Local and Virtual Communities

Prof. Fathia Mohammad Baheshwan

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The emergence of electronic means of communication - particularly the Internet and social networks - has led to significant changes in the values ​​and patterns of social relations in the local community. The entry of these communication media caused the emergence of a new society and patterns of behavior, relationships and social values for users and also produced forms of virtual gatherings through which the daily dealing with has become part of their daily lifestyle. They have become dependent on it to shape their daily opinions and attitudes. This has changed the lives of young people and subjected them to the daily influences of those media; their values, patterns of behaviour and their relationships with their social environment have changed accordingly.

     The internet plays a dangerous role in isolating individuals socially and dismantling relationships between individuals. They have spent a great deal of time on the computer and the Internet in a way that attracts attention. Furthermore, the mobile phone and other devices connected to the Internet through which individuals can communicate through electronic social networks have become indispensable necessities of life as they have great advantages in our contemporary life.

Social networking sites work to activate the energies available to humans and direct them to construction and innovation within the framework of developing the old and replacing it with new values and behaviour, increasing the fields of knowledge for the public, and raising their ability to empathize and accept change. Thus, communication has an important role, not in transmitting information; but also in presenting the form of reality and in understanding the social and political context in which events are placed.

The virtual community is characterized by a set of features such as flexibility and the collapse of the idea of the reference group in its traditional sense. The virtual community is not determined by geography, but by the common interests that bring people together. Geographical borders no longer play a role in shaping virtual communities. One can find someone to communicate with around the clock without any of them knowing each other before necessarily meeting electronically. It can thus be said that virtual communities do not sleep.

Being open to the world and communicating with others is one of the most serious concerns behind the Internet user's escape from the actual reality to the virtual world.

Users can go far from everything to the world of imagination, make friends with those they can't see and those they don't know, embody the characters of their choice and act through these characters without fear or reluctance, as is the case with what surrounds him in normal life. Thus, connections on the Internet have become a safe alternative to relationships in normal life that are accompanied by fear and threat, and the internet has become a way to avoid real social contact. If the Internet users find themselves escaping to these attractive virtual worlds, or spending more time- as a common practice- with them than it should be, this virtual reality will surely be more engaging and more addictive.

Young people’s interest in using the internet may be due to several reasons, including: the neglect of parents and loss of family control, availability of financial liquidity, the low prices of electronic devices, of annual subscriptions on the network and of access hours to Internet sites, the untapped void and energy in young people, the ease and speed of access to any site in the world, escaping the daily pressures and parental authority, as the young man feels that he can gain status and importance from people and friends. On the harmful impacts of the internet on children, there are many, including: disturbance and change in sleeping habits, study problems, and decline in achievement level. In addition, the preoccupation with the Internet causes children to stop practicing their hobbies and other favourite activities, refrain from hiking, meeting friends, or joining the family circles, get angry and violent in case parents try to set limits or controls on the use of the network, or may circumvent the access to the network without parents' knowledge or challenge them.

It can be said that the means of communication are a major component of society. These networks have contributed to raising the level of awareness among individuals and have produced new values, perhaps the most important of which is accepting the other with all his/her differences in ideas, religion and opinions. The Internet is also necessary for businessmen, students, engineers, doctors and others to accomplish their work, through which communication is faster, this helps them be harmoniously integrated into the human environment.

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