Posted: November 27th, 2013
Social and Political Implications of Virtual Reality
In current world, technology has advanced largely, especially the computer world that has become a necessary tool of communication and experiencing the world in a different way every day. Many advances in information technology through computers such as social media, one being facebook, and others such as online simulation games, have become popular and continue to have effects to the society and life. Facebook is affecting how people interact, by enabling instant interaction across borders, at the same time affecting how people make friends, date and could influence alienation from the society, especially when it comes to the virtual reality.
Facebook has made it possible for people of different societies to interact since it is not affected by boundaries that are posed by geographic or state boundaries. “Facebook has helped for communication across boundaries and across continents. Its main characteristic is that it wipes away the physical obstructions that stand in the way of communication,” (Farah, 2010). People from all over the world can communicate to each other via facebook without barriers that are in other communication methods such as one on one, which limits to people around you. Before facebook was introduced into the society, meeting new people or even friends online was not possible, but now, just typing the name of a person will display a number of people with the same name, and an option of requesting friendship will be available, irrespective of where one lives. This has helped in creating a global village since organizations too can have facebook sites that help interaction with customers all over the world. Facebook is a big contributor to globalization in this way, and it will continue to connect more societies and nations together as its popularity continues, and demolish social classes or barriers.
In facebook sites, social status of person is not recognized, since one can put any information on his or her profile whether true or not, and finding out the status of the other person through facebook may not be reliable. According to Farah (2010), in facebook, everybody can approach anybody they want, including CEOs, celebrities and famous social figures, since no class system, social discrimination and even minority groups exist. Through facebook, anyone including people who could not be approached on one on one is approachable, and social hierarchy is not regarded in facebook, (Farah, 2010). Making friends on facebook involves just click and typing of a name as mentioned above, and people who find it hard to approach a person in real life find it easy to request their friendship via facebook.
Today, there are many ways of dating, starting from traditional to online dating. Facebook, being a social networking site has helped many people who find it hard to approach a person they are interested in to do it online, and they could organize a date online and meet later. In addition, many people can date across borders via social networking sites such as facebook, and the trend is rising, allowing more interaction of societies with others. The ability of finding out the interests of another person online makes it possible to find a person who matches your interests, and the status of a person, whether single or married helps in connecting people. More so, it is common to see people indicate that they are looking for a life partner in their profile, which makes it easier for both sexes to approach each other, something that may seem hard in real world.
Facebook has also been a key tool in changing how people communicate, and the trend is changing every day. Before facebook and other social networking sites came, online communication was through email, but now there is capability of instant messages that allow people to chat, and uploading of photos, with an option of sharing information. Sharing information allows one to communicate with many people at the same time, as opposed to the traditional and emailing only. Facebook is a great tool for campaigning since one can distribute information to many people through networking with friends who extend the information to other friends. Communication of important events are changing from word of mouth and through traditional media to social sites, where people organize events without much costs, and at the same time, effectively covering larger areas and targeted people. Hence, communication is faster and can reach many people within short time, with out much cost.
Having the above good effects to the society, facebook has another effect to the society that is not as commendable, and could encourage alienation from social activities such as real socializing that requires more skills and expressions. People who use facebook too much for social purposes tend to get addicted to the site, and when they are not on the site, their mind could be preoccupied by information they got or are intending to put in the site (Lorraine, 2010). Facebook involves socializing through texts, which improves virtual communication and makes it hard to communicate verbally, or face to face, and most often, people who shy off may be inclined to facebook since it is easier, making it hard to talk to others, and they could suffer low esteem in real life social places. This tends to make such people want to isolate themselves from the society, and find satisfaction from the social sites since it hides expressions and embarrassment, (Farah, 2010). However, it is important to note that facebook does not completely alienate one from society since it allows people to socialize, but rather, it hinders people from real life social interaction such as face-to-face interaction.
The good or bad of facebook will also depend on the user, since many people could pose as friends to get personal information, which is possible, and it could well be used against a person. It is common to see quite personal or even compromising photos of a person on a facebook site, which easily triggers enmity between the users involved, and even third parties concerned about the person. For instance, it is common to see a person reveal information such as a photo of a person having some intimate contact with a colleague at work to tarnish their name to all people that know him or her.
On the other hand, virtual reality, which refers to computer simulated environments that are experienced through sight and sound, has effects similar to facebook, but have a difference when it comes to social life (Yount, 2005). In virtual reality, people experience environments of places that they cannot be able to visit in the comfort of their seats behind the computers simulators through games, or virtual trips. Currently, advanced countries use virtual reality to teach in class, such as having virtual field trips where students do not have to be out of class to have an experience of the field of study. Virtual reality has an effect on the life of the user, as well as contributing to social alienation.
