By The People’s Dialogue Series at the United States Institute of Peace provided a unique opportunity to learn about the pursuit of Happiness as it relates to online connectivity and relationships. Dr. Waldilnger’s contribution to the Harvard Study of Adult Development finds relationships to be the single most critical indicator of a fulfilling life and human thriving; in the information age, this inevitably brings up questions about the effects of online relationships and whether they provide the same sense of reduced stress, feelings of belonging, and the same deep emotion that physical (or “in person”) relationships have proven to.
As a novel phenomenon, the answer has yet to be studied in detail. Video games and blogs foster communities that may not have the ability to form in geographically condensed spaces, allowing people with unique experiences from different parts of the world to relate to one another. At their core, however, online experiences, as with any relationship, are distinct to individuals. As opposed to personal contact, bringing feelings of anxiety and insecurity for some, the virtual world can open doors to stress relief and undiscovered confidence to people that need a platform to ease into physical relationships.
With that being said, dependency on social media for gratification and positive emotions can be dangerous. It can increase vulnerability to becoming a victim of crime in some cases. Criminals have access to these platforms and use them to find targets for financial scams, psychological exploitation, or sexual exploitation, among others. Anastasia Staten, the executive director of the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), interestingly highlighted the growth of the video game community that stimulates conversation, friendships, and healthy competition, likening it to social media and perhaps even creating closer connections between people. This is great, so long as they can be preserved as safe-spaces, and it is a realm that Praescient can dive into.
Praescient finds interest in exploring the need for protecting such a valuable tool that should be used exclusively to bring people together, share ideas, culture, and knowledge. The good news, among all of what seems to be cynical commentary, is that dangerous online activity is easier to trace with proper technology that Praescient proudly provides to clients. Our ability to sift through massive amounts of information such as in our human trafficking case can provide insight on victims that would not be recognizable otherwise, and flag suspicious activity. Furthermore, in light of a perspective (see Unique Perspectives blog post) detailing what undergraduates worry about when entering the workforce, digital literacy education proves vital to everyone in the modern age. Praescient has the ability to provide tips about safe practices when online from the perspective of data analysts and intelligence experts.
Today, there are indications that the future of interaction is increasingly digital, and not just in social spheres but also professionally. As society’s social life transitions faster into the online sphere, the amount of data circulating about each person will only increase, thereby increasing the chances of something incriminating or embarrassing ending up in a professional or legal setting. Although there is much to say about the freedom of expression being somewhat restricted by this trend towards online professionalism, that is an article for another time. For now, the Internet is a virtual public space that increasingly mirrors physical public spaces, much in the vein of Ernest Cline’s Oasis. Virtual reality is not yet as good as in Ready Player One, but with consistent advances in technology, people are expected to spend an increasing amount of time in online spheres, and companies like Praescient Analytics will be there to ensure that criminals have a tougher time taking advantage of the new technology.