Information, social networking, and the ability to share whatever you like have changed the way we live. I cannot truthfully say how it affects happiness; but it surely has an effect on how we find it, and what it means to us.
Constant, stressful connection
At one time you could go to work, then leave work and come home. The end. But now the line between work and home is not clearly drawn. There is always the temptation to check emails, finish off a presentation or complete a risk assessment for the Jelly Babies factory and then e-mail it in. It’s much harder to simply switch off, causing stress and anxiety. More than one personal development blogger has realised that constant connection does not help us live a happy life. If you are one such person, why not read this post on curing your internet addiction?
Potentially, there is a problem with social networking that it might become the only alternative to seeing people in the real world. Networking is great for social animals like us until internet socialising becomes easier and more desirable than the real world, at which point such behaviour is fuelling a deep insecurity and anxiousness. This can hardly be conducive to a happy lifestyle. What of the issues of cyber bullying? Even amongst older users. Cyber bullying is made easier by the social networks, and causes a lot of worry for the families involved.
The very irony of social networking, is that is fails to solve the problems it aims to address. People can still be abusive. Alienation is very much a possibility, and the worst thing is that your Facebook or Twitter page will look the same anywhere in the world you are. There is no escaping it.
As another issue, internet addiction is an increasingly reported condition. Not only do your facebook friends hate you, but you can’t keep away from it. It’s like a magnetic flying dog unmentionable and you’re the iron bar.
Constant, useful connection
All things considered. At no other time in history has it been so easy to arrange a get-together. With social networking, it is possible to meet the people who make you happy. More people benefit from the increased social interaction than who lose out. Without the ability to share videos, photos and words easily, relatives and friends at opposite ends of the world or even within the country, would miss out on so much.
The fact that our individual profiles are preserved on the internet, makes me wonder how we will perceive the past in the future. Nowadays I have to look through boxes of paper to find photos of my great grandparents, this makes it seem like such a long time ago. My great grandchildren will be able to see thousands upon thousands of events in my life in full colour and 1080p. As a result, I predict that family bonds over several generations could be orders of magnitude stronger than is possible now. Generations in the future, hundreds of years later, descendants will take great pleasure out of sharing photos and personal accounts from all the over the world form every single day. Never again will the human world ever have a situation where historians have to search for evidence. It’ll all be there on the internet. Whoever lives in the future will have a very interesting past to explore.
Whoever you are, it is possible to get support and advice on any topic you can think of. Whilst some of it might be inaccurate, there is always a place to go if you are concerned about something. This ability is tremendously empowering to people who historically, might have otherwise been significantly disadvantaged.
Worldwide awareness of charities and non profit organisations has been greatly increased by the communications revolution as a whole. Money donated to good causes (considering inflation) has risen every single year, helping tens of thousands of people. When Japan suffered a devastating tsunami earlier this year, aid adverts were visible within hours. If it wasn’t for the internet, and the revolution that is internet transactions, surely hundreds of more people in Japan would have missed out on life-saving aid. This pattern holds true for every natural disaster that occurs.
Information at your fingertips makes it super easy to solve that problem you have been struggling with. Somebody else is bound to have discovered and solved the problem you’ve had, regardless of however obscure that collectors’ item is or how dated your mp3 player happens to be.
This last decade has been revolutionary in terms of the availability of knowledge. The pursuit of knowledge and learning for learning’s sake, is a fundamental characteristic of the human civilisation, and is what defines us as a species. The internet has made sharing knowledge easier than ever, you don’t need to live close to a library anymore, and rely on a handful of books once a week. Knowledge is available to anyone. I’ve learnt so much Spanish via the internet it is unreal.
The ubiquitous nature of the world wide web means that social networking, information, and files are available whenever we want them. If you have an internet connection you can find out anything. Any man or woman with an idea can type it out and share it with the world. Starting a blog costs nothing, but there is the potential to share your message with millions. Just imagine if Jesus had discovered Bebo.
The internet is a tool that allows the ordinary man to exercise the right he has to freedom of speech, knowledge and social interactions.
Unfortunately many webpages in some countries are censored, limiting contact with the outside world. In North Korea where the internet is positively banned, the symbol of freedom that the internet stands for is irrelevant, as the authorities don’t allow the networking in the first place.
Mass demonstrations have been increasing in frequency since social networking took off. This year there have been dozens of demonstrations in Greece, Spain, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and many countries in the middle east. It is hard to ignore the influence that the internet has. Each demonstration inspires the next. In the future it will be harder and harder for leaders to get away with politics that does not encompass the aspirational lifestyle of the first world. As a cumulative result of networking, fuelled by public opinion, social revolutions will take place all over the world within the next few decades. People are aware of what they are being denied, and they don’t like it. This will surely lead to happier lifestyles for everyone.
I cannot truthfully say whether the internet will let us lead happier lives. You would think that technological advances would increase happiness. But although the standard of living has been increasing for hundreds of years, there is very little scientific or anecdotal evidence that technology increases how happy we are. 25% of Americans will experience depression at some point in their lives, and many many more will come close. Anthropologists who travel the world will tell you that indigenous societies with no technology at all would never experience depressions levels like that.
Having said that, I do believe that the internet is a tool for change on a global scale. And seeing as people will only ever want change that benefits them, things can only get better. Depression and stress is not an intrinsic property of the internet itself, but a result of our modern lifestyle manipulating it and abusing it. Give the internet to some super happy tribe in the Australian outback, and they’ll still be happy. Take the internet away from the developed world, and we’ll be more miserable than ever.