I’m old. I know I have changed. I saw my father handle change. We did it, but we didn’t jump in over our heads right off the bat. I had to learn how to, and farm with horses just in case we couldn’t get the job done with equipment. We progressed to learning how to maintain equipment and rebuild engines with a handful of wrenches, a hammer and a welder, but I did not go out and buy a tool box full of “proprietary” tools until I was sure I needed them. (Amongst those proprietary tools was a computer with proprietary software by the way.) My father maintained equipment with a few hand tools, a hammer and anvil, and his temper. He got to the few tools, hammer and a welder stage, but not the computer stage. We managed technological change with a stepped logic. We took it one step at a time and basically covered three steps. The one we learned on, the one we developed on and the one we were forced to take on. While we were taking on these steps we had to modify our behaviour accordingly.
For me the behaviour change was easier to see than it was to feel. I could see the old man become a little more patient when dealing with a carb rather than with a cantankerous horse. I could not feel the change in myself going from a three-quarter inch wrench to the enter button but it had to be there or else there would have been a stack of laptops with hammer scars in my past. So, when approaching the topic of how does online communication change human behaviour it seems to me it doesn’t change it much at all.
Communication is an inherent trait in the human species. We have come a long way from the forceful chin point and “Ugh”, but it is all communication right through. Online communication is another form, has different abilities and people can use it differently but it is still just communication. You type it rather than speak it, you do it long distance or close, and you can acknowledge it or ignore it but it is still just sending and receiving messages. It does not lie down and refuse to get up. It does not cough, sputter and die from lack of fuel. It does, however, require a computer but it does not require a new pattern of thought to get the job done.
Communication has always relied upon the sender and receiver interacting. The way the two interact and the results of that interaction have always depended on the behaviour exhibited in the series of interactions that had to take place to construct the communication. It does not matter how the communication is performed, if there is something wrong it will breakdown. If it is solid than it will result in satisfaction on both parties. It cannot change behaviour in the same way that going from beating something with a hammer on an anvil to believing a computer to fix an engine. To me online communication is like going from the challenges of getting used to a new horse or rebuilding a 350 Chev motor to rebuilding a 302 Ford. A little different but still the same principals and the same logic and thus not requiring a change in behaviour.
Therefore I posit that it is not online communication that alters human behaviour. It may be that it presents some opportunities that allow the humans to act in ways they shouldn’t or wouldn’t otherwise, but I don’t believe it is the form of communication at the root of those results.
If you are so inclined, I welcome rebuttals and will return in kind.
Barber K, 1998, The Canadian Oxford English Dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/acref/9780195418163.001.0001/acref-9780195418163