It’s a commonly held assumption that the internet will on the whole bring people together. It’s easy to think this, of course it’s the greatest communication medium of the modern world – we can speak and talk with people across the planet with ease. However a recent report has suggested that rather than bring communities together there is a danger that we should think carefully about the negative aspects of the internet.
Of course there are aspects of the internet that are the ultimate social leveller, the potential is there for people of different races, creeds and religions to come together to discuss their lives and beliefs. However is this what actually happens? The report suggests that in fact the internet often brings like minded people together who then create very isolated communities and groups. It can reinforce any sort of behaviour both good and bad.
Anyone who has ever looked inside a forum with strong views and beliefs will see how people with an opposite view are often treated. Take a simple example of a Teams football forum, the members will rarely mix with other supporters and any who do wander in are often treated rudely and aggressively.
How these virtual communities develop is not fully understood but it is clear they can have a very significant impact upon peoples lives. Many youngsters have many more digital friends than physical ones and they will likely form them with very specific groups of people. Although tech savvy and able to utilise technology from various sources like VPNs and proxies for instance to bypass content filters and firewalls – as demonstrated on this site.
Obviously social sites like Twitter and Facebook don’t intentionally create isolated groups, yet even here the technology is based on ’likes’ and ’preferences’ which slowly create specific groups within groups even amongst your digital friends.