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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pitfalls of Hi-tech Communication in Terms of Interpersonal Relationships

Various relationships get cold at times for no reason other than misunderstanding. In this regard, communication plays a very important role in every creature’s existence, especially for human beings. This paper focuses on the human being’s interpersonal communication system and how the current modern world with the availability of all the “quick” options to communicate affects their relationships. Furthermore, this paper gives emphasis on intimate and close family relationships in relation to their use of computer-mediated communication (CMC) and electronic communication.

In the world of today, where technology reigns, and the communication industry has developed several kinds of long-distance communication devices aside from the traditional land lines (telephones). To mention a few, and the most common and popular, there are the mobile phones and the Internet. With mobile phones, someone can call and send notes or written communication or images and videos through the mobile phone network’s short messaging service (sms, commonly known as “text messaging”) to anyone around the world who has a mobile phone device (turned on and with network signal), telephone or Internet connection. With the Internet on the other hand, to communicate, electronic mail has been so popular, not to mention chatting with messenger services utilizing web cameras and voice chats simulating a face-to-face (FtF) communication.

The above-mentioned scenarios apply to both individual level and/or organizational level, although this paper focuses on the former. This paper however, focuses on the individuals’ level. Technological advances have made communication very easy and convenient although it is apparent that nothing beats the “real” mode of communication which is the face-to-face.
Man is the animal that makes the greatest use of signs and symbols. By the words and gestures he uses in communication, man can be identified as a member or nonmember of this or that culture, this or that group. His effectiveness as a student, a teacher, a follower, a leader depends to a great extent on how he uses or does not use signs and symbols. We understand his behavior, its goals and motivations, largely by what he manages to communicate to us. (Hartley and Hartley 15)

The very simple definition of communication is that it is a "transfer of information, such as thoughts and messages" ("Communication") This definition though is not so much of an interactive interpersonal communication involving relationships between (or among) creatures, or at the minimum at least two souls, and most importantly, between two persons. “Why do you speak with me or talk with me? Why do we discuss?” It is because we all need to be heard and we also learn from listening to or hearing others. We need at least one person to be with us. This is why humans are created in pairs such as the biblical reference for Adam and Eve. Thus, humans are always in the lookout for their potential better half, because communication, at least between two human beings, is very important. This is man’s exit from solitude: to have someone to share his or her thoughts with. Why? For the simple reason that communication is a need for humans who are social beings and because communication is the means by which one person influences another, and is in turn influenced by him, it is the actual carrier of social process, it makes interaction possible and through it men become and maintain themselves as social beings. (Hartley and Hartley 16)
Warning and Friendly Reminder: Plagiarism is a crime. This essay is here to give you an idea or guide you, not to be copied by you. You can look at the references and Works cited provided by this free academic essay and from that you can create your own. Be a smart student,be honest: look for free academic essays anywhere in the web or the Internet but don’t forget to make your own. There are so many free essays online as guides but please do your own. You can also utilize free plagiarism checkers available online.
Why is understanding communication important when identifying the disadvantages of mobile gadgets in interpersonal relationships? It is because it is the “communication” factor that is being “sold” with those gadgets. One has to communicate, thus one must have a mobile phone or Internet connection in his or her personal computer, PDA, Blackberry or laptop and must connect with through the network. In fact, selling communication services is a promising breakthrough in international telecommunications policy. (Grewlich 238)

When we communicate, we relay something, as a sender, and at the same time, we receive and process, as a receiver, the information that someone else, has communicated to us. It is a two-way process with at least a sender and receiver and vice-versa setup. Communication is a process whereby people in groups, using the tools provided by their culture, create collective representations of reality." (Anderson, 5) Thus, it is heavily influenced by factors.
Communication is a process whereby information is bundled and is directed and conveyed or passed on by a sender to a receiver via some medium or a channel. After the receiver has accessed the information, he or she must decode or interpret it and gives the sender a feedback. This is the whole cycle and the receiver becomes the sender this time and the process goes on.
All types of communication must have the basic components: the sender, the message itself, the medium or the channel, and an intended receiver of the message. Feedback happens when the receiver returns to the sender with regards the original message. This paper is concerned about the importance of the medium or channel.

