The advent of Internet communication technology is in and of itself, a positive move toward overall global advancement, but the costly social impact is what concerns Lebanese families and sociologists alike. This fear is further amplified by the anticipated social disintegration that may result.
The positive aspects of the Internet:
As a result of the Internet there is almost nothing that cannot be accomplished from the comfort of one’s own home; grocery shopping, buying merchandise, paying bill, researching for term papers and even striking up relationships with people half way across the world. Communication, which once consisted of putting pen to paper, has now been reduced to a few key strokes and a click of a mouse; indeed, people are able to correspond via E-mail faster and easier than traditional mail services could ever hope to offer. The positive aspects of the Internet are immeasurable and go without saying; this paper’s focus is on the negative effects of the Internet.
Alienation from institutions such as the family, education and places of work may result from the following factors:
Lack of face-to-face socialisation is turning into a considerable problem for those who have locked themselves inside the anonymity of their computers. Indeed studies have shown the tendency for people to become significantly stressed, depressed and lonely with each hour spent in the obscure world of Internet chatting. Because there is proof to substantiate the claim that the longer people spend chatting on the Internet the less sociable they become, a considerable amount of further research must be done to determine the extent of damage this has on society. It is clear that even though Internet chat rooms provide much the same interactive approach to socialisation, the social implication is that it gravely lacks the in-person connection required in order for people to develop acceptable social skills. This will also affect negatively the way young teenagers socialise with family members, friends and strangers in society. The reason of this concern is the closely-knit society that we live in; Arab society dictates strong interpersonal relationships whether be it with family members or friends. So as we can see, lack of face to face interaction will result in a fair amount of stress on the fragile Lebanese society, which a large part of it is based on an emotional relationship with each other, and as Patai wrote “the Arab nation as an Arab family”.
In a critical time where social integration is high on the agenda in post war Lebanon, the Lebanese society is finding itself competing not only with the existing forces of disintegration, but also with a new unanticipated one. The Internet introduces an invasion of western cultures into the homes of unsuspecting parents, which may lead to a loss of one’s own culture and adopting a new foreign one. The adoption of a new culture will cause the general public to resist this change, thus the consequences will lead the youth to feel rejected and further amplify the already existing social problem of alienation from society as a whole. This alienation from the Arab culture will lead the youth to strongly get attached to the new culture that they have adopted, which will again translate into a disastrous disintegration.
Having mentioned the factors that may lead to alienation and loss of culture, it follows that these factors will also lead to a loss of identity. In a time where national identity plays an important role in the social integration of Lebanon, we cannot afford to let such a new force as the Internet to destroy what we’ve been trying to build, and there are some results of our efforts, for example, Qanna, Arnoun, and recently Jezzine and the Asian basket ball tournament where Lebanon won. Watching these incidents unfold in front of me, gave me hope for a united Lebanon, since incidents like these were so hard to come by before, now we are seeing more and more social integration between all factions in Lebanon.
Seeing all this, and getting a sense of nationalism I also get the shocking news about the Internet and its effects on our society, did you know that 85% of all pictures on the Internet are pornographic in nature?! That makes me wonder what kind of exposure the Lebanese youth are encountering, and what the effects on their values are. A recent report published on CNN.com states, “More than 50 percent of parents of children between 11 and 15 years old say they allow their kids to go online whenever they feel like it. The number increases to 75 percent for teenagers older than 16.” Even though this is a report for Internet use among children in the states, but one can see how this is also the case in Lebanon, how many Internet cafes are there? How many network gaming centers are there? I used to work in an Internet caf as an Internet assistant, and I saw what the young school kids were accessing without any grain of shame on their faces! In my experience as an Internet assistant, their number one visited sites are pornographic sites, which are more readily available than any other site!
Even though the Internet is a great advantage to Lebanon in terms of communications technology and helping Lebanon get back on its feet, the Internet also has negative implications on the social integrity of Lebanon. These negative implications include:
In other words, globalization afforded by Internet communication has been hailed as the precursor of a New World Order.
vMichiyo, Yamada (1999, April). Most older kids surf unsupervised.
vMowlana, Hamid (1995, July). The communication paradox: Globalization may be just another word for western cultural dominance. Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, vol. 51.
vAnonymous (1998, August). More Internet use may cause depression; web hurts social contact, study finds. The Washington Times