socialize face to face, social networks seem to satiate our need to interact, our relationships and even our shopping habits have moved into the cyber space. It is no longer important what we buy over the Internet but the fact that with one click it becomes available to us. A modern teenager has more information and more possibilities at his fingertips than Bill Clinton had during his presidency. Our lives are stripped of any privacy for our Facebook or Twitter status reveal a lot more about us then they conceal. Andy Warhol must be laughing at us from above; his prediction of fifteen minutes of fame entered our lives like a tornado, forever erasing our formerly private lives.
This new direction in the technological intrusion into our lives will necessarily lead to total alteration of our perception of human relationships, our interactions, and subsequently it will alter our economy. How it will play out is difficult to predict with even remote accuracy, for the society which lives and behaves around the ‘now’ no longer has a concept of the future or even a desire to comprehend it.