Global Society–Social Impact of the Internet, Research Paper Example
Words: 3613Research Paper
The internet is in most ways making the conflict theory of the society no longer tenable as an explanation of social behavior and structure. It is of interest to sociology today because the internet has introduced distinct perspective to the theory of conflict in the society (Urry, 2000). Sociology has in the past been defined along the lines of social stratification where people of different social classes interact along socially encrusted borderlines such as economic classification, religion, culture, geographical placing etc (Parsons, 1975). It is based on these lines of stratification that the internet is seen as introduced harmony in places where classes in the society had previously conflicted on (Parsons, 1975). The internet has for instance become a source of income for many irrespective of economic social stratification. The internet is available to everyone, regardless of the social class one belongs to. It is making information and knowledge that had hitherto been accessible to a minute few with social structures to be readily available to anyone in the society (Urry, 2000).
Contemporary sociology has therefore to review social conflict theory from the traditional perspective where the stratifications in the society were the basis on which different classes were always in conflict since most of these strata are becoming homogenous and none existent with the advent of modern communicative technology such as the internet. Of respect here is that globalization is making classes in the society, both locally and internationally, to be less distinct in the privileges afforded them, making societies less conflicting on the basis that there are no longer a privileged class that lesser classes have to raise up in arm against (Parsons, 1975). The elimination of class struggles is gradually resulting from the positive and negative impacts of the internet, in which conflicting differences of social classes are being eliminated slowly by slowly, making social classes all over the globe to enjoy the same privileges, most of which were hitherto a recluse of the high ranking social classes such as the scholars, leaders etc.
The internet has reshaped traditional communication media and added numerous others. In place of telephone and associated television services like fax, the internet technologies have created novel media like Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Publishing in print for newspapers, magazines and books has been reshaped by blogs, websites, web feeds etc. The internet technology has also accelerated growth of new interaction forms for people such as instant messaging (chat), internet forums (blogs) and social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter).
It is important to note that the internet lacks centralized governance since it is without a geographical jurisdiction (Cellary & Iyengar, 2002). There are no technological implementation requirements or access and usage policies. Every constituent network is linked, accessed and used by its own set standards. That flexibility is cited by many experts to be the sole reason of its phenomenal growth and spread, since it can be applied and used in almost anything an individual desires.
Today, the internet has become the driving platform of the hottest Wall Street stocks and global financial markets. It is shaping modern technological innovation and replacing traditional learning methods and information storage. It has totally transformed the society. Schools, commerce, governments and many other institutions are now dependent on the internet. The way we work, learn, govern, communicate, earn and live has been forever changed by the internet (Parasar, 2006).
The Internet has had great social impact on the global society since its inception one of which is elimination of class differences that have hitherto been the motivation for inter-class conflicts such as privileged access to communication channels and knowledge. The social theory (pattern behavior) explains why people easily adopt the internet as a pertinent way of life despite its numerous adverse impacts, which sometimes, exceed any of its positive impact in the global society.
Theoretical Conception of the Internet
Structural functionalist conflict theorits such as Talcott Parsons believed that the social conflict and the relations between different classes in the society are a product of its culture, economic parity, regional differentiation and division of roles within the society. They believe that the society works well only when roles of responsibilities and privileges are defined within that society. The absence of such separations only makes a society disorganized, unruly and chaotic. To such sociologists, the internet is introducing social equity and social integration on a global scale, something that is breaking the very ligaments that had hitherto held society together.
Traditional conflict triggers in the society have been taken to a global scale and some eliminated by the internet. The following benefits will establish how the internet has eliminated traditional conflict motivations in the society (based on allocation of privileges) and the negative impacts will establish how the internet is defragmenting the social units such as the family and a geographical unit into a global entity without local social definitions.
The internet phenomenon has become of great interest to sociologists as a research tool and a research field for social change. The internet to most sociologists represent a platform in which society converge and make communities, communities without distinction of race, country, regions, religion etc. That is why social networking site are of prime importance to sociology. Two other areas in which sociology theory is interested in is change of communication strategies such as evolvement of new media and the development of internet social vice such as gambling, pornography etc.
