Digital divide or not?

Is there a psychological “digital divide”? Are people who often use the Internet psychologically different from those who do not and in what ways?

The Internet is changing the average citizens as much as did other technologies, for instance: telephone, TV, computers, mobile phones etc. The mainly province was to help the science, engineering, and business. Many scholars, technologists, and social critics believe that these changes and the Internet, in particular, are transforming economic and social life (Robert , Micheal, Vicki, Sara, Tridas , & William , 1998). In the past few years, the scholars have done many researches to make a conclusion of difference in psychological and social tend of the Internet to the citizens. Therefore, the term “digital divide” is the gap that exists between those who have access to electronic and Information Technology – Internet and those who do not (University of Minnesota Duluth, 2011).

People use home computers and the Internet in many different ways and for many purposes, including entertainment, education, information retrieval, and communication. If people use the Internet mainly for communication with others through e-mail, distribution lists, multiuser dungeons, chats, and many other instant or voice messenger applications, they might do so to augment traditional technologies of social contact, expanding their number of friends and reducing the difficulty of coordinating interaction with them. On the other hand, these applications disproportionately reduce the costs of communication with geographically distant acquaintances and strangers; as a result, a smaller proportion of people’s total social contacts might be with family and close friends. Yet other applications on the Internet, particularly the World Wide Web, provide asocial entertainment that could compete with social contact as a way for people to spend their time (Robert et al., 1998).

On the one hand, since the primary use of the Internet is communication, some people might speculate that the Internet will have positive social consequences in people’s everyday lives because it increases the frequency and quality of interpersonal communications among people. People with easy access to others would feel better connected and more strongly supported by others, leading to happiness and engagement in families, organizations, communities, and society more generally (Nikolovska, 2007).

But, on the other hand, the ease of electronic communication may lead to weaker social ties, because people have less reason to leave their homes and actually interact face to face with other people. The Internet allows people to more easily work from their home, to form and sustain friendships and even romantic attachments from their home, to bank from their home, to vote and engage in political and social issue based discussions with others (from home) (Nikolovska, 2007).

Even with watching television and using a home computer and the Internet generally imply physical inactivity and limited face-to-face social interaction. Some studies, including our own, have indicated that using a home computer and the Internet can lead to increased skills and confidence with computers (Lundmark, Kiesler, Kraut, Scherlis, & Mukhopadhyay, 1998). However, when people use these technologies intensively for learning new software, playing computer games, or retrieving electronic information, they consume time and may spend more time alone (Vitalari, Venkatesh, & Gronhaug, 1985). Some cross-sectional research suggests that home computing may be displacing television watching itself (Danko, W. D. & MacLachlan, J. M, 1983), (Kohut, 1994) as well as reducing leisure time with the family (Vitalari et al., 1985).

In this variety of ways, Internet communications can potentially displace face-to-face communications. This point is important because psychologists in many researches have described and proved such face to face and telephone connections as being of higher quality, when viewed in terms of their contribution to satisfaction and well-being(Nikolovska, 2007).

Question that rise is while our culture heralds the Internet as a technological wonder; there are suggestions that Internet use has a negative influence on individuals and their social skills. A recent study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University concludes that Internet use leads to small but statistically significant increases in misery and loneliness and a decline in overall psychological well-being(Association, American Psychological, 1998). The appropriately named HomeNetproject studied a sample of 169 people in Pittsburg during their first year or two online. Data showed that as people in this sample used the Internet more, they reported keeping up with fewer friends. They also reported spending less time talking with their families, experiencing more daily stress, and feeling more lonely and depressed. These results occurred even though interpersonal communication was their most important reason for using the Internet.

Katz and Aspden’s national survey (1997) is one of the few empirical studies that have compared the social participation of Internet users with nonusers. Controlling statistically for education, race, and other demographic variables, these researchers found no differences between Internet users’ and nonusers’ memberships in religious, leisure, and community organizations or in the amount of time users and nonusers reported spending communicating with family and friends. From these data, Katz and Aspden concluded that “[f]ar from creating a nation of strangers, the Internet is creating a nation richer in friendships and social relationships” (p. 86)(Robert et al., 1998).

Furthermore, the percentage of usage of the technology nowadays drastically enhanced. Such as the state/country statistics of information society reports during pass few years.

