Human Beings are social animals who rely on human interaction and connections to survive. The very cause of human evolution stemmed from the interactions that took place between nomads in the ancient days. Human civilization has come such a long way that we no longer need to travel to different places to make connections with people. A small electronic device connected to the internet can help us connect with not just one, but thousands of other humans scattered across the world.
The Internet is one of the greatest innovations gifted to mankind. It turned the world of communication upside down enabling humans to connect with each other in ways that were unimagined. It helped in bringing the world closer.
The internet reached the peak of its potential especially after the outbreak of the pandemic. According to Statista, a Germany based market and consumer data company, there were 4.66 billion active internet users worldwide, as of January 2021, i.e 59.5 percent of the global population. Of this total, 92.6 per cent (4.32 billion) accessed the internet via mobile devices. India, as of the end of March 2021, had 825.30 million internet users.
These figures alone speak of how widely the internet is being used.
With the shutters of dining places, movie theatres, offices and every other public place pulled down due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, everyone turned to their internet-connected devices for entertainment and socialisation. The pandemic gave rise to the kind of connections that didn’t exist earlier even if the internet did. People and businesses across the globe found newer ways to use the internet to the best of their convenience and benefit.
The Internet has helped bring the overall global community together enabling people scattered in different parts of the world to share their ideas, opinions and knowledge with all the others having an internet connection, via emails, blogs, online forums, social media, etc. With the help of the internet, we have not just formed personal connections but also built a professional network creating career opportunities for ourselves.
Exchange of culture is one of the prominent changes the internet has brought. Korean dramas and K-beauty is an example of how the internet has helped Korea to share their art and culture with the world. Taking inspiration from Korean culture and trends, people from the rest of the world too, have adopted a few habits in their lives.
One of the greatest internet-backed inventions is social media that not only lets us communicate with each other but literally allows us to share bits and pieces of our lives visually. Social media giants like Facebook and Instagram let us share glimpses of our life, be it us taking a trip to the Maldives or informing our social media ‘friends’ about testing positive for COVID-19. This way social media helps each one of us to stay connected with everyone without even having the need to exchange words or messages personally.
The Internet has also allowed people to connect with each other over similar interests and greater causes. The MeToo movement, Arab Spring, The Umbrella movement, Black Lives Matter protests and the very recent, Afghan crisis are some of the world’s greatest examples of how the internet helped people connect with each other to raise awareness, inform as well as express solidarity with the victims and demand for justice as well.
So there remains no doubt that the internet has helped each one of us to build connections virtually, but at the same time, it has also isolated us from the people present around us, physically. Excessive screen time has made us feel lonelier than ever.
The reason for this is that although we are ‘connected’ with people online, we are unable to have genuine conversation since all of them lack the human touch and feel that a normal real-life face-to-face conversation has. The distance, lack of visible human emotions, and the lack of human touch leads to making one lonely after a certain point.
Most of our personal relationships have gone for a toss. These days, we have even the most crucial conversations over WhatsApp chats since it is easier to avoid a face-to-face confession of things.
Besides, the internet has made each one of us a little narcissistic and we have the algorithms to blame. The internet will only offer us content that we positively react to the most, or people and products that best suit our interests and convenience. Thus, we tend to cut out or keep distance from any person who even slightly disagrees with us or does things differently that we might not like.
Now with the pandemic hitting us all, our work-life balance has also taken a toxic turn. Since the internet has made working from home a cakewalk, the work timings have crossed all limits leading to us fixating our eyes on the laptop screens for more than 9 hours. This however keeps us from spending quality time with our family and friends.
Sometimes, we are so engrossed with what’s happening on our mobile screens that we totally ignore the person sitting right in front of us waiting to share exciting events of their life. This act of ignoring someone over our phones became such a common phenomenon, it’s now got a term called ‘Phubbing’.
The Internet is not just robbing the teens and adults of their ‘offline’ social life, but also hampering the children’s natural physical development. In a world pre-internet, children, at a tender and developmental age, formed deep and genuine bonds with their friends on playgrounds. Now, however, children in any household are found on the couch’s corner with their heads buried in smartphones, laptops, or tablets. Children now connect with each other virtually over a PUB-G game!
As the old saying goes, ‘anything in excess is poison’, it’s the same with the internet. Like said earlier, the world has witnessed a great transformation because of the internet alone and thus, it has done more good than harm. So if put to the right use, the internet will continue to connect more and more people rather than separating them.