In its basic definition, sociology refers to the scientific study of society. Of special interest to sociology theory is social structures, social change and social integration (DiMaggio, 2008). This essay is based on these specific parameters. The essay seeks to analyze the impacts of the internet on the global society on seven domains identified by DiMaggio et al. (2001), which today’s forms the staple of society trends research namely, inequality, relevance of time and space, family relations, political participation, social institutions, social integration/cultural diversity and finally social morals.
Applying Social Theory to Social Impact of the Internet
If we apply the social theory to the analysis of how the internet has impacted on the society today, two prominent trends and patterns emerge. The internet has proliferated the notion of globalization characterized by centralization of information, communication and interaction methods beyond traditional geographical boundaries (Mowlana, 1995). It has created global systems that are moving towards standardization of norms, values, belief systems and social patterns. Societies that were hitherto remote and very cohesive in their culture, economy and politics are opening up to external influences in a way that was not approximated by colonization and emergent trade interactions.
The problem here is that when cultures interact, when peoples mix and share in communication, learning, business and socialization, the dominant culture and people usually usurp the weaker and less popular cultures. Weaker and perhaps isolated cultures get swallowed up by the larger, more prominent cultures. The emerging world culture and social infrastructure is that built not from an equal representation of all ingrained cultures and interests, by skewed towards the dominant cultures in the expense of lesser cultures.
The internet is an invention of the western cultures, in specific American culture. The American, hence referred to as western culture in general, is backed by a phenomenally giant population, an economic might of the lone superpower in the globe and the technological advancement almost no other nation in the world can approximate. It is thus a dominant culture.
This culture has thus been forced on weaker and less dominant cultures of developed, developing and under-developed countries and almost every society id changing towards western values, norms and way of life. A small village in Singapore; a school in Uganda and a church in Argentina have all been impacted by the internet phenomena. The internet has forced on them a dominant western culture. Globalization is more of westernization of the society, with the globe having to adopt the behavior patterns of the west, their ideologies, their way of life, their belief systems and their economic practices.
Another important sociology theory pertinent to the consideration of the social impact of the internet is the adoption of contemporary technological developments. Almost every technology innovation of modern times is internet dependent. There is a new trend in technological developments. Everything is being taken online, used online, accessed online, applicable only in online forums etc. Businesses are going online, schools are going online, religious institutions are going online and every other new thing. The internet is slowly dominating every single innovation of modern times and becoming the engine by which humankind development and advancement is based.
Positive Impacts of the Internet
The internet has brought to the fore a host of new communication media and with it a new pattern in communication all together. One distinct mark of internet communication is that it is instantaneous and very effective. The internet allows the use of voice, graphics and text together, something impossible before its advent. This communication is instantaneous and unaffected by differences of geographical bounders, distance between persons or location in the globe. Looking back over the years, such innovations as the telephone took years to conceive, develop and employ (Cellary & Iyengar, 2002). The internet has helped propel some of the most astounding innovations in a span of less than a decade, creating communication channels that could flabbergast Einstein were he to return.
Today we have the electronic mail (E-mail) that has totally replaced the traditional slow-mail and made mailing totally ignorant of distance and geographical borders. Instant messaging (chats) have made it possible to speak and write to people who are in any location across the globe. Social networking sites have become the new way that people socialize, interact and acquit themselves with others (Mowlana, 1995).
The internet has also created a new way to do business. Commerce has also gone online, getting the name eCommerce. People can now exchange goods and services on the internet; one can hold currency on the internet in internet money transfer systems like PayPal. This money can be used to buy services of products. We have thousands of online shops that are every part like the traditional department stores. We have markets too, converging many retailers together (eBay for instance) on the internet. Buying and selling merchandise online has become easier, with modern companies opening online stores instead of physical stores.
