The Effects of Cyberculture

With the creation of the internet, the lifestyles of people around the globe have experienced a quick and drastic change. This new method of communication accounts for a large portion of how people interact, shop, learn, and transmit information. What used to take several months to cross from the Western Hemisphere to the Eastern Hemisphere now only takes a few seconds, courtesy of the power of electricity. While some may argue that the internet has only helped improve the cultures already existing, a valid argument may be made for the new internet subculture that has evolved. Americans in particular are notorious for spending more and more of their time in this new “cyberculture”.

A cyberculture may be defined as a way of life and even speaking that takes place entirely online. Text jargon like “LOL” is a commonly understood way of saying “laughing out loud”, and the quicker-to-type “u” takes the place of “you”. Entire relationships begin and end in chat rooms, with users meeting and greeting much as if they were in a large park.

One of the primary functions of the internet is dating or sex searches. People turn to the computer to find love or companionship because it is easy to understand, simple to operate, and quick. T housands of members with profiles that state who they are and what they’re looking for in a partner are accessible with a click of the computer mouse. There is no hour spent trying to discern what someone looks like through the smoky fog of a bar room – instead, one can scroll down neatly organized rows of profile pictures. There is no buying or accepting of sometimes expensive alcoholic drinks – there is the decision of whether or not to send a virtual “wink” to another interested party, again with a click of the mouse. 

The convenience of these websites is accented further by the sheer variety of selection. Websites exist for all areas of interest, from those who prefer a scientific method to finding love – such as eHarmony.com or Match.com – to those who want their partner to share a passion for farming. It all depends on user preference.

For those younger in age, there are social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, all of which serve to maintain connections with numerous friends. Users on these sites may post what they are doing – which all their friends are able to view – and comment on what other people are doing. It may be the world’s largest gossip chain, and not a word has to be spoken for it to happen. Friends and siblings may not speak for over a year, yet they will still be able to tell what the other party had for breakfast that morning. Rumors can be started on networking sites, and they can sometimes ruin “real-life” friendships, if they are vicious enough. It seem silly to think that something typed on a computer screen can have such a far influence, but such is the power of the internet.

Interactive games, especially massively multiplayer online games (MMO’s), can take up much of a person’s day. World of Warcraft, for example, is a battle and exploration MMO that has real-time (it takes place in actual time, rather than a speeded-up online clock) battles, raids, or meetings with fellow players in virtual hang-outs.  These meet-and-greets can take four hours or longer – and players will happily spend the time to do so.

The toll that this takes on the existing “real life” cultures is a withdrawal of human communication. Handshakes become weaker, since they are not used as much as they were in the 1900s. People will first meet in an online chat forum, rather than over coffee. People can become quieter and more withdrawn, since they do not know how to interact with an actual human being.  A harsh word typed online can influence friends and affect decision-making. For some, cyberculture is increasingly becoming the foundation on which daily life is built.   Whether this is a positive or negative trend remains to be seen, but it is a guarantee that almost everyone will have an individual opinion about it. 

For more information on what a cyberculture is, or for some examples of the interaction that takes place, please peruse the following links.

·        RCCS: Introducing Cyberculture – an informative and well-researched introduction to “cyberculture”, as published by the Oxford University Press.

·        Investigate a Cyberculture – this is a guided exercise, intended for classroom use but accessible to the individual as well, for exploring the web cyberculture. 

·        Interaction Forms and Communicative Actions in Multiplayer Games – an informative article about multiplayer games, and the interactions that take place within.

·        From Counterculture to Cyberculture – an article exploring the concept and inner workings of “virtual communities”.

·        Internet Dating Sites Unrealistic – an article examining dating sites and what they offer; from The Daily Collegian Online.

·        The Internet Study – charts and data from a study by Stanford University, detailing society’s relationship to various aspects of the internet, and the impact that the internet has on society.

·        Syracuse University News: Online Games – this article by Syracuse University examines the draw and effect of multiplayer online games, and reports the results of a study conducted on the subject.

·          Player Dynamics in Massively Multiplayer Online Games – this paper, written by four students from Carnegie Mellon University, examines the results of a study conducted on the topic of multiplayer online games, and the effects on students who participated.

·          Video game Everquest 2 provides new way to study human behavior, says U of M researcher – this article from the University of Minnesota provides information about a new research project that is designed to enhance the understanding of human behavior through an online game.

·          Where Everybody Knows Your (Screen) Name – this paper from a collaboration between the University of Wisconsin and the University of Illinois examines the role of massively multiplayer online games as pertaining to social interaction.

·          Increase in Online Shopping – an article from Berkley University examines the trend of online shopping, and why it is becoming increasingly popular.

·          Online Shopping - Smartcomputing – a page from SmartComputing that provides facts about online shopping as well as tips to keep oneself safe while purchasing online.

·          Online vs Offline Retailing – an article discussing the trend of online shopping; also provides links to additional articles on the topic.

·          Facebook: The Pros and Cons – this evaluation of Facebook, a social networking site, is undertaken in a thoughtful and balanced manner, and provides a good overview of the subject.

·          The Benefits of Facebook "Friends" – this unique article analyzes the relationship between Facebook and the attainment of social capital, as well as the relative value thereof.

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