Social interactions between individuals can really be broken down into one simple thing: communication. As time has gone on, communication has evolved along side us. The simplest form of communication began with body language and other visual cues, next came spoken language. In 105 A.D. paper was invented, thus beginning the spread of written documents. In 1450 A.D. The printing press was invented making written material widely available. In 1835 A.D. the telegraph and Morse code brought about the beginning of fast long distance communication. The newspapers, telephone, phonograph, radio, and television were all new forms of communication, all of which had fierce opposition.
A quote from 1920 in regards to the radio:
"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
A Western Union internal memo from 1876 says:
“This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us.”
Lee de Forest, the inventor of the cathode ray tube, said that television:
“Theoretically, television may be feasible, but I consider it an impossibility - a development which we should waste little time dreaming about.”
All of these quotes can be found at Things People Said, along with many other interesting (and completely wrong) quotes.
As we know now, all of these technologies have increased the amount of communication in nearly every country in the world. With the introduction of ARPANET in 1969, and the World Wide Web in 1989, the amount of communication has increased again, and as these technologies continue to grow, more and more communication occurs online. Some people have raised concerns that the various forms of communication online has degraded the social interactions between individuals. If this statement was true, we would see a decline in either quality or quantity of conversations, or both.
The quantity of conversations has clearly not decreased, the number of newly enabled conversations created by the communication tools on the Internet far outweighs any loss of communication that may have previously occurred face to face. An article entitled Are We Just Jumping On The Social Media Bandwagon? appearing on SheGeeks written by guest Colin Walker states:
“The internet, and social media on it, merely allows us to extend the range of our conversations. Instead of chatting over the garden fence we are chatting across oceans; instead of meeting in pubs and bars we gather in virtual spaces.”
The harder question to answer here is if the quality of communication has decreased due to use of communication tools such as email, instant messaging, social networking websites, chat rooms, BBS, IRC, SMS, blogs, and many other technologies and systems that facilitate not only personal, but also public conversations. Quality is a subjective term, so it would be impossible for me to provide a complete argument that the quality of conversations has decreased.
It's my personal opinion, and that of many other people, that a change in how or where communication occurs does not imply a decrease in quality. I would go as far to say that the quality of communication can not be decreased. Sure, we can be annoyed when we see the large amount of sophomoric communication online, but these seemingly useless conversations should not distract you from the inherent value of nearly instant communication with nearly anyone around the world. The ability to find almost any information about nearly any topic by simply searching on the Internet more than makes up for the lack of quality in a small group of Internet users.
The prompt for this article was to "Make a point about" how "Email and other forms of electronic communications have degraded the social interactions between individuals."