A New Era Of Couch Potatoes The Internet. It’s a vast medium for worldwide communication and the sharing of information. With only a few clicks of a mouse, an internet user can connect with a pharmaceutical company in Japan, a florist shop in Holland, or an orange grove in Florida. These new technological developments have open the worlds’ eyes to an unending flow of input. This new technology has also kept the worlds’ eyes glued to their computer. Has this breakthrough in computer science threatened the computer user with a life of isolation and lonliness? Yes. Internet service providers detach the subscriber from society by enticing the user with a virtual world of chat rooms and instant messages that seems much more exciting than their own. The user is separated from the natural world and is soon lost in their fantasy. The means of temporary escape become a permanent nightmare. In the late1940s, there was a scientific discovery that would revolutionize the home. It was called a “television”. It became a widely popular appliance, and soon everyone had a television in their home. After awhile, television became an addiction. People would neglect their family and friends, completely oblivious to their decaying social life. In the end, the television became a monster, not simply a machine. Has the computer with internet capabilities risen to usurp the power the television once possessed over the world? This is not to say that both the television and the computer are unnecessary. They are both wonderful sources of entertainment and information. Moderation, however, is key when dealing with this branch of technology. Many Americans have been known to stay in their rooms and offices for hours on end without leaving the soft and alluring glow of the computer screen. These computer junkies do not only develop a state of physical pathos due to lack of activity, but a mental and emotional dependency to the hypnotic and artificial sense of power they are temporarily issued with the control of cyberspace. Amy Harmon, in her New York Times article titled “Sad Lonely World Discovered in Cyberspace” states, “Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have found that people who spend even a few hours online experience higher levels of depression and lonliness than if they used the computer netword less frequently” (Harmon 1). This is the story of one computer junkie who survived the binary breakdown. I was only 14 years old when I received my first computer. With wide eyes and a smile that covered most of my face, I quickly hooked the mouse to the keyboard, and the keyboard to the monitor, and the monitor to the wall. I squealed with delight at the noisy sounds of the modem connecting to my first online service. I excitedly began exploring my new world; the latest virgin on the information superhighway. Soon after, my entire life became focused on one thing: connecting. Talking to my “real” friends. My self-esteem plummeted, and my grades in school dropped dramatically. I would spend all night online, chatting with various misfits. Noone seemed concerned until my sleeping patterns made it impossible for me to function during the day, and my sole purpose in life was to finish a conversation with an alleged vampire in Los Angeles, or to roleplay in a medieval chatroom. I finally realized I had a problem when I made plans to meet these people in real life. It took the words “real life” to shake me into the awareness that this virtual world wasn’t true if people said they wanted to meet me “in real life”. Now, I only use the computer for chatting with my family and some research. I’m alot happier and healthier–and I like the real world much more than my computerized commune.
In Laurent Belsie’s “The Electronic Village”, he prophesizes that the “electronic villages” will soon be “mental constructs built around shared ideas, not shared geography. A network of networks” (Belsie 501). The internet has not only become our artificial hangout, but a breeding ground for new civilizations–civilizations with an inbred dependency for computer contact. Are we hurting the next generation with our compulsive race to have the most superior technology? “Many people are alarmed by the very idea of a virtual community,” says Howard Rheingold, “fearing that it is…substituting more technological ersatz for…human freedom. Yet some people…who don’t do well in spontaneous spoken interaction turn out to have valuable contributions to make in a conversation in which they have time to think about what to say” (Rheingold 204). These chatrooms and instant messages are, in fact, beneficial to those people who are shy, or unable to think on their feet. In the longrun, however, social skills (such as the ability to speak in front of others) are a necessary part of life. Another primary need in humans is the urge to touch. As wonderful as the computer is, it can’t reach out and hug it’s lonely user. You can connect with the entire world, but neither laughter nor tears can be heard. The inflection of an incoming statement is entirely up to the user, and it may be entirely incorrect. So-called relationships online, as legitimate as they may seem to be, will lead nowhere. Harmon says, “Relationships maintained…without face-to-face contact ultimately do not provide the kind of support…that typically contribute to a sense of psychological security and happiness” (Harmon 2). I have a relationship with a man in South Carolina, and we are the dearest of friends, but he is simply a friend–not an addiction. We chat online, and occasionally on the phone, and that is all. Never has our friendship turned towards meeting, and we are both content. Meeting with online “romances” is, for one thing, incredibly dangerous. Anyone could seem kind and gentle online. Anyone could be a psychopath.