For the purpose of this paper, the main concern is the interpersonal communication. “Interpersonal communication is a transactional process in which humans negotiate the nature of their relationships with others. Through the back-and-forth exchange of interactive and interdependent behavioral messages, individuals create mental representations of themselves, others, and the relationship between them. Thus, interpersonal relationships reside in the minds of relational partners but are transacted through observable exchanges of behaviors. (Biocca & Levy 278)

Traditional communication is done face to face. Even with this very basic communication problems can already happen between the sender and receiver of the message. According to Westcott (), in considering human communication, we blithely state that this phenomenon occurs because of factors influencing the receiver's ability or inclination to hear what we have said. We may attribute the receiver's apparent inattention or misinterpretation of our perfectly clear communication to influences such as background experiences, cultural beliefs, language barriers, educational obstacles, fear (real and imagined), and personal, physical, or mental capacity, among others. When communication can have challenges even at its basic level, how much more if it is via an electronic device?

Communicating with each other can be done verbal, through a body language or through art. These various media can be either traditional (FtF) or electronic. Electronic communication, such as the mobile phone and the Internet compose the non-traditional media. Internet can relay almost all kinds of this information through simulation and the same can be done with the mobile phones although to a lesser extent. One can easily relay a song via the Internet or the mobile phone, the only difference is that, they became “electronic” and not any longer in person.
Without a doubt, electronic communication methods, or technologically-induced communications are very good and use, thus they sell. The question, however, is, are they promoting the positive growth in relationship of individuals or they are only short-term, yet damaging in the long-term communication solutions? These alternatives can be commonly referred to as “Telecommunications” or “highly technological communications” in general and for purposes of this paper. The following lays-out information about Telecommunications:
It is very interesting to learn that telecommunications "not start with Alexander Graham Bell" (Regli 40) but even earlier than his time and that the first device was not the telephone but the telegraph. And the earliest use of the telephone is very far from what the current generation could imagine. According to Regli (p. 41)

…only one person could communicate with no more than one other person, or one wire could connect to many people, in which case only one person could "communicate" and everyone else would have to wait to communicate with everyone else. For that reason, the initial applications of the telephone were for what would be called today, "broadcasting" (Pool, 1977). Much like cable television today (though certainly not like the cable television of the future), a central source that sounds through the wired network to all the receivers who subscribed to the service.

From the above beginnings, the mobile world has evolved although thirty years ago it was not as revolutionary as in the last ten to twenty years. “The mobile phone revolution has transformed our lives." ("What Do You Think" vii) In the 20th century, new information technology has the potential to influence the lives of ordinary citizens and many of the countries in Europe, North America, and Asia, the majority of individuals and households are using personal computers, the Internet, and mobile telephones. (Kraut, Brynin, and Kiesler 3)

Talking about communication, one can easily grasp the importance of high technology (hi-tech) communication media. Looking at its original intention, in terms of communication, they offer “quick and fast long-distance” contact. This is a very good alternative. As an alternative, the Internet and mobile devices are good but as a main mode of communication, this papers stands that it is not a very good for relationships. Why is that? Traditional electronic communication such as email, instant messaging, conference calls, and videoconferencing were not enough to convey the non-verbal expressions that are essential in creative collaboration. (Awazu, Baloh, Desouza, Wecht, Kim & Jha par. 31)

Obviously, high-tech communication has taken over the normal face-to-face importance. It does not however replace the real face-to-face communication. How popular is it? According to Pauley & Emmers-Sommer (par. 3), computer-mediated communication (CMC) is redefining how people engage in relationships of all types. Considering the pervasiveness of email, Internet chat programs, electronic bulletin boards, and Internet video- and teleconferencing, it is apparent that CMC is common. “Approximately 63% of American adults with Internet access, 48% of them send electronic mail in a typical day." (Kraut, Brynin, and Kiesler, 2006, p.4) The most significant change during the past few years has been that the youngest households have begun to prefer mobile phones over landline phones and the change has been both rapid and effective. Younger people are considered to be a significant factor in the mobile phone business, because they have quickly learned how to use mobiles as fully as possible. As a matter of fact, the position of younger people could be even stronger if Internet connections did not require conventional phone techniques. If people could use their PCs without wired lines, they would not need traditional phones at all." (Puro 20-21)

