(ORGINALLY POSTED IN MARCH 2014 EDITION)
By NORMAN BOGIEL – CAMPUS PRESS Writer and Columnist
Social networking seems to be slowing the relationship development of younger generations and regressing current relationships of older generations. This statement is plausible, but is not sound evidence against the variety of benefits social networking provides: an open forum for emotional release, maintaining contact with old friends, and a virtual meeting place for businesses and its associates. It is not a substitution for live interactions, but a convenient and efficient way to maintain and enhance relationships.
A Matter of Convenience Convenience is the ultimate factor involving social networking. Instead of establishing face-to-face interaction, it is easier to post a message on friends’ wall. This is causing the art of reading body language and speech intonation to decline. Baroness Susan Greenfield, a professor of synaptic pharmacology at Lincoln College in Oxford, in England, expresses her concerns for the decline of human interaction; that children resort to easier interactions without the fear of the unknown, being how to express themselves vocally and the dynamics of the interaction. She writes: “Although it might seem like an extreme analogy, I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitized screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning, and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf. Perhaps future generation will recoil with similar horror at the messiness, unpredictability, and immediate personal involvement of a three dimensional, real-time interaction.”
Interaction Skills Declining Real-time interaction skills are on a decline because of social media, but are also an evolutionary step towards enriching personal lives. With the convenience of shelved meat, time can now be focused on industrious tasks instead of spending the day hunting; the same goes for social media. Instead of having to call multiple friends every day or spending hours at the bar mingling and establishing business acquaintances, a personal note or message can be posted on a virtual wall where the recipient can view this message at a convenient time. Both parties are happy and can spend more time pursuing personal and professional endeavors. Large numbers of people have a hard time establishing friendships because of a fear of rejection or humiliation. That fear leads one to establish judgments of strangers that prevent them from meeting wonderful new people. It is believed that social networking is solidifying this mentality in people all over the world, stunting real life communication and strong bonds with others; however, social networking has become the norm and provide a non verbal first impression called a profile.
Fearing Profiling An article in The New York Times written by Clive Thompson observes that each piece of information that is updated on an individual profile may seem completely mundane if observed individually. When viewed as a whole, these pieces of personal information display a detailed look into the lives of others, comparable to all the dots in a pointillist painting coming together to form a detailed picture. Displaying these snippets of information provide superficial insight into ones’ life, allowing the individual to pursue or deny a relationship based on the profile. Fear of rejection or humiliation is minimized due to impersonal nature of social media, giving the individual a sense of control.
Need for Social Acceptance Social acceptance is a core need in life and the pursuit to fulfill that need is difficult. With the stress of work, children, household chores, paying bills, and driving around town, it is no wonder people are becoming socially inept. Having to juggle these responsibilities while trying to maintain personal relationships is a daunting task. In a small town everyone, knows each other and has the luxury of interacting daily: at work, on the bus, or while conducting business around town. Social networking is the virtual small-town scenario that allows people to communicate often, share personal stories, and conveniently keep in contact while free to complete daily tasks. In his essay, Clive Thompson writes, “The mobile workforce requires people to travel more frequently for work, leaving friends and family behind, and members of the growing army of the self employed often spend their days in solitude. Ambient intimacy becomes a way to “feel less alone,” as more than one Facebook and twitter user told me.” Without social interaction, people feel isolated, depression sets in, and loneliness begins to settle. Social media is a convenient and easy way to fulfill that need.
Social Media: A Social Changer With the fast expansion of social media comes changes in social interaction. While the overuse of such sites deteriorate real-time communication skills, it also enriches lives by providing more personal time to take care of everyday stressors. The act of limiting interactions to just a few impersonal messages a day while pursuing personal endeavors is selfish, but modern society demands it. Trying to keep up with today’s fast pace without fulfilling the social need will lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness that causes depression. Accepting the reality that social media is a part of life and embracing the benefits it provides is the first step to a convenient, productive, and fulfilling life.