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Computer Mediated Communication

Mankind has entered the new era in the world history. Its primary feature is a radical, planetary revolution in the means of communication. Its influence on the people’s lives is definitely not less than the one of industrial revolution of the past, and the speed of changes undoubtedly surpasses it. In particular, the technological revolutions of the previous eras have considerably improved the way of the transformation of a matter, while the latest electronic computers have been combined into a global computer network, revolutionizing the ways of converting the information. However, the current revolution has also identified the problem, which is relevant to all the people, and is described as a future shock. Its essence is that the speed of the changes occurring in the various areas of human life is so great that the identity and culture lose their ability to assimilate them. Currently, a man is not keeping pace with the change that is forcibly imposed upon him, and yet, people are more and more aware that the failure to reverse the trend and be cured of the future shock threatens their very existence. In particular, at all times, people have sought the exchange of news and information. The communication between humans has begun with individual sounds, gestures, and facial expressions. Later, people have started transmitting the information at a distance by shouting or using special signals. The further development has led to an increase in the volume and speed of transmission, the advent of various methods of translation, which made it possible to provide not only interpersonal, but also intercultural communication, and finally, to the reign of information as one of the most valuable resources of mankind. The advent of computerization and the Internet as a means of interpersonal and intercultural communication, on the one hand, had a positive impact on the world community as it allowed to transmit information anywhere in the world and helped to strengthen the ties between the people and countries, thus changing the style of relations in the modern society. On the other hand, it has completely changed the very process of communication, and it is difficult to define whether its influence is good or bad. Therefore, the following essay is dedicated to the study of an impact of the computerization on both interpersonal and intercultural communication, as well as of the definition of its positive and negative aspects.

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Nowadays, the computer mediated communication has become an important part of the social life. The Internet provides virtually unlimited opportunities for both interpersonal and intercultural communication. People from all parts of the world can communicate directly with each other; moreover, they may not only correspond by using social networks, but also talk in the so-called live mode, via Skype. One of the primary features of the Internet is its interactivity. As a result, it has unique capabilities, in comparison with the other communication media, that allow it to include many areas of human activity. From the perspective of intercultural communication, the computerization allows maximum penetration of information on the Internet, i.e. every Internet user can not only publish one’s information, but also receive a feedback from the other users, argue with them, listen to their opinions, and participate in the discussions on the various forums. Timeliness and efficiency of transmission smoothes the time difference, and thereby, creates the new conditions for communication. This property makes the Internet a convenient and common means of both interpersonal and intercultural communication. However, as was mentioned before, there is no single opinion on the impact of the Internet on the communicative process. Thus, it is important to define it.

To begin with, it is necessary to determine the positive impact of the computer mediated interpersonal communication as it is often more significant than it might seem at the first glance. First of all, the voluntary nature of contacts and relations makes the interpersonal communication much easier and unforced. Moreover, the errors of the computer mediated interpersonal communication are much easier to fix, especially prior to their transfer into a real life. The Internet also offers a much wider range of communication, providing the ability to find a friend or partner for a serious relationship. Often, such partners are not around in the real world or it is difficult to initiate the conversation with them. The computer mediated interpersonal communication also provides the ability to implement particular personality traits, play the roles, and experience emotions, which, for whatever reasons, are frustrated in real life.

Thus, it is possible to say that the most significant impact of the computer mediated interpersonal communication, namely via social networks, consists in the fact that it satisfies one’s desire for self-expression. After all, according to Maslow’s pyramid, self-expression is among the highest human needs, being ahead of such needs as recognition and communication. Social networks have become a refuge where anyone can find technical and social basis for the creation of one’s virtual self. In addition, each user has an opportunity not only to communicate and create, but also to share the creativity with a huge audience on the network. As a result, due to its free and unrestricted nature, the computer mediated communication has made an indirect, yet significant, contribution to self-disclosure and the development of the people’s strong communicative qualities. In turn, this has led to the overall improvement of the communication skills of the current generation of the Internet users and a greater self-confidence as a whole.

On the other hand, there is also a negative impact of the computer mediated interpersonal communication, which should also be mentioned. Very often, the computerized communication is made at the expense of the relationships in real life. Moreover, despite its interactivity, social networks, as well as the other similar media, are notorious for their absence of non-verbal communication – the use of gestures and intonation, which impoverishes the communicative process of and increases the possibility of misreading the interlocutor, overestimating or underestimating his words. In turn, this fact can lead to misunderstanding and worsening of the further relationship with a particular person. It should be noted that this problem was particularly solved with the advent of Skype. However, the issue of the simplification of the speech due to the impact of the social networks and the similar media still remains. In particular, this trend has become popular due to the impact of Twitter, the service of the public exchange of short (up to 140 characters) messages using the web interface, instant messaging, or third-party client software. Such limitation encourages the use of abbreviations, disrupted or slang words. Moreover, due to the growing popularity of the computer mediated communication and the erasure of the boundaries between the real and virtual worlds, the Internet slang is often transferred to the real-life, which, again, impoverishes the communicative process. Finally, in comparison with the usual social contacts, the computer mediated communication offers an increased level of emotional excitement – the fact that attracts many people. In particular, the so-called virtual love (the further development of this feeling is individual as it could come to nothing, or turn into a serious long-term relationship in the real world) is an extremely common “disease” on the Internet, a kind of “virtual measles”. Most often, the virtual romance is a state of extreme excitement bordering on euphoria. It develops very quickly, and the processes that takes months in reality, fit in a single day in the Internet. However, such a relationship is rather fleeting. Without meeting in reality, virtual romance rarely lasts more than six months. In turn, such transience and ease in the development of relations, combined with the lack of responsibility before a virtual partner, may result in the negligence in the real-life interpersonal communication.

