Psychology Of The Internet

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Psychology of the Internet

The Psychology of the Internet
A Report on the Book by Patricia Wallace

Summary of the Book
Today, the internet is a growing community. Millions of people from all over the world go “online” everyday to check email, research, shop, or even just interact with someone halfway around the world. As this community grows, so does the number of interactions between people. The Psychology of the Internet examines the psychology of new behavior produced by this novel method of human communication. It also delves into the business sector of the internet and how certain companies are using this medium to increase productivity within their companies and corporations.

Analysis of the Book
The book provides several examples of how the internet can affect the quality of an organization’s production. When used in the appropriate manner, the internet can facilitate interaction between a group 24 hours a day and is only limited by the availability of a telephone line. The idea that a person must be in work and at his desk for production is becoming more obsolete as companies realize the potential of the internet.
One impressive way the internet can help companies is the workgroups that can be formed internationally. A workgroup is a group of employees striving to achieve the same objective. In the traditional sense, these groups are formed in a room with notepads for each person to help them brainstorm and meetings at regular intervals until the project is complete. The internet revolution is changing all of that. The workgroups are no longer governed by the geographical positioning of its members. I found this particularly interesting because the idea of having a supervisor in Manila, a Research and Development team in Cebu, and a sales group in the United States is becoming more of a feasible possibility than ever before.
The internet can also help employees overcome inhibitions that they may not be able to in person. This is due, in part, to the amount of social cues that are lost over a computer. In a chat room, for example, the two employees might know nothing about each other, other than the information they provide about themselves. Therefore, any type of social stereotypes (i.e. sexism, racism, bigotry) is less prevalent than if perceived in the real world. If the employees have never met, social irritations may not be as readily triggered than if in person. For example, if I am irritated by a person who stutters when he speaks, the chances that he will do so over the internet are relatively low. This allows me to concentrate solely on the task at hand and not be distracted by insignificant things.
The book speaks of how the internet groups, in the absence of social cues and orders, had to find a group identity online. In other words, the lack of social cues also has its drawbacks. Even if the members of the workgroups concede personal information about themselves, such as their race or ethnicity, the other members might have no physical basis for the connection. So if I wanted to bond with a co-worker who was a Filipino in California, I would more likely do it in person than online. This is due to the lack of human contact and the perception that I am merely interacting with my computer and not a real person.
With this in mind, workgroups must find new bases for forming group coherence. The book speaks of the studying of several different multinational workgroups. All were given the same objectives to be completed in a given amount of time. However, only a few of the groups completed the task while only one group did it in the allotted amount of time. The study showed that the groups that failed lacked consistent interaction. After the initial meeting, the members of the group did not log on regularly to converse with the group. Emails were exchanged intermittently among these groups as well. The book states that the main reason these groups failed was that the interaction, already reduced by the lack of human interaction on the computer, was limited to almost nothing.
On the other hand, the group that fared the best was noted as having the most email interaction and regular group meetings. The members of the group also took it upon themselves to go beyond what was asked of them simply because they felt a great responsibility to the group as a whole. What caused this desire and cohesion within the group? According to the book, the group kept their personal lives out of the online chatting. Therefore, the members knew very little about the members of the group. The group even agreed to keep their gender out of the online group. This forced its members to assume that each of the other members formed the most productive group in which that person could perform. For example, if I felt that I could work best with three women and two other men, that became my group. If my coworker preferred working with all women, that became his group. The breakdown of things immediately evident in the real world (such as gender) allowed the members a novel way of looking at the group.
I found this breakdown of social norms within a company to increase production intriguing. The thought of perceiving my group as highly competent in their own methods of production would drive me to do my best. If this is coupled with the idea that I could communicate with them at any time of the day from anywhere in the world, I would feel that I had little excuse to not produce something of great quality. After all, if my work could follow me around, I couldn’t say, “I was stuck in traffic, so I couldn’t get that report in,” or “I didn’t have the time to do it.” My time to work is actually increased by not having to commute to work for two hours everyday. Furthermore, if I was not a morning person, I could work all night and sleep all morning. My workplace now conforms to me and not myself to it!
Furthermore, the online groups provided for better brainstorming groups than “in real life” groups (IRL groups). The book theorized that during online discussions, members are allowed to type uninterrupted by other people’s ideas. IRL groups, on the other hand, were comprised of one speaker and several listeners. The ideas of the listeners had to wait until it was their

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