In the 21st century, the role of Internet in interpersonal interaction is enormous. A large number of people tend to rely on Internet and various mobile technologies rather than traditional “offline” communication. Although Internet and new technologies expand the scope of opportunities for people, the lack of people interaction through traditional channels may lead to substantial psychological problems (Thayer & Sukanya, 2006). The lack of people interaction may be described as the neglect to communication with other people and the dominant use of Internet and other technologies that hurt the long-term interests of the given individuals (Betsch, 2011). It may be enhanced by understanding the significance of traditional interaction and optimizing one’s structure of communication sources.
The topic is important for the entire population because the use of Internet affects one’s social identity, community involvement, and productivity (Bargh & McKenna, 2004). The heavy use of Internet may lead to the online disinhibition effect when a person communicates as if all social restrictions are absent (Glaser, Dixit, & Green, 2002). It is also dangerous for one’s psychological state. Thus, the aspect of positive psychology directly relates to this problem because people experience the inner conflict of their long-term interests (the complex development of one’s personality) and short-term ones (the convenience of Internet and modern technologies) (Williams, 2006). I propose to implement a program that will demonstrate the role of traditional communication for students. At the same time, their choice should be completely voluntary and should not be imposed by psychologists or any external party (Gross, Juvonen, & Gable, 2002).
It is reasonable to present the general principles that should guide the subsequent interventions. First of all, interventions should be natural, i.e. they should correspond to the internal world, beliefs, and values of a given individual. Otherwise, they will be rejected at a sub-conscious level, and there will be no positive long-term results (Howard, Rainie, & Jones, 2001). Another important principle is the recognition that all people have the need in interpersonal communication (Kavanaugh & Patterson, 2001). Consequently, they try to satisfy it in the most rational way (from their point of view). The fact that they prefer Internet and other technologies demonstrates that they do not recognize that traditional communication has considerable advantages over Internet. However, the majority of people realize that their long-term need refers to the complex development of their personality. Despite this fact, they follow their short-term interests and create psychological problems for themselves.
Thus, specific information I plan to use is people’s perception of the problem and the balance between short- and long-term communication needs. As it is impossible to deal immediately with the entire population, it is necessary to select the target group. It seems that students that spend the largest fraction of their time communicating with each other through Internet are the optimal choice for several reasons. First, the level of problem experienced by this group is larger in comparison to other ones because they demonstrate the largest neglect to traditional communication. Second, it is an appropriate environment for testing the proposed interventions. If they prove to be efficient even under such difficult conditions, then the proposed methods may be used in relation to almost all population groups. Otherwise, the proposed interventions should be correspondingly revised.
The encouraging of students to behave rationally and responsively should be organized in an indirect way (Kraut et al, 2002). It seems that general explanations about the role of direct communication will not be effective as students are familiar with this position. However, the fact that they primarily rely on Internet shows that these considerations are irrelevant for them, and they are not ready to change their current behavior. Therefore, I suggest that they should recognize the benefits of direct communication through their own experience. I plan to propose them to participate in a group work. For example, their task may include creating a group presentation of their work.
It is reasonable to subdivide the entire target group into two sub-groups. During the first stage of the psychological experiment, the first group will communicate only through Internet and other mobile technologies while the second group will use only direct communication. Then, both groups will demonstrate their presentations. During the second stage of the psychological experiment, the first group will use direct communication, and the second one will rely on Internet. Then, they will organize their second presentations, and the results of this experiment will be evaluated. The proposed system may lead to objective results as both sub-groups will be able to compare their operations to those of another group as well as assess their own productivity while communicating directly or through Internet.
The hypothesis is as follows. Working under the competitive pressure, the members of each sub-group will discover the “hidden” positive aspects of direct communication. They will understand that communication refers not only to information exchange that may be effectively organized through Internet or other technological ways but also to numerous non-verbal messages that help to comprehend the entire situation in its complexity. It may be expected that both sub-groups will demonstrate higher productivity while communicating directly. The psychologist should not impose his/her views on the members of these sub-groups (Steinfield, Ellison, & Lampe, 2008). It is reasonable to objectively present the results without further interpretations or elaborations. For example, it is possible to state that the productivity under the conditions of direct interaction is 20% higher than when the only source of communication is Internet. Moreover, this conclusion will be supported by participants’ psychological state and perceptions.
Thus, the psychologist should not make any proposals or suggestions regarding the future behavior of individuals. He/she should merely present relevant statistics and allow students making their conclusions. As they compare two alternatives, they will be more likely to rely on traditional communication in the future. If they make this conclusion on the basis of their personal experience, they will realize these principles in their future life. If they are imposed by other parties, young people will reject them as contradictory to their experience or worldview.
The proposed intervention will not only increase this aspect of positive psychology but address the most fundamental problem of participants’ lives. If they become more future-oriented, they will be able to select the most appropriate communication strategies that will address their needs. It does not mean that they should neglect their short-term interests. It means that people should take into account the whole picture and harmonize their short- and long-term needs.
Internet and other modern technologies are highly useful in satisfying the short-term communication needs. In particular, they economize people’s time, decrease the overall level of psychological pressure, and responsibility. Consequently, young people feel comfortable using these methods of communication. However, they face additional problems in the long run. Interpersonal communication skills should be practiced on a regular basis in order to maintain them at the necessary level. Therefore, a large number of young people experience problems in traditional forms of communication. They do not realize that it is a natural consequence of their previous choice in favor of Internet and mobile devices.
The proposed intervention is important because it directly demonstrates the benefits of direct communication for young people. The majority of them are familiar with this position but do not accept it because it is irrelevant to them or is not in accordance with the requirement of the 21st century. However, in the process of comparing their productivity under different scenarios, they see that traditional communication contains a number of potential benefits in comparison with modern technologies. As this experience is unique and new for almost all students, it may substantially affect their future behavior. It may be expected that people will arrive at correct conclusions and optimize their communication if they take into consideration a longer time horizon.
The current Internet era contains a number of potential threats for people interaction. It is especially evident in relation to young people and students who rely on modern technologies and do not practice their skills related to traditional communication. The online disinhibition effect is also widespread among students as they do not experience almost any restrictions in the web environment. It creates a number of serious threats for both numerous individuals and society in general. Therefore, effective interventions are necessary in order to reverse the existing tendency. As direct explanations and pieces of advice are inefficient, it is reasonable to adopt a more sophisticated strategy.
It is possible to create the situation when young people will comprehend all key benefits of direct communication through their experience. If they have to develop group presentations both through the use of Internet and traditional communication, they will be able to determine the competitive advantages of direct communication. As it is based on their personal experience, they will trust this source of information and adjust their behavior accordingly. Thus, the proposed system of intervention seems to be optimal under the present social conditions. In this way, young people and students will be able to optimize their communication and become more successful in interacting with other members of society.