In this era of globalization,technology can be considered as one of the basic needs of a human, in additionto food, water, shelter and air in their daily lives.
From transportation toentertainment, advancements in technology have enabled humans to achieve thingsthat were previously unimaginable and it has certainly made our lives easierthan they were before. This as well includes communication and interactionbetween members of societies. Communication, in general, is essential as it isrequired almost everywhere. According to Julia Wood (2004), communication is ‘asystemic process in which individuals interact with and through symbols tocreate and interpret meanings.’ It is a continuous process of interactingsystems and always evolving. What if virtual communication takesover? With an increasing population communicating via the internet and textmessaging alongside the growth of technology, face-to-face communication mightbecome something of the past and will gradually extinct.
Meanwhile, virtualcommunication that was introduced at the same time with the Internet, has thegreatest potential in replacing the old fashion way of interacting. This way ofcommunication has the ability to broaden one’s social interaction as it offerscommunications between family, friends, and strangers together with thetransmission of information from distant locations and is not limited to acertain time and moment. Thus, it can strengthen people’s social relationshipsand form new relationships (Parks and Roberts, 1998). Dissimilar to virtualcommunication, face-to-face communication – a synchronous action – requires the sender and recipient to bepresent at the same time and place. However, face-to-face communication is moreeffective in which the conversation occurred is more genuine alongside theefficacious body languages that aid the flow of the interaction. As stated by Peter Hartley (1993),face-to-face or interpersonal communication is more about the content, not thecontext. He emphasized that interpersonal communication does not simply involvethe exchange of messages. It essentially involves the creation and exchange ofmeanings.
‘ In addition, it also acts as the foundation to trust and helps toenhance one’s ability to interact and socialize. Despite that, since the main purposeof communication is to transfer information, virtual communication is undoubtedlythe best solution. A few decades ago, the only means of communication is eitherdirect, face-to-face communication or through letters or telegrams that willtake several days or even weeks to arrive according to the distance. Nowadays,everything is possible with a single tap. The social gap between societiesaround the world can be shortened with the help of virtual communication.
Moreover, according to the Departmentof Statistics Malaysia, in the year 2015, the usage of Internet by individualsin Malaysia above 15 years old is 71.1% with an increase of 14.1% to be comparedwith the year 2013. In addition, the percentage of individuals using thecomputer also experienced an incline from 56% in 2013 to 68% in 2015.Meanwhile, 97.5% individuals used mobile phones in 2015 if compared to 94.2% in2013.
The growth in the population of technology-based communicator furtherproves the hypothesis of virtual communication can be the substitute forreal-life interaction. We cannot deny the fact that virtual communication isslowly taking over as the main form of interaction. Especially for the youngergenerations as they are exposed to these advanced technologies and socialplatforms like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp at such a young age.
Dr RichardWoolfson (2014) states that children are gaining access to social media sitesat a younger age, which could expose them to content, people or situations thatare out of their depth and which they’re not emotionally prepared for. The truth is people nowadays tend todedicate more effort in maintaining virtual connections rather the real-liferelationships that they possessed. As they constantly engrossed in socializingthrough their gadgets’ screens, the occurrence of interpersonal communicationwill reduce because of the neglection to engage personally in a conversationdue to lack of social skills.
Even though it is true that virtual interaction,using Internet and instant messaging helps to create a borderless, fastcommunication, especially for those who lived far from their family andfriends, but face-to-face communication offers a better quality of life. Virtualcommunication creates impersonality and difficulty in constructing socialrelationship as its lack of nonverbal cues and not engaging enough. Plus, itcan also reduce the quality of the conversation between the sender and receiveras it lacks physical interaction as mentioned earlier, plus it can be easilymisunderstood. Texts sent through the mediation of gadgets need to bestructured perfectly as misinterpretation of the intended message can easilyhappened. The receiver might interpret it wrongly, thus creating confusion and misunderstandingthat is harmful to relationship.All in all, communication is importantin ensuring the growth and development of a person, a community and anorganization.
Miscommunication in any way and the ignorance of the importanceof communication, whether it is interpersonal or virtual interaction, can bringup consequences such as confusion, conflict, incompetent systems, and wastedresources. To illustrate, the number one cause of unnecessary patient deathsrelated to medical error is poor team communication (Kohn, L. T et al.
2000). While the interpersonalcommunication skills are pivotal for the development of other life skills,virtual communication benefits us by making our life easier. Communication isessential and it is undeniable that with the help of technology, it eases ourlives.