The Internet & Its Impact on Global Communication
By Josh Fredman
People’s ability to communicate with each other is a major component of the glue that pieces societies together. The Internet -- a virtual world that connects people from all walks of life -- has had an extensive impact on communication since its proliferation and globalization. The Internet makes communication easier and faster, and makes modes of communication more diverse. Since the 1990s a whole culture has grown up around the new possibilities of keeping in touch on the Web.
The Internet marks the latest in a long series of technological developments that have helped distant acquaintances continue to be a presence in each other’s lives. With the Internet, people can stay in touch with friends and family regardless of time and location. This helps foster intimacy and togetherness in an increasingly spread-out, mobile world. On the flipside, it also creates more opportunities for strangers to meet because of common interests, and for new friendships and other relationships to develop between random acquaintances. With the Internet ordinary people have more power to grow their networks of contacts and thereby expand their reach.
Geography has always constrained people’s social boundaries. It’s easier and faster to keep in touch with someone who lives physically close by. Class has also helped define people’s social circles, with economic, sexual, racial, religious and national factors acting as obstacles to global communication. The Internet hasn't destroyed these constraints, but it has diminished their relevance by allowing people to participate together in the same virtual arena. Thanks to the Web, people can connect with each other from virtually anywhere in the world that has Internet access. The result has been a mixing of traditional cultures as like-minded people seek each other out online. Subsequently, interest-based cultures have become much stronger. This helps isolated people find communities and expand their horizons.
Forms of Expression
The Internet provides new media for people to communicate with others by expressing themselves. Web technologies help amateur media personalities produce and distribute their own videos. These technologies help artists exhibit, refine and even create their art. Writers can find their voice using limitless Web resources; activists can organize their communities, and chronically busy people retrieve information and express themselves in 140 characters thanks to Twitter. Also, the rise of Internet memes has created a new social currency that people can use to relate to one another -- giving rise to whole new social structures that help to shape the future of society.
The Internet has accelerated the pace of business and broadened the scope of what is possible in the workplace. The most obvious benefit is that people have better options for direct communication, including email, texting and videoconferencing. Long-distance conversations that used to take days to resolve over the telephone can wrap up in a few minutes. Email filtering helps the most important messages get the priority they need. But, the benefits run even deeper than this. Thanks to the Internet, modern companies can exist in multiple locations, with each site connected seamlessly to the others through the Internet. Good IT practices help to automate many business processes, such as online sales. This lets computers do a lot of the leg work -- reducing opportunities for human error.
Josh Fredman is a freelance pen-for-hire and Web developer living in Seattle. He attended the University of Washington, studying engineering, and worked in logistics, health care and newspapers before deciding to go to work for himself.