Technology changes help, harm communication

Technology has provided humanity with the means for doing things that at one point seemed impossible. However, while technology has provided the ability to communicate with people halfway across the world, some believe it has limited the interaction with those who are closest.

Text and instant messaging have largely replaced face-to-face interaction. New developments are being made each day toward creating a wireless and mobile world.

Yahoo, MSN and AOL are not only top e-mail providers but also offer ‘real time’ messaging, or instant messaging. Instant messaging has far replaced e-mail as a form of communicating, especially among youth. According to a 2005 study done by Pew Internet and the American Life Project on the social impact of the Internet, 59 percent of individuals under the age of 30 were more likely to instant message. This was in contrast to those over 30, who used instant messaging at a rate of 33 percent.

James Jones, 21, a senior business administration student from Philadelphia, said he uses his computer to not only watch television and network on Facebook but to instant message, which he admits he does a lot.

“My cell phone has Internet, and I use it to IM,” Jones said. “I love it.”

Jones’ use of his cellular phone for more than the traditional phone call is a prime example of the advancements within the cellular phone industry.

Cell phones today can do just about everything, from sending text messages to being mobile GPS navigation units. Major technological companies like Apple have been creating a name for themselves in the communications market with products like the soon-to-be-released iPhone.

According to Apple, the iPhone will be “a revolutionary mobile phone, a widescreen iPod with touch controls and a breakthrough Internet communications device.”

The iPhone will also be the first mobile phone without the alphanumeric keypad that so many are used to seeing, replacing it with a ‘finger’ user interface. Everything will literally be at the user’s fingertips.

The ability to use the Internet like a regular phone has also become a revolutionary means of communication. Voice Over Internet Protocol, or VOIP, has recently been thrown into the spotlight because of its simplicity and cheapness. The service, provided by Vonage and Skype, allows callers to connect through IP phones that are plugged either directly into routers computer-to-computer or by plugging a regular handset into a router.

Keinan Bates, an employee at Circuit City, said many people come to the store looking at VOIP as an alternative to regular phone services. VOIP providers, like Vonage, have packages that start at $24.99.

“It’s really more cost-effective,” Bates said. “All you do is connect your phone adapter to the router, plus you have more features.”

While technology has made it easier for people to communicate with each other, there is also a negative side. The downside is there is less face-to-face interaction and increasingly, conversations wind up being held ‘through a wire.’

Christine Jackson, 20, a sophomore philosophy student from Orlando, said she is not too keen on the use of technology to replace face-to-face interaction. She has decided to stick to communicating in person and said she does not e-mail or instant message at all.

“I never picked up on it, my parents were strict on me with the computer,” she said. “I just use it mainly for looking up schoolwork and occasional surfing.”

Jackson said her other reason for not participating in the more technologically advanced forms of chatting was because she found it to be too distant.

“You lose the human connection,” Jackson said.

“Communication is cold between people and not as personal as it should be.”

According to clinical psychologist David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet Studies, the Internet does create problems, and the problems usually arise from overuse and misuse.

“The Internet is unlike anything we’ve seen before,” Greenfield said. “It’s a socially connecting device that’s socially isolating at the same time.”

On the center’s Web site,, Greenfield spoke of people not recognizing the power the Internet had over them, so much so that they had become Internet addicts. However, he said this can change.

“Recognition of both the dark and light side of the Internet will enable us to be served by technology, instead of ensnared by it,” he said.