Most publications – and there are thousands available on the web – about new communication technologies in general and social web in specific are either positively ignoring the aspect of long term impact on human culture or being critical but only covering the surface. But what do new communication technologies really change in our behavior? How do they influence human culture persistently?

Kim Krause Berg talks about Information Overload and “having to pay continuously attention” not to miss anything. Mobile phones, smart phones, PDAs, desktop computers, laptop computers, netbooks, tablet devices, video game systems, land line telephones, voice over IP (VoIP), email and instant messaging are all common forms of communication — several of which are free to use. Easy and broad access to these technologies means people are communicating more frequently than ever, from texting in the supermarket checkout line to making phone calls from the bathroom. A 2008 Nielsen Company study found Americans were sending 2.5 billion text messages per day. They averaged 357 per phone user each month. And teens 13 to 17 averaged 1,742 messages per month.

Kim states that people are tired of the pressure to react immediately social networking is creating. I would agree to most of these topics but they are no long-term impacts: they will fall away in that moment you stop using the Social Web. Yes, the internet isn’t going away but you are free to decide when and how to use it. Yes, we can buy almost everything without leaving the house but you could go for a work and get it yourself. Hmmm, good point: are we still able to buy anything we would like without the internet or is the range of products in real life steadily shrinking? I will put this aspect on my Future Memory page for future research.

For kids using communication technology it is common to see someone multitasking while communicating with someone else. You could be talking on the phone while surfing the Internet; you could be checking e-mail and using your mobile phone simultaneously. Communications technologies have made all this possible. However, although you think that you are saving time by engaging in this sort of multitasking, the net effect is that the quality of the communication suffers if you can’t give your undivided attention to the person you are communicating with.

In some settings, technology has led people to write more and talk less. The ubiquitous and cheap nature of email has made it the backbone of business communication. Emails have the advantage of being able to transmit information instantly to numerous recipients. With the increasing use of email-enabled phones and devices, people no longer have to be at their desks to communicate. Although not all businesses subscribe to the use of instant messaging in the workplace, some like technology giant Cisco encourage it. The net result is that between these common forms of written electronic communication, people in the same building or even the same office have begun communicating in writing instead of by phone or face to face.

The Internet has made it possible to keep in touch with people from anywhere in the world. And you can communicate on the go using text messaging and cell phones. This has led to some complaints that such technology has led to a decrease in face-to-face interactions. Communicating with someone face-to-face allows you to watch their nonverbal cues, such as a smile or a frown, and this is another layer of communication. Technology doesn’t allow people to catch these sorts of nonverbal cues. As Dr. Pam Hayes, an Alaska psychologist, says, “I think there is the potential for greater richness in face-to-face interaction because you lose the body cues and facial expressions when you’re doing work on the Internet. The subtle forms of communications are lost over the Internet.”

Young people use modern technologies in increasing numbers to communicate with their friends. Text messaging and online chats have become the preferred method of youth communication. A California State University and UCLA study indicates that for young people face-to-face interactions are less desirable than modern modes of communication. This preference could cause an inability to form lasting friendships or difficulty understanding social cues. Others believe that modern technologies increase communication and therefore strengthen friendships.

Another downside to communication technology is that even as we communicate with more and more people using various technologies, some people feel more isolated than connected. A study done in the 1990s on the effects of Internet use on social well-being found that some people who used the Internet a lot for communication actually felt more isolated than before. However, the study was redone in 2002 and had different findings. The 2002 study found that the initial negative effects of Internet-use wore off for those who tended to be extroverts, while those who tended to be introverts continued to feel isolated even with the passage of time.

“Does the Social Web Impact Human Behaviour?”, Kim Krause Berg, 2009
Anti-social technology? — Screen time competes with face-to-face time in today’s wired world“, Redoubt Reporter, 2009
Americans text more than they talk“, CNET, 2008
Antisocial Networking?“, The NewYork Times, 2010