Effects of the Internet on the Human Perception of Time

Free «Effects of the Internet on the Human Perception of Time» Essay Sample

The human perception of time is subject to change due to the circumstances and experiences in the surrounding. Human beings have an innate ability to estimate time. This ability prevails even in the absence of gadgets such as wristwatches and cell phones. Individuals’ perception of time depends on the pace of events around them. For example, the expectation of quick responses to actions amplifies the feeling of impatience in individuals accustomed to fast flow of information when a delay occurs. The human perception of time depends on factors such as the context of events, their emotional state, and social interactions. Agitated individuals perceive time as having slowed down. On the other hand, people tend to match their perception of time with that of other people. The people in a person’s surrounding distort his/her perception of quick and delayed responses as he/she tries to conform to their description of time and space. Advancements in information and communication technology have had a significant impact on personal perception of time. Fast computers and internet connection set the pace for people’s experience of events by determining the speed of access to new information and stimuli. The availability and affordability of fast computers and internet connection has transformed people’s perception of time to the expectation of instantaneous responses to new information and stimuli (Barak, 2008). The influence of the internet on the human perception of time is such that people become frustrated even because of time delays of milliseconds. An individual used to a fast internet connection is likely to exhibit signs of frustration when using a slow computer and internet, because the processes of launching applications and loading web pages are delayed for about one or two seconds.

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The role of the internet in transforming people into impatient beings is evident in a 2006 study, which involved an analysis of the behavior of online shoppers visiting different online retail stores. The study illustrated that a significant percentage of online shoppers will abandon an online store if its web pages fail to load within four seconds after a mouse click. A 2012 study by Microsoft illustrated that the expectation of instant response by internet users has declined to about 250 milliseconds. The two studies illustrate a correlation between the advancement in information technology and the increase in people’s level of impatience. Humans have set exceedingly high expectations regarding the acceptable time delay before a response to an action considering that the human eye blinks in about 250 milliseconds (Riva & Galimberti, 2001). A study of online video viewing provides a clear illustration of the effects of the advancement in media and networking on people’s perception of time. The study established that people begin to abandon a video if it does not load within two seconds after clicking the start button. The researchers found that people accustomed to high internet speed had were more likely to abandon a video compared to individuals accustomed to slow internet connection. The fact that the study involved about seven million participants is a clear indication that effect of the internet on cultivating a culture of impatience human beings is a widespread phenomenon.

The influence of the internet on the rhythm of social interactions has strengthened with the emergence of social networking. The dynamic nature of the activity in platforms such as Facebook and Twitter has promoted the expectation of fast flowing information, which includes instant comments on status updates and text messages. The casual nature of social networking is not subject to aspects such as official working hours, which might influence the expectations of delayed responses. The continuity of activity in social media, irrespective of the time of day or night, has led to hurried interactions. The human intolerance to moments of time delay is evident in the way people read and respond to emails. During the era of letter writing, people expected delays in response and measured time in terms of calendar days and weeks. The large volume of information present in emails has influenced a culture whereby people tend to judge the importance of lengthy emails and move on to other seemingly important tasks due to the perception that there is not enough time to read the entire message. Similarly, individuals have developed a tendency to compose extremely short messages when replying to emails without considering that some messages require lengthy and comprehensive explanation for the recipient. The bombardment of people with a variety of information from news feeds, media, and entertainment has created a sense of urgency as people try to assign limited time to the experience and explanation of incoming stimuli (Sang-Hee et al., 2011). The internet has distorted people’s perception of truly important tasks that require a considerable amount of time and attention.

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In conclusion, the expectations of future increase in the speed of computers and networks means that people’s level of patience will decline further to a level whereby they will be intolerable to a delay of microseconds. The expectation of instant gratification means that people will be unable to experience events characterized by time delays. The influence of the internet on the human perception of time has cultural and personal consequences considering that human occupations such as art and science take time and require patience to appreciate. It is extremely difficult for deep experiences to manifest in a fraction of a second. The influence of the internet on people’s patience extends beyond the use of technology to develop cultures driven by time consciousness in different day-to-day activities.


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