Effect of the COVID-19 pandemic: Will cyberspace ‘annihilate’ geographic space?
The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the importance of cyberspace, and relegated to the background the significance of geographic space in our lives. It has also revealed many dimensions of our nature as human beings. We could say that the human invention of the internet has been a boon to our daily activities, as it allows us to add excitement to our lives.
Because of the danger posed by close contact at the height of the pandemic, the net proved convenient in allowing us continued communication and business transactions, the quick gathering of information, distance learning, and countless ways of entertaining ourselves. We can imagine how young people got lured by such social media sites as Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and other platforms.
Some studies indicate that cybertechnology may be rewiring our adaptable brains in positive ways. Imaging studies show that the brains of avid internet users become more efficient at finding information. And habitual players of video games are shown to have developed better visual acuity. But let’s not get carried away by the seduction of this new stimulus in our environment. There have been many instances when addiction to the convenience provided by the World Wide Web has led to undesirable experiences. For example, multitasking through the simultaneous use of electronic gadgets has been shown to cause distraction that can inflict cuts and nicks on creativity and deep thought, interrupt work and family life, and unduly upset our peace of mind amid the proliferation of stalkers, hackers, and spammers.
We should remember that we are exposing our brains to a new environment that asks us to do things we were not evolved to do, while using only the sense of sight and sound and excluding the senses of touch, smell, and taste. When we evolved from apes to hominids, we needed all our senses to survive in a harsher environment. And amid the challenges currently posed by climate change, we’d certainly need all our senses to survive—and even to evolve again into better species!
To reiterate, the absence of the use of our three other senses and the nonuse of face-to-face communication are not the ways that humans were meant to communicate. Face-to-face communication and interaction have the following indispensable advantages: They are more real, intimate, and genuine; they minimize misunderstanding; we get to read body language; our communication is more straightforward; the bonds of friendship formed are stronger, and so on. The downside includes the cost of time, money, and effort in arranging meetups for face-to-face interaction, being inhibited in expressing ourselves personally, and the need for more effort to avoid being tactless or offensive, among other minor disadvantages.
Despite such hurdles in face-to-face communication, people feel that communication is more complete and satisfying if they meet at close range over particular geographic spaces, especially—as had been the case during the pandemic—after having interacted unnaturally online for so long. Thus, during this period of relaxed restrictions, we’ve witnessed droves of people like animals freed from captivity flocking to malls, parks, workplaces, schools, and tourist areas. We can thus say that, definitely, cyberspace cannot “annihilate” geographic space. Face-to-face interaction will always matter to people, a land lubber and social animal. The way we became humans is by paying close attention to each other and showing how much we care—not in cyberspace but in geographic space.
Meliton B. Juanico
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