When the development of cyberspace started, the world community was interested in the usefulness of the possibility of cyber communication. Cyberspace has already connected millions of users by the invisible electronic threads. It has its effects on people, both positive and negative. Participating in the virtual life, social minorities find force and support, different movements are organized, and humans feel united (Clark, 2010). Being the phenomenon of the modern technological life, cyber domain influences the global community, uniting representatives of different nationalities, beliefs, cultures, and social statuses.
Cyberspace is a New Medium
It stands for the context for the interaction of people, found in the digital streams of signals. According to Kadi (2012), in order to communicate with other individuals and cars in this digital environment, one has to express his own thoughts in writing, codes and graphics without the use of gestures, contacts and physical presence. Cyber domain is a virtual space, or the world of humans and technologies (Kadi, 2012).
Hence, cyberspace is a very complex phenomenon, which should be considered in the unity of social and technical points of view. Its social side states that it is a set of public relations arising in the course of the Internet application and other networks processing information via computers (Kadi, 2012). However, it should be noted that not any input but only the one used in the network acts as a data object of these interconnections. The technical aspect presupposes that virtual world is at the same time a technical object, including a series of technical software, data resources and infrastructure, providing the movement of informational streams. Therefore, it is necessary to pay attention to the basic principles of the creation the informational infrastructure, including decentralization and availability from every spot of the globe, division into the structural zones or segments, convergence, the speed and instantaneousness of international exchanges, etc. (Kadi, 2012). Thus, World Wide Web represents the huge global computer network, which enables conducting the digital data transmission in considerable volumes with high speeds by means of software.
Does Cyberspace Isolates People More Than It Connects Them?
Cyberspace forms the new community, which unites people of different nationalities, beliefs, cultures, and social statuses. It is the society without any frontiers. Moreover, it gives an opportunity to participate in the discussion and solutions of the urgent problems of the humanity, which allows considering the opinion of a definite person irrespective of the place of his or her physical location. Kadi (2012) claims, “In one minute a thought is in my head, and the next minute it is typed out, sent, read, and in your head” (p. 233). The cyber environment gives a new way of cultural vision, transition to the new methods of interaction and development of progressive achievements of the mankind.
The formation of cyberspace changes the world and human consciousness of the Internet users. The communication with the help of online networks broadens the sphere of personal relations. It is characterized by the search for the new acquaintances, establishment of another circle of friends and adherents. Furthermore, this process is connected with the requirement of the exchange of facts, opinions and emotions that is natural for individuals. Clark (2010) states that “both information and people are central to the power of cyberspace” (p. 4). The work in the virtual world gives a chance for a person to prove and receive assessment from the other online participants. They feel the inclusiveness into the global information process, leaving the usual socializing not so much desirable. Thus, the use of computer networks leads to modifications of human activities.
The lack of usual communication for those with disabilities is compensated with the contacts in cyberspace. Moreover, the latter helps people suffering from psychological diseases. The Internet allows such individuals to escape from reality, to find a shelter in their own world with the best conditions for the perception of feelings. Virtual space enables its participants to achieve independence from the outside surroundings and to find happiness (Clark, 2010). Additionally, it entitles users to being prominent in the crowd, becoming recognizable, while for others it is the possibility to join the reference group, to hide, to be dissolved in it and to feel protected. Thus, cyberspace helps to change the conditions of their emotional lives in such a way that they are not capable of perceiving the unpleasant reality.
The application of the new informational technologies does not differ from the other forms of human activities. However, it leads to the marginalization of the personality, alienation from social environment and psychological isolation. Virtual environment causes Internet addiction, which absorbs a user, without leaving time for other affairs. Public seclusion is the main consequence of this obsession.
People express and approve themselves through their activity as a special form of the attitude to the world. However, the degree of their engagements in some situations gains the contrast: there is the process of alienation of a person from oneself, work, his or her means, which induces withdrawal from life. Having remained alone with a computer, one forgets reality, as the huge space for him or her collapses to the extent occupied by the computer on a table. The real and virtual life on the Internet starts, allowing him to design the desirable world. The retreat from reality to the online domain of cyberspace stimulates the phenomenon of isolation and autism (Clark, 2010). Moreover, communication with reality is weakened, and the individual receives satisfaction from illusions.
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Cyberspace detaches its users, leading them to loneliness, both physical and moral. Solitude is the way of protection from the sufferings arising from relationships with others. A modern isolated person, distracted from his/her own environment, searches for the like-minded companions in the virtual world and finds them. Dyson (2012) says, “Cyberspace communities evolve just the way terrestrial communities do: People with like-minded interests band together” (p.250).
In addition, due to the development of the Internet and the spread of cyberspace, the notion of natural transformation in the mass consciousness became widespread. On the one hand, alternative sources of information promote democratization of civil life; on the other hand, the part of society living without the online access is excluded from the public functioning and evolution. Hence, there is the online unification of mass consciousness, promotion of the western way of life and technogenic civilization. The intentional stereotypes are formed in the youth. Furthermore, the f mind manipulations are quite possible by means of the distribution of misinformation. The dependence on the smooth functioning of the network is increasing. Thus, cyberspace changes the culture of communication between people, generates not only conveniences but also problems with socialization and loneliness (Clark, 2010).
However, despite the number of the sound arguments stating that cyber domain isolates its participants, there are some proofs that it connects individuals. In the virtual world, it is easier to express one’s own thoughts, to feel psychological comfort and to keep anonymity.
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The social role of cyberspace was determined by Clark (2010) in the following postulates:
- Cyberspace allows establishing horizontal communicative connections between people;
- Cyberspace does not impose information, it is only offered for the voluntary perception by humans;
- Cyberspace enables any person to become the participant of the information exchange process;
- Cyberspace does not create the prerequisites for the manipulative communication; on the contrary, they disappear. The question-answer rows do not give the chance for deception and manipulation;
- Cyberspace, unlike the media which block consciousness, liberates people and broadens the sphere of their consciousness;
- The opinions expressed in cyberspace become available and achievable for the perception by others. Cyber information does not perish.
- Cyberspace creates the local communities of people as an alternative to the grey mass or the standard layer. They self-organize and self-manage, at the same time changing the structure of society;
- Cyberspace gives the right of choice, and nobody can violate this right;
- Cyberspace becomes a powerful tool of the technological support of sociological researches (p. 5).
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Besides, the cyber domain presupposes the gain of the authentic experience on the Internet, which connects people, makes the exchange of social encounters possible, and, therefore, forms the feeling of community. In this meaning, cyberspace is more than just a functional tool, providing the informational interaction. It makes the space and geography more flexible, allowing people to share facts, feelings, and even emotions on the “one-to-one”, “one-to-many”, “many-to-many” bases. The communication in online environment is limited neither by time nor by physical distance.
In conclusion, the problem of the effects of cyberspace, both positive and negative, has been discussed recently. At present, cyber domain is the place, where people live. They experience all types of sentiments and affections, which they encounter in the real physical place. Communicating in virtual world, individuals are connected by common ideas, feelings and emotions. Cyberspace is a great opportunity for its participants to be social and to associate.
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