The pace at which our gadgets and gizmos are getting more powerful shows no signs of slowing down, and recent leaps forward in technology over the last few decades have revolutionized the way we communicate with each other. At the heart of this revolution is the Internet, breaking down barriers of distance and cost to make us more connected than ever before.
The Web is at the heart of many ways in which technology has affected communication. It enables us to instantly communicate across the world for the price of a broadband subscription, which has had a dramatic impact on how we can keep in touch with family or do business with colleagues working remotely. While this has made it easier to make contact with others, it has also made it more difficult to switch off. Communicating with those we know is now much simpler and more convenient than it ever has been, at the risk of making our lives ever more hurried and busy.
Cell phones and other mobile devices such as tablets have accentuated the impact of the Web. Not only are we accessible every time we sit down at a computer, we are now accessible from wherever we are. Our mobile phones enable us to communicate with hundreds or even thousands of contacts across a myriad of services and platforms with a few taps on the screen. It is no longer necessary to use face-to-face contact and speech to communicate – we can use short SMS messages, or leave a voicemail, or send a tweet from our phones. Again, the convenience offered by all of these extra channels is counterbalanced by the additional effort required to monitor them all.
Emailing is the letter-writing of the 21st century, but it's so much more besides. It enables us to send short ideas or thoughts as well as lengthy missives, it enables us to send the same message to dozens of people at the same time, and it enables us to accompany our words with images, links and other files. Email, working on top of the Web, has made communication more varied and more flexible, giving us a range of new ways to spread information, flirt with prospective partners, make new acquaintances or apologize for wrongdoing. If we don't want to meet in person, or we can't, it's no longer necessary.
Social networking is all about sharing. It has transformed the way we share our photos, thoughts, videos and more. It has opened up new ways of communicating with our friends and family that in the past would have required setting up our own radio, TV station or newspaper. As with email and the Web in general, sites such as Facebook and Twitter (together with the associated mobile apps) enable us to communicate more quickly, more easily and more often. Technology has made communicating with others so straightforward and natural that it is often necessary to try and limit the use of these platforms and tools to avoid overload.
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