Urban areas are said to be developed settlements that constitute a fast paced lifestyle and are directly exposed to globalization and social and cultural change. It is generally characterized as a place that has a high density of population, a complex division of labor, advancement of technology, high mobility, individualism, and impersonality in social relationships, collectively referred by the term urbanism. Urbanism is a social-cultural-economic phenomenon, which represents a way of life. It has a wide range of consequences on human nature, in terms of needs, emotions, experiences, and behavior in general. 

In urban areas people are generally achievement oriented and have a consumerist attitude. In such instances relationships often take a backseat and become neglected, which affect the nature of those relationships. 

The idea of relationships has also been changing over the years. Families are breaking down into smaller units, and people are marrying late in life or prefer to stay single. Marrying late or the decision to remain unmarried has led to the rise of one person households (OPH), in which an individual prefers to live alone at a house. The perspectives about living alone are slightly changing and it is now not necessarily seen in a negative manner. People are gradually looking beyond the negative stereotypes of living a life by oneself. Recent research also suggests that aloneness has positive aspects associated with it, such as being more perceptive, self-fulfilment, and having greater purpose in life 

Further, there is a rise in live-in relationships and part-time live-in relationships. People’s beliefs about traditional notions of relationships are changing. People being more involved in their work and focusing on career development has led to a change in perspective towards marriage. There is more of an acceptance of remaining unmarried. Due to this people prefer alternatives to marriage like living together without being married. 

In the same regard, because of being more work and career oriented, people also prefer to go a step beyond live-in relationships. They prefer to be in a part-time live-in relationship, which means staying together during weekends or off-days, and then getting back with their own lives, the rest of the time.

With respect to interpersonal relationships in general, urbanism gives rise to the issue of loneliness. Being highly self-involved, with limited interpersonal interaction, there is a likelihood of the feeling of emptiness and with an unfulfilled need for intimacy and self-expression. Additionally, interpersonal processes such as empathy and relationship quality become important.

Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why people have turned to the cyberspace. The fast paced life of urban areas coupled with advancement in technology has led individuals to be spending more and more time on the internet. 

Many of the social networking sites have reduced distances between people. Individuals can easily be in touch with their family and friends who are in another city. It helps them to have interactions with their loved ones, which may not always be possible.

The internet also becomes a medium for self-expression, for individuals who otherwise may be too self-involved due to the lifestyle they become accustomed to in urban areas. Specifically, things like blogging and microblogging helps a lot in sharing experiences and expressing views about various issues. In many ways, interaction on the internet helps to fulfil the needs for intimacy and self-expression.

This has been more prominent in introverts and people experiencing loneliness and social anxiety. Such individuals have a heightened need for self-expression and have often been found to use the internet for fulfilment of this need. The characteristics of such individuals like high level of social stimulation, social skills deficits, and hesitancy for face-to-face (f2f) communication allow them to be more comfortable on the internet rather than being involved in f2f interactions. 

Further, the characteristics of online interaction such as heightened private sense of self-awareness, reduced public sense of self-awareness, and deindividuation enable such individuals to be involved in more intimate self-disclosure as compared to f2f communication. 

On the other hand, however, spending too much time on the internet leads to hyperactivity, lack of focus and concentration, and gives rise to issues like mindfulness or a lack of it. It also leads to issues like online disinhibition effect, cyber-trolling, and cyberbullying, which cannot be ignored, especially when it comes to the youth.

During online interaction, when an individual’s communication gets inhibited, due to lack of social cues, then it is referred to as online disinhibition effect. The brain areas associated with social interactions (called the social brain) do not function properly during online interaction, which makes individuals behave or react in ways that may be different from f2f interaction. Sending angry or hateful messages immediately, without thinking, is one such example.

The social brain of adolescents are not highly developed, which makes them highly vulnerable to online disinhibition effect. In the long run, the individual becomes emotionally numb and completely lacks in empathy. Further, online disinhibition effect turns out to be one of the factors that may lead individuals to indulge into cybertrolling and cyberbullying as well as becoming a victim of it.

Adolescents, especially, tend to get seriously affected by being trolled and bullied on the internet. It may lead them to feel humiliated, develop low self-esteem and inferiority complex, and may even lead them to commit suicide.

Apart from the many issues related to online interaction, in urban areas, the youth in today’s time, face a large number of problems and challenges. In the age of globalization and economic and technological development, it is the youth that are the most affected.

The fast paced urban lifestyle can often become too demanding for adolescents and young adults, which may cause emotional vulnerability and instability. They become highly susceptible to stress. If not given proper care, it may lead individuals towards substance abuse and erratic behavior, including erratic sexuality.

The person may face a number of problems associated with relationships, which may include disruptive familial relationships as well as problematic romantic relationships. The consequences of such issues might be low self-esteem, depression, chronic loneliness, stress, anxiety, and suicidality.

The transitional phase of adolescence often tends to be highly confusing for the individual. Confusion may arise not just regarding decisions about relationships, but even educational and career choices. A wrong step can prove to be fatal, leading to a lack of purpose, being directionless, lack of meaningfulness, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and a sense of failure. 

