John Parry Barlow’s essay poses an interesting question. Is communication via the Internet as socially beneficial as face to face interactions? The quick and easy answer to the question is no. The use of the internet and all of its distractions has caused an imbalance of actual social interaction. The informed critique that will be discussed is, “Is There a There in Cyberspace?” by John Perry Barlow. The major theme of this short story is how communities have drastically changed. While social benefits can come from participating in an Internet community, it is not a replacement for a physical community of peers.
Online communication lacks body language and facial expressions (Barlow). There is no tonal quality to Internet prose. The expression of elation, sadness and confusion are inherently compromised. Emoticons are symbols, like “smiley faces,” that can be used to represent emotions via online communications. The usage of emoticons can help in adding flair to textual interactions. They do fail to incorporate unique aspects of personality. Sad face looks the same for everybody online, but has individual characteristics when it presents itself in “real” life. Several studies have shown when Internet users are faced with pure text without emoticons, most people cannot perceive the correct emotion, attitude, and attention intents (Lo). The acronym of LOL means laughing out loud. If online interactions are as fulfilling as face to face interactions, then stand-up comedians could perform a webcast to an online chat room. Using LOL is the equivalent of a lackadaisical person saying “that’s funny.” There’s a lack of personality and uniqueness that people need in social interactions to feel fulfilled.
A virtual community is defined as a group of people with shared interests or goals that interact through the means of technology (Ridings & Geffen). The virtual portion of the community indicates that there is no physical location for which this community calls home. Not all Internet sites can be considered a virtual community. A community requires consistency with the members. Certain chat rooms or discussion boards aren’t intended for this particular kind of usage. In a study, the most popular reasons for people to join virtual communities are for information sharing and social support (Ridings & Geffen) or as Barlow put it “shared adversity”. It gives people who are enthusiastic about hobbies or particular topics to find like-minded people to interact with on a regular basis.
Identity is ambiguous in cyberspace. Social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace give users the ability to connect with friends and acquaintances around the world. These sites do serve a useful purpose for people to stay in touch or find old friends. Users can add co-workers, family members, classmates and neighbors as “friends.” A person can create multiple unique identities using these websites and find new users to interact with. A profile may include an...