My Speech

Cyber Communication — Progress or Problem?

Long before the invention of computers, Charles Dickens wisely observed, “Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true.” But Dickens didn’t know about Skype and Facebook. Over the last century, technology has renovated our vocabulary and metamorphosed our modes of contact.

The computer was first employed for military use and scientific research, but it has gradually worked its way into American homes. Now over 75% of the United States population uses the Internet. With one click we can peruse weather forecasts, the latest headlines, or current fashion trends. Never before has the world been so literally at our fingertips.

In addition to offering a wealth of information, the Internet has become the foremost means of social networking. Through MySpace, Twitter, and instant messaging, friends can reconnect and share life as it happens. According to company statistics, the Facebook network has over 400 million users. That’s a big playground to monitor, but the benefits can be worth it.

Communication through the Internet provides an effortless way for people to conduct long-distance relationships. For example, my brother and his girlfriend’s courtship spanned 10,000 miles while she worked near Beijing, China. E-mail and Skype proved to be their most reliable means of communicating, and it didn’t even cost a postage stamp.

On the other hand, online correspondence tends to replace the more personal forms of handwritten letters and the telephone. Tapping out an e-mail seems more convenient than picking up the phone or waiting days for a snail mail reply. But an electronic inbox is no match for the postal box holding an envelope with familiar handwriting from a loved one.

My grandma doesn’t have a computer, so she composes many letters by hand each week. Even though she invests much time and energy in her correspondence, she hardly feels connected to the lives of her friends and family who rarely make a handwritten reply.

How can we help those who feel socially detached from the online world? Recently, I started the weekly ritual of printing off our extended family’s blog posts and mailing them to my grandma. Now she is at least informed about the daily events of our lives, albeit lacking the intimacy a personal letter brings.

While technology has increased the speed of correspondence, it has simultaneously abducted people’s time. After a study conducted in 2008, the International Data Corporation found that people spend an average of 32 hours online each week. The iPhone conveniently places the Internet in our pocket. Checking status updates and endless texting consume hours of our day.

Some would argue that frequent interaction on social networks enhances communication. But abbreviated chat lingo may actually dull the ability to articulate ideas. In this over-communicated culture, my generation is under-read and surprisingly incapable of intelligent dialogue.

But a more serious threat is the Internet’s war on innocence. As reported by, one out of every three teens chats online with complete strangers. Furthermore, 79% of sexual solicitations happen to children while using their home computer. Parental supervision in online activities is essential for young people’s safety.

In spite of its inherent problems, cyber communication is a tool of the 21st century we can hardly live without. High-speed transmission of data enables businesses to run with increased efficiency. The average student has access to virtual libraries of information through web search engines. Individuals and companies can market their ideas and products to consumers around the world. Blogging allows anyone to become a published author and encourages insightful feedback from readers.

As this cyber revolution accelerates, the opportunities for progress are countless. If used responsibly, cyberspace can be an avenue for sharpening skills and improving relationships. Social media expert Jennifer Fong reminds us, “There is a person on the other end of every single communication you make.”

Although words and pictures on a screen can never be a substitute for face-to-face contact, cyber communication could just be, as the old commercial says, “the next best thing to being there.” And if Dickens were alive today, I think he would optimistically agree.

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Samantha R.
    May 30, 2010 @ 17:20:24

    Awesome speech and I have to agree with you on pretty much every aspect!


  2. DelightinginHim
    Jun 06, 2010 @ 15:16:36

    Bravo! Excellent speech!


  3. Amanda B.
    Jun 17, 2010 @ 20:11:58

    Hi Jessica,What a great speech! Printing off your blog posts to send to your grandma is a great idea. I think technology has done some great things for us, but correspondence via the internet seems so impersonal. I think back to when the telephone was invented and imagine what that would have been like…not needing to GO and see someone to talk to them. They must have thought what we're thinking now "how impersonal", but even the telephone now seems to be rarely used. One thing I personally can't stand is text messaging. Grrrr! Anyway, great speech!-Amanda


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