Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Danger of Instant Messaging: The Declining of Human Social Interaction

Computer technology has been evolving rapidly in the past 50 years. Since the first time modern computer appeared, it has become a billion-fold more advanced than its first appearance in 1941 in a machine called Zuse Z3, created by Konrad Zuse from Germany[1]. In that year, men have begun a new era of computer technology, which later would penetrate all aspects of life.

It is completely unimaginable to perceive the technological advancement that has been resulted in the preceding century. A hundred years ago, it is impossible to contact your family members they are travelling to distant places. However, today the same business will just cost you a laptop and an internet hotspot in the neighborhood.

Nowadays, communication has been made really easy by using computers. Checking emails, using instant-messaging services, and browsing through social-network sites are three main activities in our daily life as modern men. These tools have eased our life so much by providing practical means for communicating people. These days, we can connect so easily with each other by using Blackberries. We then must admit that our life has never been easier and faster than before we used the technology, must not we?

Nevertheless, this advancement has unconsciously inflicted negative influences to humanity. It has ruined our desire to meet other people directly. Sometimes, we count more on those virtual tools than direct contact with friends and relatives. We become more reluctant to meet our fellows face-to-face due to Blackberry Messaging service. Even worse, we tend to put our fingers on keypads during meetings and gatherings with our colleagues and friends. Is it true that the way men communicate with each other has developed really well? Or is it a bad omen that humanity has started to decline. In fact, humans are created in God’s image, which means that we are individual and social creatures at the same time.

In the year 2004, a survey on workplace email and instant messaging, which was conducted by American Management Association and The ePolicy Institute, has reported some technical issues[2]. According to the survey, 58% of people use instant messaging for many purposes, e.g. jokes, gossips, confidential information, and even pornographic contents. It is also stated that 90% of the respondents use instant messaging up to 90 minutes per day at their workplaces for business and personal affairs. These numbers indicate that instant messaging has occupied a big portion in our life.

Yet, another study on human social interaction for knowledge transfer process was conducted by S.P. Gill and Jan Borchers[3]. The study shows that as the contact between people becomes more intense, it makes the interaction more fluid. On the other hand, more physical contacts provide a better means for the interaction between people, which would result in a better knowledge transfer. Therefore, we should ponder upon the way we should communicate with other people as instant messaging, which is quite prominent in modern life, is something that lacks so much physical contact.

Genesis 1:27 and 2:18 state that man is created as a social creature. This has a direct implication that men have to communicate and collaborate with families, relatives, and fellows in life. Furthermore, the basic and highest means of this communication is direct or physical interaction that God has provided and granted for humans since the time of creation. We can see this clearly when God talked with His fellow Adam directly and intimately, without any media in between. But, why is it that we now tend to use communication media more than direct social interactions? This is, of course, due to our sinful nature as the descendants of Adam. If not repent, then we, at least, have to contemplate deeper on this and take a decision. I am sure that our conscience will then say that it is completely better to communicate directly with other people than through instant messengers. Hence, let us meet and chat face-to-face if we can do so because we are created in God’s (social) image. Why do we then still play with Blackberries when we meet each other at the dining table?


[3] S.P. Gill and Jan Borchers. Knowledge in Co-action: Social Interaction in Collaborative Design