Parallel between two countries with a similarity of population number: Estonia and Macedonia

Estonia since 2000 had 366,600 connected citizens though Internet. However, in 2010 the statistic report’s the rapidly changes with the number of 969,700 connections (Miniwatts Marketing Group., 2010). Yet the statistic in Macedonia shows since 2000 the users that were connected are 30,000, where in 2010 the number swiftly has change, 1,057,400 users in the country were connected though Internet. Thus, the statistic shows that 75,1% of citizens in Estonia has access to Internet, analogous to Macedonia 51% of population of the country in final report of 2010 (Miniwatts Marketing Group, 2010).

As a result, from the statistic we can see that, most of the population nowadays has a computer, laptop, or device in their pocket that can connect on Internet. Despite the alarm, research indicates most children are doing fine. Computers are certainly intriguing and captivating, and the Internet is most assuredly alluring with its research and communicative capacities. But overall, technology can be considered a positive enhancement to growth(Affonso, 1999). This feature is eloquently affirmed by author Don Tapscott (Tapscott, 1999):

“… when kids are online, they’re reading, thinking, analyzing, criticizing and authenticating – composing their thoughts. Kids use computers for activities that go hand-in-hand with our understanding of what constitutes a traditional childhood. They use the technology to play, learn, communicate and form relationships as children always have. Development is enhanced in an interactive world.”

From the above the influence of the Internet has caused a change in the way we communicate, study, shop, etc. The most famous for the ability to spread information, to communicate from a distance with a web camera, etc. it is the Internet. But this communication revolution changed the pure nature of interpersonal and group processes. We should be able to see the difference between the qualities of face-to-face communication that influence the impact of communication on people and their social interaction. Moreover, should we be able to predict the probable influence of any new communication technology. Nevertheless, the researchers show that people sooner or later convert their cyber contacts into more traditional face-to-face, as most of us do. People use the Internet, in other words to help them achieve their real-life goals. And rather than technology’s changing people’s social and psychological reality, in other words, people change their use of technology to facilitate their creation of a desired social reality.

Reference

Affonso, B. (1999, December). Is the Internet Affecting the Social Skills of Our Children? Retrieved from Sierra Source Web Design: http://www.sierrasource.com/cep612/internet.html

Association, American Psychological. (1998). Internet paradox — a social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? American Psychologist,53, 1017-1031.

Danko, W. D., & MacLachlan, J. M. (1983). Research to accelerate the diffusion of a new invention. Journal of Advertising Research, 23(3),39-43.

Kohut, A. (1994). The role of technology in American life. Los Angeles: Times Mirror Center for the People and the Press.

Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Kraut, R., Scherlis, W., & Mukhopadhyay, T. (1998). How the strong survive: Patterns and significance of competence. Unpublished manuscript.

Miniwatts Marketing Group. (2010). Macedonia Internet Usage and Telecommunications.

Retrieved from Internet Usage and Telecommunications: http://www.internetworldstats.com/eu/mk.htm

Miniwatts Marketing Group. (2010). Internet Usage Stats and Market Report – Estonia.

Retrieved from Internet World Statistic: http://www.internetworldstats.com/eu/ee.htm

Nikolovska, M. (2007, April). The Influence Of The Internet On People’s Social And Psychological Realities. Retrieved from EzineArticles.com: http://ezinearticles.com/?The-Influence-Of-The-Internet-On-Peoples-Social-And-Psychological-Realities&id=524319

Robert , K., Micheal, P., Vicki, L., Sara, K., Tridas , M., & William , S. (1998). Internet

Paradox. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Tapscott, D. (1999). The kids are alright: technology doesn’t make them ‘little criminals’. Retrieved from Victoria Point Multimedia: http://www.victoriapoint.com/child_technology.htm

University of Minnesota Duluth. (2011, 04 04). Web Design References: Glossary. Retrieved from Information Technology Systems & Services: http://www.d.umn.edu/itss/support/Training/Online/webdesign/glossary/d.html

Vitalari, N., Venkatesh, A., & Gronhaug, K. (1985). Computing in the home: Shifts in the time allocation patterns of households. Communications of the ACM, 28(5), 512-522.