Therefore, it is possible to say that the negative impact of the computer mediated interpersonal communication consists in the fact that it replaces the real one. A person gets the visibility of the leading role in communication with a partner, the ability to dictate the rules of the game, which is not always possible to do in the real life. One can also refuse some communication, which is not always possible in reality. The distanced communication reduces problematic and creates the appearance of a prosperous personal interactions. Thus, the real life does not always coincide with the virtual one. In turn, computerized communication has resulted in an increase in the number of cases of the person’s departure from the real problems, the declining skills of the real-life interpersonal communication, and the rupture of personal contacts.

The situation with the intercultural communication is somewhat different, namely due to the fact that the language barrier has always been one of the primary obstacles to it. However, thanks to the technical possibilities of the Internet, the conditions that help to overcome the language barrier are gradually formed. It is important that many sites are presented in several languages. This fact provides users with the opportunity to receive information on the other countries in their own language. In the recent years, the Internet has not only become an important channel of communication and information, and provided an opportunity for two-way active communication with almost all the world, but also formed the new, globalized subculture, namely among the youths. The youth subculture is a special social and cultural phenomenon and is characterized by the possession of unique values, sources of information and communication channels. Very often, the communication channels in such groups go beyond simple interpersonal communication, and intercultural contacts are formed with representatives of such subcultures both in the particular country and abroad.

Through the Internet, a person enters the new type of relations – an intercultural communication flowing in the virtual reality. As a result, it gives an individual the opportunity to use not only their own experience during the intercultural contacts, but also every component that is a part of the phenomenon of virtual reality. The result is a mix of iconic and symbolic levels of reflection of the reality that affects the nature of the intercultural communication. All these features of the computerized communication provide the unprecedented opportunities both for an individual and a group information exchange. In particular, nowadays, social networks – the social structures, consisting of a group of nodes that are social objects – are becoming more and more widespread. They are focused on creating the online communities of individuals with similar interests or activities. In this case, the communication takes place via Internal mail service or instant messaging. Currently, the largest number of registered users is present in the social network named Facebook. Being founded in 2004, it has long been a closed social network of students. In order to become a member of the community, it was required not only to study at an American college or university, but also have an email address issued by the educational institution. Later, the creators of the service allowed to use any e-mail, and made a public register, which led to an active international and cross-cultural communication. Nowadays, social networking allows to instantly share the information, photos, news, and videos in any language and from any point of the world. Moreover, by creating blogs, chats, live journals, accounts in Twitter and having on-line conversation via Skype, people of any age and social status are actively involved in the intercultural communication. Therefore, the computerization of society has made an important contribution to the elimination of the barriers and obstacles on the way of communication between the different cultures.

As a conclusion, it is possible to say that the computer mediated communication, which is carried via mobile phones, computers, and the other electronic devices, shall take a great part in the formation of different social structures and traditions. In particular, the technological advances have affected the methods of courting people; the institution of marriage and the family have undergone some changes as the value systems have also undergone certain transformation. In other words, the computerization of the world has affected the way people behave towards each other. Moreover, the old habits and behaviors are replaced with the new ones – for example, a long greeting is reduced to a single word. On the one hand, this trend provides a kind of reduction in the distance between the interlocutors even in case they are the representatives of the different cultures, i.e. it erases the boundaries between them. It also encourages more informal communication and reduces it to the size of the effective minimum, thus saving a considerable amount of time. However, at the same time, this style of communication is able to displace itself from the human element that distinguishes communication between two people from the communication of two robots that cannot sympathize with each other, and do not know how to feel any emotion in relation to the other members of their species. At one point, some people may find themselves all alone, solitary and outside of the isolated crowd. By taking a closer look at the situation, one can make a conclusion that the reduction in the volume of the communication and a concern about the spending of energy and time are caused by the fact that the people want to cut all the undesirable ties with the real world in order to feel being in comfort and safety. Nevertheless, it is impossible to ignore the clear evidence that such behavior has a positive impact on the promotion of strong social ties within the family or social groups united on the basis of friendship, common interest or culture. However, one must not lose sight of the fact that this success, in the absence of proper control over the way of thinking and life, is achieved by severe limitation of the amount of the people that could potentially be present in the structure of everyday life, albeit briefly. Thus, the computer mediated communication plays an important role in the lives of users of the network and has an impact on their identity, resulting in the emergence of the specific cultural and behavioral characteristics, which change the very nature of communication. However, it should not be forgotten that people themselves are the creators of the communicative environment and the way it looks, as well as the influence it has on its participants.

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