Is the online world creating a new culture unfolding right before our eyes? Is it just a change in lifestyle that barely scratches the surface of our societal structure? The Internet influences culture. Its effects can even be considered as a culture of its own. Some of these consequences may take many years to fully take effect. However, many of these changes are now evident in society. The Internet greatly affects the way we live. Much has changed because of the technology. What is this culture of the Internet and what are its implications?
The Internet brings major cultural changes. Evidence suggests that these changes are significant. However, they are not always positive and may be superficial.
The Internet, Learning and Culture Change
Has the Internet been able to bridge the cultural differences among the world’s nations? Or is it just another medium that helps make communications faster and more convenient? These questions direct us into examining how the Internet affects cultural differences. The Internet supports the harmonious mixing of different cultures, leading to a single global culture. The way the Internet has been influencing international and intercultural relations shows that this single global culture is possible.
The Internet facilitates widespread and frequent international sharing of cultural traits. For example, global access to online information on cultural clothing styles contributes to the adoption of such styles in various clothing design and production worldwide. The Internet also facilitates the global popularization of various local cuisines. It affects even the vocabularies people use.
The Internet is a tool and platform for cultural learning. It promotes learning of new cultural traits through online communication and information access. This learning leads to a stronger commonality among cultures. This learning also facilitates better appreciation of cultural differences, which in turn promote even more cultural learning. Thus, the cycle continues.
The Internet and Personal Relationships: Pros and Cons
Today, relationships are formed and maintained through online and offline means. The Internet allows people to mask physical appearance. In online communication, people tend to focus on the message instead of the way a person looks.
However, using the Internet for personal relationships has disadvantages. Facial expressions are oftentimes obscured even when web cameras are used. It is also difficult to know one’s personality and character through online communication. Thus, the Internet is limited in showing emotions, personality, character, facial expressions, humor, and other human characteristics.
The Internet and Its Own Culture
The Internet has its own culture, which encompasses many societal cultures. This new online culture can be considered as a different aspect of human existence. It does not necessarily interfere or replace existing cultures. Surfers, chatters, merchants and buyers, news agencies, and a host of other online entities are online to form and experience the Internet’s culture. People communicate and present themselves differently online than offline. This culture influences the behaviors people bring to the offline world, thereby also contributing to change in offline culture.
Despite the Internet’s having its own culture, offline cultures will remain different. In his book Internet Culture, David Porter discusses the Internet’s lack of effectiveness for fundamental changes in cultures:
The culture that the Net embodies […] is a product of the peculiar conditions of virtual acquaintance that prevail online, a collective adaptation to the high frequency of anonymous, experimental, and even fleeting encounters familiar to anyone who has ventured into a newsgroup debate. The majority of one’s correspondents in cyberspace, after all, have no bodies, no faces, no histories beyond what they may choose to reveal. There are no vocal inflections, no signatures, no gestures or embraces. There are words, but they often seem words stripped of context, words desperately burdened by the lack of the other familiar markers of identity in this strange, ethereal realm. (xi)
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