This paper summarizes the effects of social media on hindering communication skills and reducing social activity in the world. Each reason is supported by evidence by referring to four published books and some articles online. It focuses mainly on social media via the Web, such as, Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, to which many of the youth are exposed to nowadays, and this exposure has led to addiction. This paper informs people about the issue of social media affecting communication skills and calls for means to solve this problem.
The Effects of Social Media on Communication Skills
Rebecca Javeleau, a 15 year-old Facebook user, meant to invite her 15 closest friends to her birthday party, but ended up inviting over 20,000 people, 8000 of which RSVP’d for the event. The birthday girl went into hiding when more than 1500 guests showed up and around 100 police officers were needed to keep the crowd under control. Did these 21000 people really know the girl? Are they really considered as “friends” of hers’? Modern society seems convinced that social media like Twitter and Facebook keep people connected and grow their social skills with friends and peers.
But what actually these social networking sites are doing to people is that they’re mutually isolating networks that part people from meaningful interactions with one another and make them less human. Many scholars see new communication technology as a threat to the discipline of interpersonal communication (Konijn et al. , 2008). Social media like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, and other applications are hampering our social skills. Social networking sites deteriorate communication skills because people forget proper manners as they constantly use these sites.
The more time these people spend on social sites, the less time they will have to spend socializing in person. Socializing via social sites lacks body signals and other nonverbal cues such as voice quality, tone, facial expressions, and many others, therefore it isn’t an adequate replacement for face-to-face communication since these people won’t be able to communicate and socialize effectively in person with one another. In the real world, the effective communication skills are key to success.
A month ago, I received a friend request from a Facebook user whom I didn’t know. After some days of chatting and better knowing each other, we decided to meet in person and have a real conversation. When we met in a cafe at around noon, we greeted one another and sat in our places. It was very embarrassing when we spent half an hour staring at each other and not knowing what to talk about. That is when I realized that these social networking sites are truly hindering our social interactions and the development of strong communication skills.
According to Konijn et al. 2008),“Researchers speculated that CMC would lead to the sharing of impersonal messages due to the lack of facial and tonal cues” (p. 15). Therefore we can say that social media causes effects on a person’s ability to communicate in a proper manner, which includes body signals, voice, and other cues. As Dimbleby R. & Burton G. state it (1992), “Body language tells us a lot about people’s feelings, attitudes, and intentions” (p. 37). Moreover, NVC such as body signals relates to our perception of others, and relates to the idea of feedback (Dimbleby R. & Burton G. , 1992, p. 40).
Another reason why these social networking sites are reducing communication skills is because they lack practice of active listening which is needed during conversations in the real world. Great communication skills take practice and that can’t be done by sitting on a sofa and typing on your computer or cellphone, it can be done by appearing in person and actively communication with one another. When the news spread all around that an application was available in the market, a free application through which anyone who shares contacts can chat with each other all day long without any payment.
This application was called “Whatsapp”. My friends encouraged me to download and use this application. We spent hours and days sitting at home chatting with one another. It was time to go back to school. When the teacher actually asked us to have a dialogue in the class, I realized that it was easier for me to chat on my phone instead of speaking out loud in front of everyone, which was pretty difficult to handle. It wasn’t only my case, as the whole class was addicted to these kinds of applications or essengers or sites, that cause people to be like robots, typing all day long, while a phone call could make it easier for them to save time and save energy.
I believe these applications or whatsoever destroyed our ability to communicate in face-to-face interactions. In a European study of 635 participants ages 16-55 years old who visited a website and completed an online questionnaire, 48. 9% reported preferring to use their cell phones for texting over voice calls and 26. 1% reported texting too much. This study also measured levels of loneliness, expressive control, interaction anxiousness, and conversational involvement.
Two significant findings were that 61% of the participants stated they say things in text that they would not feel comfortable saying face-to-face and 64% stated they feel they are able to express their true feelings best in text messages rather than in face-to-face interactions or voice calls (Reid & Reid, 2007). Social media hinders communication skills because it leads to isolation. Social media from Facebook to Twitter have made us more densely connected than ever, yet for all this connectivity, we have never been lonelier and this loneliness is making us physically and mentally ill.
Some people choose to sit at home all day pretending to be someone they’re not instead of going outside and having real conversations and interactions. Then, we can say that on social networks, everybody tries to come across at their very best often embellishing their profiles, making Facebook a reference group against which one starts to compare one’s own popularity and success, which may lead to cases of depression and isolation if one finds the other more successful than himself/herself.
A recent observation done by myself on the issue of social media leading to isolation showed that people want to constantly be visible amongst their peers and be the best among all. Those who weren’t able to have more “friends” than their peers were actually depressed and felt left out of the group. A tragic story alarms people of the issue of social media leading to isolation and depression, when a 15 year-old girl hanged herself because her friends at school were bullying her and she felt lonely and her depression let her to commit suicide.
Konijn et al (2008) study found the following : Being ignored or ostracized has negative psychological consequences. For example, ostracism has been associated with depressed mood, anxiety, loneliness, helplessness, invisibility, and frustration. Being ostracized threatens the basic human needs for belonging, self-esteem, control, and meaningful existence. This can be anything like unanswered emails, or being consistently ignored in a chat room. (p. 203) There are critics that say social networking sites lead to larger non-diverse social networks, hence increasing communication skills.
It is true that these networking sites make it easier for people to connect all around the world, but is that a cause to increase communication skills? Why, then, two people sitting in the same room chat on their IPhones together while they could have a real face-to-face communication? Why do these people feel dead on one’s feet to actually walk 10 second to the hallway to talk with their friends and have a real conversation? Even if these social networking sites lead to larger non-diverse social networks, are these relationships real?
How can you prove if the one you are communicating with is a person you can trust? According to Mintz et al. , (2012), “driven by younger, technologically savvy students, Myspace and Facebook have grown exponentially into sites where people can and do pretend to be who they aren’t”. Another party criticizes the fact that these social networking sites are ruining communication skills by saying people use this technology to get in touch with one another and plan for a meeting.
In addition to that, they criticize by saying that internet users are more likely to visit a cafe or coffee shop than people who don’t use the internet. Well, don’t these people who visit coffee shops hold their laptops in their hands and sit browsing on the Internet while drinking a coffee or having a bite? If they really meant to plan a meeting and to interact with one another then why do these people leave their cellphones and laptops away from sight? How did technology make it easier for people to get in touch with one another?
Did it make it easier by allowing anyone to see one’s privacy and know every single detail about that person? Doesn’t this eventually lead to spam and identity theft? How can we protect ourselves from harmful remarks and actions when the identity of the perpetrator is unknown? As Konijn et al (2008) states, “by focusing on symbolic shifts, time/space relationships, interactivity, sensory bias, and conditons of attendance, media ecology provides a framework for understanding how interpersonal communication is shifted from face-to-face to mediated contexts” (p. 0).
Social networking sites not only decrease the number of face-to-face interactions, but they greatly deplete the social skills that are important in any society. Facebook is a great tool to connect with one another but it is tech-deep and we need skin-deep, we need real actively involved connections and conversations. This trend causes human beings to become consumed by a virtual world while they’re simultaneously pulled further away from reality.