Social Sphere Shifts from Interpersonal to Internet

It’s astonishing how the Internet, in a handful of years, has become so paramount to functionality in contemporary American society. Yet, more than coming to define how Americans function, the Internet has drastically altered our consciousness.

It has revolutionized the way we conceptualize and experience life, especially in three particular ways: We as a society are evolving into a non-tangible, non-active culture; we’re inundated with and depend on the speedy flow of information; and now, more than ever, a “me” culture, one truly based upon individual preference, is burgeoning.

More than skyrocketing obesity rates and a genuine lack of exercise, the Internet has effectively removed activity and the middleman-be it an actual person or a previous invention-from our lives.

Take, for example, ordering a pizza – the Internet has eliminated the need for both a telephone and an operator – or, purchasing a television online: no walking out the door, no driving the car, no paying gas money, no hauling the giant box in your trunk and dragging it through your house. Sometimes, as in the case of CDs or movies, you’re not paying for an actual object, just data.

Even other humans are digitized in a sense. We don’t really have to see people (send them an e-mail when they’re a cubicle away) or physically transfer money (type in your credit card number). E-mails and Facebook and text messaging are all essentially simulations of actual experience, which seems to be the direction the Internet and similar technologies are headed, an endless supply of interaction and stimulation based on virtual rather than a physical level.

Streamlining excessive effort for the sake of convenience and efficiency is the trend, which has drastically transformed how we live and work. The United States, and much of the world for that matter, has become the national equivalent of Las Vegas. We never sleep. We’re a 24/7 society (if hours even apply anymore). There is seemingly no off switch considering the flood of information the Internet provides.

For example, a generation ago when a worker left the office his or her job was finished for the day. Work remained in the office; schoolwork remained at school. Nowadays, work can follow you anywhere. There are few places to truly escape the tumult of life.

Where once there was a clear division between various aspects of a person’s life due to time and space, there is now the convergence of all these aspects into an endless spiral. Now, professors can e-mail you with additional assignments or require that you post it on Blackboard during Spring Break. Then, once you take into account the Internet’s brood of children-cell phone, iPod, Bluetooth, Blackberry, and laptop-and you’ve got your friends, family, a television, a radio, a newspaper, and a movie theater in your pocket. The stimulation is ceaseless, yet the irony is that we often feel limbless if our headphones aren’t plugged in or our cell phone isn’t within arm’s reach.

But, on the plus side, the Internet also works for you. It allows users a breadth of selectivity, catering to one’s personal needs. America has always been a nation based on the individual; and where popular and consumer cultures are concerned, it is the collective “I” or the affluent majority, historically emblematic of the upper-middle class white male. It is with that mold that American culture was largely based upon. Now, women can find websites created specifically for them; fans of alternative music need not suffer under radio designed for mainstream listeners; the Internet is filled with niches for even the most particular connoisseur.

This is only a marginal list of the effects the Internet is responsible for. It is so ingrained in our everyday lives that it’s often difficult to discern how exactly it has transformed how we engage the world.

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