Modern Digital Communications, Will They Permanently Affect Our Behavior?
Thousands of years ago, people communicated only in spoken languages. The communities were small and mobile. As time goes on, people invented writing, developing a more stable form of communication. As a result, oral tradition and folklore passed into literature. At the same time, people stopped traveling as hunter-gatherers and began settling in villages and towns. The creation of written language helped people keep track of their history and culture, even as society became more complex.
Presently, we have several methods of communicating than at any other time in history. We can send an email to people living on the other side of the earth or even in space! Communication is viably instantaneous, as if you were talking to someone in person. But has digital communication changed the way we behave?
With a cursory observation, the answer is apparently yes. Only a few decades ago, people did not carry phones with them wherever they went. Today, having a phone is common in different countries. And mobile phones continue evolving since their invention. While early mobile phones were only suitable for calls, today’s phones can send text messages, surf the web, and operate applications in addition to basic services.
Social networks have also had a major impact on behaviors. Recent surveys find out that more people are using Facebook to interact with friends and family than SMS and email.
But will digital communication adjust human behaviors beyond transacting mere messages?
Instant Communications! Are They Smart or dumb?
Digital communication allows us to communicate with others instantly, no matter the location. And our shift to text messaging means that we compose and read messages with a maximum of 160 characters – less if you use a platform like Twitter. Does this affect our behavior?
Nicholas Carr, a writer on technology and business, assumes that digital communication could affect our ability to focus on book-reading tasks. Carr’s evidence is largely anecdotal, but he claims the Internet is generally contributing to a decrease in concentration. He argues that as we become more dependent on constant stimuli from the web, including interacting with friends, we lose the ability to concentrate on more demanding activities.
Carr builds his case in part by assessing how human thinking and behavior have changed over the years since writing. He also cites philosophers who considered that creating the printing press would result in a decrease in wisdom. Could digital communication turn us into idiots?
Another writer for The Atlantic, Jamais Cascio, doesn’t believe that. Cascio said people do not lose their intelligence because of the Internet and digital communication. Rather, our brains adapt to technology. Our intelligence is tweaked- we learn how to ask questions through digital communication for answers that we need. We may not be as skilled on a single task as we once were. However, our intelligence is now more fluid.
Anyway, Both of them agree that technology shapes the way we think. Therefore, our behavior changes as well. We expect quick results when we need to find the answers. We load ourselves with information from several sources simultaneously, rather than settling on one. This could lead to not being familiar with focusing on one task. But, since there are very few thorough studies on the subject, it is difficult to say whether this change would be permanent or not.