In a different study, they are able to show that students who are assigned to meet in an Internet chat room grow to like each other more than those who first meet face-to-face. Whether the very short-term interactions that participants have in the laboratory experiment can be generalized to the longer-term development of social relation- ships, however, is an open question. (Kraut, Brynin, and Kiesler 16) In this experiment, participants are randomly assigned to communication either over the computer or through another modality and they have the advantage of unraveling the causal direction in the link between communication modality and strength of social relationships. The experiment’s main conclusion is that there are few unqualified effects of using the Internet. Although they believe Internet communication can have transformational effects, these depend on individual differences in personality and motivations and on the nature of the online groups to which they become attached. (Kraut, Brynin, and Kiesler 16)

Although it was easy to form a relationship, the Internet does not always support everything that is needed in the long run. Thus, it causes failure. In fact, it was noted that, in the same Journal article authored by to Pauley & Emmers-Sommer (par. 22), after establishing that online relationships are common, that the unique features of online-relationship development strongly imply that the motivation to maintain an online relationship and the rationale for developing an online relationship are different when compared to FtF relationships. The incorporation of new technology in an online setting may actually hinder the development of these unique relationships more than it helps. (Pauley & Emmers-Sommer, 2007) Aside from the fact that CMC has a lot of shortcomings compared to FtF, which will be eventually laid out in this paper, CMC also offers more options for breaking a relationship such as the following:

…her husband's "cheating" on her with another woman. While she certainly sees his actions (communication via email, pager, and cell phone) as a betrayal, he believes that since nothing "physical" happened, there was no betrayal. (Hertlein, and Webster par. 38)

Whether or not one accepts that notion, it is nonetheless clear that networking is having an impact on a wide-ranging set of practices. And it is very popular impact. These include changes in interpersonal communication, sociality, and community (Saco 9 cited Rheingold 1993 cited Jones 1995); in courtship and romantic relationships (Saco, 9 cited Ullman 1996) and even in divorce (Saco 9 cited Quittner 1997). Another author agrees with this observation. "Computer-mediated communication alone could be expected to have a dramatic impact." (Warschauer 7)
In terms of mobile phones, which is also very obvious that almost everyone utilizes its services, aside from its functionality, another factor that makes mobile phones popular among users from the time it was evolving is its being “personal” in nature. According to Harkin, the highly personal relationship that has developed between mobile phone users and their devices is most visible among teenagers. That mobile phones are usually under personal ownership (in contrast to land-line phones, which are considered a family or public utility) appeals to the young who are often anxious to escape their parents' supervision, and reinforces the links between the device and personal identity.

Maintaining the same stand that the use of high-tech communication media such as the mobile phones and the Internet are not good in the long-run, the following lays out six samples of the obvious disadvantages of mainly using these media with a romantic partner or with family member or members:

a. lack of “real” eye-contact: The importance of eye-contact in relationships is very important. Based on the notion that eye-contact denotes honesty and sincerity, it is not possible either with the mobile phone or even with the most sophisticated web cameras. “Honesty and attractiveness judgments can be made depending on a variety of visual cues such as eye contact, head movements, smiling, blinking, self touching, and hand gestures, or audio cues such as speech rate, tone-of voice, and speech pauses” (Zuckerman, DePaulo; Atoum & Al-Simadi, 2000).
b. absence of intimacy and closeness: Intimacy in CMC exchanges is potentially limited by textuality and asynchronicity, when nothing but texts themselves exist to establish contact between people as the structure of CMC alters the possibilities for intimacy; this structure limits intimacy most particularly if we are unaware of its workings, and attribute its limitations to ourselves or our communicative partners. (Rooksby 114)
c. both parties cannot literally “feel” each other: Since the orientation is long distance, physical contact is absent.
d. cost considerations: The “psychological closeness does not reflect intrinsic properties of the communication media but instead reflects the marketing and regulatory decisions in the United States that lower the cost of Internet communications.” (Kraut, Brynin, and Kiesler 16) The Internet cost is no question all right but how about mobile phones? "This is all the more the case since, in surveys, of those who have dropped their service for mobile phones excessive bills caused by inattentive consumption" (Katz and Aakhus 5)
e. impersonal: "Initial research into interaction using computer networks seemed to confirm that this cues-filtered-out quality led to an impersonal perception of CMC. Much of this work was laid on the foundation established by social presence theory (Short, Williams," (Wood, and Smith 80) "Social presence is the degree to which we as individuals perceive another as a real person and any interaction between the two of us as a relationship." (Wood, and Smith 80)
f. many limitations: Looking at the above enumerated limitations, CMC is not a smart tool in maintaining relationships with an intimate partner or with a family member.

