In an age where the youth is becoming increasingly tech-savvy and gadget-prone, parents, and especially grandparents, are blaming technology for the ever-increasing generation gap. As “old-fashioned” methods of communication like letter-writing have become extinct for Gen-x/y/I, in favour of quicker and cooler means, the question we need to ask is whether technology has actually helped bridge the chasm that distance creates, or widened it. The harmful effects and disadvantages are many, but at the same time there are reasons aplenty because of which we swear by it. Take, for instance, one of the major causes of conflict in homes today—the internet.
Most of us cannot imagine life before e-mails, Google and Facebook. Life has indeed become far more convenient since the world, literally, is a mere click away. From readily available information, to re-establishing long-lost friendships, the pros are many. But what really holds an attraction for people is the idea of another world being accessible to them; one that allows them to escape the constructs of their monotonous daily life.
Virtual reality—the very term is paradoxical. Yet, it is accurate. The World Wide Web is what they can call their space, in which they’re all by themselves, uninhibited, and free from any influence. Many of us often desire such freedom. It is alluring to wonder what we could and would do if our actions and decisions weren’t subject to constant scrutiny. The virtual world is a world without barriers, be they of family, society or propriety. We’re free to do as we please. And obviously, given the freedom, many will misuse it. But what people fail to realize is that often, freedom and responsibility go hand in hand.
My addiction (as my mother terms it) to the internet started rather accidentally, but two years down the line, I am truly grateful for the learning experience it has been. There is space for everyone to carve a niche for themselves and propagate their interests and talents, be they writing, photography, learning languages; the list is endless.
What’s more, there is scope to ‘meet’ like-minded people who share your interests, and who you wouldn’t normally end up meeting in real life. It provides a forum and a voice to every individual without any discrimination or elimination; it shrinks the world and makes it accessible. In the words of Bill Gates, “The internet is becoming the town square for the global village of tomorrow.” There is nothing like, for instance, sitting at home in Delhi and chatting with someone in Athens, exchanging ideas on Greek and Indian culture and philosophy.
One of the major concerns that have been voiced with regard to making friends online is the immense ease with which you can impersonate someone else, pretend to be someone you’re not, or highlight those aspects of your personality that are to your advantage. It’s a web of mind games. In real life, people judge, or misjudge, a person through several parameters—looks, body language, physical aspects—that are often crucial in forming first impressions.
On the internet, on the other hand, it is your intellect, wit and knack of communicating effectively that matter. This avoids prejudices, and since bonds are often created based on similar interests, they tend to last longer. From my experience, I have come to realize that people are very different in the virtual world than in actuality. Reasons range from the aforementioned absence of barriers, to an increase in confidence when you know you’re on your own. The fear of being snubbed diminishes or loses significance when there is no audience to know it. However, this does not mean that a person’s virtual persona is fake. It is just an extension of one’s personality, or what one would like to be. All of us have secret desires to change something about ourselves, and this is only one way of attempting it.
Hence, though no one can deny that the internet can be a platform for deception and easy victims, the trick is to take precautions and use it for maximum growth and to your best advantage.