Regarding this, an awareness of individual differences among each other is of utmost importance. In order to cope with the competitive lifestyle of urban areas, individuals must be aware of their unique strengths and weaknesses, which they can utilize appropriately. It is this awareness that enables individuals to identify their true potential, choose their goals in life, and move towards the direction of positive mental health. Individual differences can be reflected in terms of skills, abilities, traits, coping strategies, and so on.

An awareness and acknowledgement of individual differences develops a sense of uniqueness among the individual. The person gets the realization that he/she is a unique entity and that social comparisons may be misleading. It helps in understanding the true sense of happiness and success, develops self-efficacy, self-determination, self-competence, and gives purpose in life. 

With the changing of times, especially in urban areas, the traditional gender roles have been going through a transformation. People have started looking beyond the gender stereotypes, though in a more subtle manner. Men are seen to have a sensitive side and not necessarily tough and outspoken, and women are now seen to be as bold and not necessarily coy. Likewise, men are not necessarily seen as the sole bread earner and women are not necessarily expected to be a homemaker. Women are also being seen as career-oriented and ambitious. 

On the other hand, men are seen as taking part in household chores and being more participative in the upbringing of a child, something that was not considered very masculine-like earlier. In recent times, there has been more of an egalitarian relationship and an equal division of labor among husbands and wives, and partners.

The rise in cross-sex friendships (friendship between a male and female) has also played a role in the changing of gender roles. The lifestyle in urban areas has provided opportunities for more male-female interactions that are beyond the gender-based schema, which is viewing non-kin interactions with the opposite-sex as romantic in nature.

It is quite normal and very much acceptable for a male-female interaction to be non-romantic and just platonic. The idea of a male and female being friends just like any friendship between people of the same sex has helped in breaking many of the gender stereotypes. It has helped in individuals getting the other gender perspective and also getting an insider’s view of the opposite sex. It has also led to healthy interactions between the opposite sex, which involve expressing physical attraction and being flirtatious in a more acceptable and less hesitant manner. 

The changing gender roles and stereotypes have given rise to concepts like the metro-sexual man and the alpha female. The metro-sexual man is someone who likes spending time on grooming and shopping, shows interest in fashion, has no qualms in being sensitive, and on the whole does not really believe in the traditional gender roles. 

The alpha female, unlike the traditional beliefs associated with women in general, is someone who is strong, confident, independent, dominating, and outspoken. She is also highly career oriented, very ambitious, and does not really believe in relying on a man to be her support system. 

Apart from the changing gender roles, people are also becoming more aware and comfortable about issues related to different sexual orientations, sexual identity crisis, and other LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender) issues. There has been a growing acceptance towards homosexual relationships. Homosexuality is no longer seen as something that is unusual and quite a few people are coming out in the open and accepting and willing to talk about having a homosexual orientation. 

The changing gender roles, in urban areas, are also bringing about changes in the workplace. The proportion of female employees in corporate sectors is on the rise. Females are willing to work at late hours as well being at higher positions. There are a lot more managers, leaders, and CEOs that are females. The idea of gender-specific jobs is becoming obsolete. More of females are getting into jobs related to engineering and information technology. Likewise, more of males are getting into jobs related to teaching, social work, and counselling.

Along with the gender-specific changes, the workplace in urban areas is going through other changes as well. Due to the rise of multinational companies (MNCs), there is more of a multi-cultural environment, in the workplace, with people from different cultures working together.

Further, in order to cope effectively with the competitive work environment, in urban areas, there has been a lot of emphasis on social and emotional skills of employees, in the past decade or so. Employees, especially in corporates, are expected to be emotionally intelligent and not just having good technical skills. Research has suggested that being high on emotional intelligence is a major factor in organizational success.

Additionally, in the workplace, there is a change in the perception of individuals. There has been a growing awareness about introversion and how introverts can be successful in the workplace, which was not considered earlier. Introverts being empathetic, sensitive, perceptive, and far-sighted are now considered as effective leaders, which was not the same earlier. Thus, there has been a significant change in the work environment, in the past few years.

On the whole, urbanism, which represents a way of life in urban settings, has raised a number of issues and concerns. It has changed the nature of relationships and patterns of interpersonal communication. It has raised concerns over youth behavior and mental health. Further, to quite an extent, it has helped in bringing about a change in gender stereotypes and raised awareness over issues of gender and sexuality. Finally, it has also brought about significant changes in the work environment and the workplace culture.

Saif Farooqi

A PhD in Psychology (from the University of Delhi). I have been blogging about psychological issues for more than ten years. I am extremely passionate about teaching psychology. I'm a writer, podcaster, and TEDx speaker. I also conduct workshops and awareness programs in schools and colleges. Currently, I'm also working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India


TF said...

very nicely written!

Saif Farooqi said...

Thank you! :)

Deepika said...

It's very well written, though somehow I feel we have created a monster for ourselves in form of internet and social media.
I don't really like the whole concept of changing reality, we are more like machines than humans!

Saif Farooqi said...

Thanks Deepika! Well yes, the extensive rise in the usage of the internet can be problematic. However, depending on how we use it, it can have its positives. In the end, it is up to the individual on how he/she goes about it and conducts his/her life. But yes, manyatimes humans become subservient to the situation and circumstances, as if the idea of "free will" is non-existent.