We all do it, but we rarely discuss it. Don’t worry, I am not going to get graphic or perverse! What I want to examine is how we communicate in 2011. The way you are seeing this message now is what I want to focus on – computer mediated communication. Through the internet we conduct business, search for true love, and sometimes develop bad habits.
Email allows me to communicate with people around the world instantly. The problem with email is that it can be hard determining the sender’s tone. Thurlow, Lengel, and Tomic (2007) point out how some scholars believe the absence of visual cues in technologically mediated communication creates an increase in perceived distance between communicators. Because there is not a face-to-face interaction, I think people tend to be more aggressive in their messages. They cut to the chase and say what they want. That approach can be interpreted as someone being rude. I find myself adding emoticons to messages sometimes when I fear they could be interpreted the wrong way. Thurlow et al. (2007) say the positive side to electronic communication is that communicators are less likely to be prejudiced by status or physical appearance. While there should not be an imbalance in how one sees themselves compared to the person on the other end of the message, there should be some level of respect that motivates people to not let their hair down too much!
Online dating websites tend to foster an environment where people can communicate more freely. On some sites people communicate a little too freely. It is not hard to stumble upon a picture of someone’s anatomy when searching through Craigslist.org. Most of the people posting pictures on Craigslist.org appear to be looking for physical sex or cybersex. However, there are some users on Craigslist.org, and websites like eHarmony.com and Match.com, who are looking for spouses. Match.com boasts its website produces 6 million dates a year (“Match.com releases,” 2009). I recently joined eHarmony.com to see what online dating had to offer. I had email communication with a few women and even had a couple dates. I learned people always use their best photos and tend to exaggerate their best traits online! I also have come to realize there is a reason dating websites do not make data regarding how many weddings resulted from their site easily available-there probably are not many weddings to discuss. The fact is you need physical interaction to determine if a physical relationship is going to work. While I realize love can blossom online, it cannot fully develop there. Thurlow et al. (2007) are in alignment with my theory, saying an important factor in determining how likely we are to be attracted to someone is whether or not we anticipate future interaction.
Whether it is the search for true love, or a desire to constantly know what is going on in the world, people can become addicted to the internet. Popular social websites draw users in with the ability to see loved ones status updates as they’re posted. Thurlow et al. (2007) point out how online pornography revenues in the United States were expected to reach $400 million by 2006. When millions of dollars are spent on online pornography you can only assume there are regular users who are potentially addicted to the websites offering content. I have friends who struggle with pornography addictions prompted by internet addiction. When you spend most of your free time online, it is safe to say you are probably an addict.
Thurlow et al. (2007) appear to be supporters of CMC. There are many reasons to understand why the authors enjoy this form of communication. However, it is important to recognize the good and bad that comes with CMC. We should not dismiss the pros and cons based on our fears or misunderstandings. The means may change, but as long as we continue communicating we will all survive.
Thurlow, C., Lengel, L., & Tomic, A. (2007). Computer mediated communication. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications
Match.com releases stats for Q1, 2009. (2009). Retrieved January/16, 2011, from http://www.datingsitesreviews.com/article.php?story=Match-com-Releases-Stats-for-Q1-2009