The good thing about online commerce is that it requires no office or shop space for which rent is payable, there are no operation overheads for every month and they are accessible to anybody from any geographical location on the globe. This has made online businesses a lot more profitable and easy to operate than an offline business.
Consumers too are more educated in their choices of what to buy courtesy of the internet. In online shopping, a consumer uses comparisons of price and quality to determine what to buy. Most will use product review and rating sites to choose what to buy. Increased consumer information has made people very wise in their purchase decisions. Banks too have introduced online banking services where one can deposit, withdraw and transfer money between accounts and between banks with the click of a mouse. People are paying bills online and conducting their grocery shopping online. Experts have predicted that by 2025 the internet will have a larger percentage of the gross domestic trade than the offline trade (Mowlana, 1995).
The internet has also brought with it new ways of exchanging, accessing and storing information. We have internet search engines that allow one to search for relevant content to any topic or subject of interest. Search engines usually provide links to all the websites with a particular topic. This has in turn made information more accessible and equally distributed to regions of low or high economic means unlike traditional libraries, which were mostly located in affluent areas and the affluent areas thus enjoyed exclusive access to knowledge and information (Yamada, 1999).
The internet has also created jobs for many technicians, data entry professionals, information technology experts, writers and data management personnel. Organizations have had to hire new staff to man their IT departments and run their online engagements. Besides those employed in the industry, the internet has made the search and offer of employments opportunities easy and highly accessible. Employers can post job offers online for free while job seekers can access and apply for those positions online, again for free. Employment opportunities are now highly accessible and easily usable due to the internet (Parasar, 2006). Employment websites have databases of thousands and thousands of job offers with a search engine with which you can locate those offers that interest you. The same websites can send you job alerts any time there is a job offer that fits your interests.
The internet has transformed the medical industry and amplified the efficiency, speed and usability of health synergistic discoveries. Researchers can have instant scientific collaborations using available body of knowledge and new findings published from al over the globe in their own research. This makes research progressive and non-duplicative as was the case when al findings were printed by individuals in inaccessible journals and books.
On the same note, medical and health information has become highly accessible to the general public, thus empowering patients and care takers to be more informed about such conditions as chronic diseases. This has been a major boost in fighting diseases since the public is better informed about cause, symptoms, treatments, prevention of many diseases. Patients can make better choices on the treatment to pursue based on the side effects, effectiveness or components of each treatment option.
As seen from above elaboration, most of the benefits or positive impacts of the internet, it is clear that the internet has almost exclusively positively impacted in the economic sectors of the society and that of communication as well as information distribution. Most of the benefits of the internet to the society almost always touch on this two factors, that of economic progress and that of communication and information exchange.
Negative Social Impact of the Internet
While with as many positive impacts as highlighted above, the internet has had some very adverse effects on the society. One of these is the development of alienating social orders and patterns. Man is a social animal and since the beginning of time, man has always preferred to belong with particular social institutions as a default. The identity and sense of belonging in these institutions was confirmed by commitment of time and resources from every member of that society. Today, man is increasingly becoming alienated by the internet from the fundamental social institutions that have held him close for thousands of years.
Lack of time commitment to families, friends, peers and colleagues due to overreliance on internet communication has increasingly alienated man from these crucial social institutions. The mode of interaction and communication has changed from predominantly face-to-face communication (the best way to communicate and socialize) to impersonal forms such as emails and chats. The consequence of these is a decrease in ties with friends, family, workmates and peers.
As discussed in the theoretical section of this paper, the internet has been responsible for the globalization of cultures, with the smaller less dominant cultures losing out to the supremacy of the western culture. The internet was created and first employed in the western nations, American on the lead. That means that by the time other communities from across the world came aboard, they met an internet that was predominantly western in all aspects.