Virtual reality could have an effect on the user, such as game players, where the games they play are made to look real. A good common example is racing games, where a player will drive a virtual car or ride a bike with a real like view of the road as it approaches, and taking corners, as well as sounds that accompany the game. This makes the game look real, however, the indestructible mode that comes with these games allowing the virtual car to crash without stopping the game. In the virtual reality, the controls are different, such as pedals and gears, where in a computer they are just buttons, and this makes it easier to play the game and drive the virtual car faster, while in real world this might be limited since causing an accident will have consequences that could cost life, and a lot of money. Driving in the real life can seem boring since one cannot drive as fast, and one cannot risk crashing, and more so, driving in the virtual world is designed to be interesting. Other virtual realities such as the virtual environments have their effects too. This games can affect the life of a person, where they get addicted to the game, where most of the time, the player is engaged in these games, at the expense of others of other activities such as completing assignments and tasks.
Today, it is common to see students learning using virtual reality aids, such as those who take causes needing fieldwork, may use virtual fields where they can explore the field from their computers, with options of redirecting, and sound, as well as videos of the place they need to study. This has a god effect on teaching since it can be repeated several times as one wish unlike visiting the place where going back may be hard if it is far. However, it gives less experience, since some senses are not included, such as touching and smell. In real life, all the senses are used, and a better study can be done through all senses, since feeling is part of learning, and it could affect their ability to conduct real field studies effectively, or finding out data on their own without the reliance of virtual reality sites. However, new technologies that tend to include feelings through tactile feedback are currently emerging, which are called “Haptic technology,” (The New Media Landscape, 2010).
Virtual reality is designed to look real, intends to replace reality experiences with the virtual ones, and could affect the alienation of a person from the society since it would mean spending more time on the virtual environments. This would increase the dependency of experiencing the real world through these games, and addiction could lead to isolation from the society. Many people who are addicted by the virtual reality keep trying to experience more from it, and the less time they use for real life activities. This tends to make them develop low interest for real life experiences since they believe that the virtual reality gives everything needed. This is true since people who socialize less tend to withdraw themselves from the society, and it leads to alienation deeper and deeper.
Virtual reality is an everyday life tool for many people to interact, and it continues to affect communication trends, as well as life in several ways, at the same time making the dream of a global village come true faster than expected. Facebook has been one major tool of social interaction since it came into place and people are becoming more dependent on it, and traditional interaction methods are being used less and less, especially by the users of this social site. Its presence has been of much advantage to the society, as well as the virtual reality, but this will depend on how the users use it, and how much control they could have especially considering majority are young users.
Virtual Reality in politics
Today, virtual; reality, especially Facebook is used in many ways, including political purposes, where politicians use it for campaign. Many politicians have used it to reach many people from different places they may not reach physically since having internet allows them to travel everywhere, in the comfort of their offices or at home, at the same time saving costs involved in the traditional ways of holding rallies that involve a lot of preparation. Virtual reality is changing the way politics are done, where politicians can spread their policies and campaigns to the whole world without leaving their place of work.
In the presidential campaign, in 2008, Obama made use of the facebook to raise funds for his campaign, as well as win voters. This is true because 70% of facebook users, who were under 25 years of age, voted in his favor (Fraser & Dutta, 2008). In this campaign, majority of politicians used social networking sites, especially facebook to have a direct contact with their voters, where they shared information from their desks to many people without necessarily calling for rallies. This was made possible by the virtual reality contained in facebook that allows people to exchange and share information to many at the same time, without the need to visit the people.
More so, facebook allows people to chat, and make comments about issues, which makes it look like a real conversation, hence debates can be held online with ease, and allow many people to participate. The use of facebook in this way aided Obama in learning more about people’s thought, which is a strong point in politics. According to Fraser and Dutta (2008), “The Web, a perfect medium for genuine grass-roots political movements, is transforming the power dynamics of politics. There are no barriers to entry on sites like Facebook and YouTube.” This has been the case since facebook became a site for everybody, and allowed anybody to share information with others irrespective of gender, class or status, making it an effective tool to reach people at home, and those who may be across borders.
Through facebook, interactivity with everybody despite what they are is achieved easily with a good website that allows people to access personal information of a person such as interests, which helps many to feel attached to a person with the same interests. In his website, Obama was able to raise large amounts of funds, most being small donations from many people, without attending any fund raising campaigns, which saved costs, and at the same time, did not limit the number of people who would make donations, since it only required a person to log into their sites. Facebook has managed to connect people without the need to leave houses to meet with others, which have made it ideal for political campaign, and it has since started changing the way politics are done, from the old way of holding rallies to interacting with people online, at a cheaper cost.
Farah, V. (2010). Effects Facebook has had on society
Fraser, M., Dutta, S. (2008). Barrack Obama and the Facebook Election. Retrieved from http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2008/11/19/barack-obama-and-the-facebook-election
The New Media Landscape. (2010). The effects of virtual reality: The good and the bad. Retrieved from http://rostamib.wordpress.com/2010/05/12/the-effects-of-virtual-reality-the-good-and-the-bad/
Yount, L. (2005). Virtual reality. Detroit: Lucent Books.
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