Looking at the above list and brief description or explanation, the first four may actually belong to one big disadvantage that is being “impersonal” and “full of limits” as they all sum up to these two weak areas of CMC. Moreover, CMC is impersonal in a sense that it “lost its real meaning and real touch”. Most mothers would prefer receiving a bunch of flowers and a simple “happy mother’s day” card than receiving the same bunch of flower and an online electronic card or an sms/text message or email. Limitations mean that when there is a need to, people may hug each other. This function is not offered electronically however. Indeed there are thousands of smiley’s and e-hugs but for sure they do not feel the same as real smiles and real hugs.

It is even a very good probability that intimate relationships can be broken caused by reliance in hi-tech communication methods. With this reliance, both parties may think that it is all right to continue using such devices but at the first chance of having someone to “touch” or have contact with “in reality” causes either of them to betray the one that is not present.

Not all these factors mentioned are attainable via the Internet or with the mobile phone of two persons who are developing or are in an intimate relationship. In fact, in a long-distance communication, there is always the factor that the parties, the sender and receiver, are actually “looking at the machine” and although it may seem that they look into each other’s eyes, it actually does not give the “real” purpose and effect of the act itself.

Nothing beats the real thing. Thus, it is nothing but normal to promote “real” communication with family-members, friends and loved ones over the use of electronic devices in conveying a feeling, a message or information to them. In fact, even "theorists and researchers concerned with CMC generally view FTF as the ideal form of interpersonal communication." (Biocca & Levy 286). Aside from these affirmations, human beings are aware that FtF communication has a different meaning and different effects for both parties. There is a sense of “real and personal touch” to it than just bubbling into a machine.

Furthermore, if hi-tech communication methods are encouraged, humans may end up alienated. Even at the current rate, a lot of children are already alienated and aloof to their parents and siblings caused too much attachment and/or addictions to technological gadgets and programs. Young (1997) found that 83% of addicts had utilized such technology for less than one year, concluding that new comers were more vulnerable to developing PIU. In a recent survey conducted by IntelliQuest, an Austin-based research firm, Snider (1997) reported that an estimated 11.7 million plan to venture on-line within the next year.

Although this issue is not directly concerned with this paper, it is important to note that it is one aspect of the virtual world as well and if the parents are present to always have the FtF communication with these children, similar problems would be avoided.

Continuous usage and encouragement of media devices in interpersonal relationships would eventually make people out of touch and out of reach aside from becoming cold to each other with lack of real interaction. When there is no more FtF interaction, community cannot be formed. As a result, the loss of sense of community which is often seen in the context of the urban milieu where advanced communication technologies such as interactive cable, optical fiber, direct broadcast satellites, computers and the like would impact with high degree of future shock.

CMC has also fueled long distance relationships (LDR). Online dating is so rampant these days. Research suggests that as many as 1 million people annually report being in a long-distance romantic relationship (Aylor 128 cited Maines, 1994). It is further noted that changes in technology and the workforce have led to record numbers of commuter marriages and other types of distance relationship. In 1998 a report from the Employee Relocation Council shows that approximately 10% of all job relocations in the United States resulted in LDRs, and 52% of employers in 1998 expected to see the number of job transfers increase. (Aylor 128). Even with the support of CMC not all LDR succeed, almost half of them get hurt in the end. In one of the cases Armour (p. 133) presented, of the 170 subjects in the study only 55% were currently in an LDR. The remaining 45% reported having terminated an LDR within the past 6 months

The use of electronic devices in interpersonal relationships as a substitute communication mode is tolerable. However, if people tend to use these devices as long-term or permanent replacement to the traditional FtF communication, this would be unhealthy and at times can cause these relationships to break. Too much usage of electronic devices in communicating with family-members, friends and loved ones are not encouraged to prevent human beings from becoming detached from the real world. Finally, this paper concludes that communicating with electronic devices in close interpersonal relationships on a long-term basis has qualitative negative effects and is considered as one of the many pitfalls of the communication technology.

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