Most communities had to adopt that western culture as part of the internet phenomena. Entertainment, literature, norms, values, religions, behavior patterns adoption that were and are still dominant in the internet are those of the source culture this western influence has become the standard by which globalization is achieved such that globalization of a community is judged by the extent to which they have adopted the western culture. The internet is thus responsible of turning some of the most wonderful, illustrious and valuable cultures into archaic versions of social norms. The internet generation for instance risks losing out on their diversity and heritage to the overbearing western influence (Mowlana, 1995).
While adopting the progressive and economically superior western culture is not all bad and undesirable, there are some aspects of it when distributed and integrated with other social orders become the bad gem that ruins a pack of good ones. There has been an increasing tendency to define fashion and standards of living with the western patterns such that lifestyles of young populations across the world are typically those of the pop culture in the west. Gays for instance first became a public issue in the west. The internet has given a forum with thousands of gay websites online. That has helped recruit thousands of youths from communities where the word gay is still not part of the English vocabulary in use.
Across the world, eating habits have become predominantly western influenced. The western consumer economy has made people from marginal areas to rely on imported goods, which further emaciate the local economies. Again, these eating habits are largely unhealthy and have helped make diet related complications like obesity, diabetes, heart complications etc a global issue, only because communities that had been eating local healthy foods now define their eating patterns with what is in the web (western).
The internet has also created identity crises where youths from across the globe are losing out on the cultures that had defined their fathers since time immemorial to a culture that they are not familiar with and which they do not understand all together. These patterns of identity crises are reflected in dressing styles as inspired by the internet, fashion sense, entertainment forms career goals, leisure activities and belief systems.
Finally, the internet is guilty of ruining morals and creating access to immoral behaviors. Young children only need to know how to type the word porn and they can search the most informing pornographic content online within seconds of being left at home. Others have a computer in their rooms and know how to Google search the most graphic content by the time they are 15 years old. Besides pornography, has created a world of vices and crimes. We have online gangs that preach everything but morality. Social hatred and political acrimony is today distributed via the internet.
Cyber crime has caused many a tears with people being fleeced off their credit card worth, bank accounts being cleansed from all their savings, thousands being conned and others falling prey to devastating scams. Terrorism is preached and advocated for by the internet. The most devastating though id drug dealing in online platforms where one can order a delivery of any form of drug to be deliverer to him or her at home. Children can read drug adverts online and be easily misled by such content from some websites easily accessible without even trying to look for them.
These new patterns of crime and immorality have accrued from the widespread usage of the internet without a central governing authority or control mechanism. They are products of the internet and their impacts are largely felt by the society, directly or indirectly.
From the above discussion, this paper illustrates clearly that the internet has had a major impact on the social dynamics of the globe (Urry, 2000). It has transcended most of the social boundaries that had hitherto prescribed certain privileges to particular classes, provided an equal platform for all classes in the society and thus helped mitigate most of the triggers that have hitherto influenced social conflict against classes (Parsons, 1975).
As this is happening, the internet has been defragmenting the social unit and converging it to assimilate to a oneness of a global culture, the globe as one social unit (Urry, 2000). It is apparent that the internet technology has had a great positive contribution to the global society, ranging from increased communication efficiency and speed to income generation. ECommerce and other forms of income generation from the internet as well as the new jobs created by the internet have been worthwhile contributions of the internet to the society. On the same breathe however, it has had many negative impacts all the same. Most of the adverse effects and or consequences of the internet to the contemporary society have accrued in the social domain.
The internet has changed the lives of many, bringing in new and not necessarily good lifestyles (Mowlana, 1995). It has helped drain some traditional ways of living that had taken thousands of years to formulate into social infrastructures of many communities. Pornography for instance has become as accessible to modern children as the bible is. The paper has illustrated that the internet has had very many positive impacts but all of them are almost exclusively economic and communication based. When it comes to the social aspect of contemporary society, the internet has largely been detrimental to values and norms that had held the society together since the beginning of time (Mowlana, 1995).
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Parasar, A. (2006). Impact of Internet on Society. Jaipur: Pointer Publishers. pp. 117 – 124.
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