The use of electronic and social media has become a staple in our society. No matter where one travels one can have access to this great resource. But has this accessibility and dependence upon electronic and social media gone too far? Is this passion for instant gratification affecting our ability to communicate with those around us on a personal level? Another question to ask is whether or not this constant access to technology will help our children develop the necessary skills to succeed in life; whether through multitasking or being able to adapt to new situations. There have been many studies that argue both sides of this issue. Some say these new technologies will improve the quality of life for our children and others argue that instead of helping, it will hinder their ability to effectively communicate. The impact of the internet and social media has permanently altered the lives of all who participate in its web.
Kevin Cain’s article, “The Negative Effects of Facebook on Communication” argues that Facebook is completely changing how we communicate with one other. He says it is creating a society that values, “…frequent communication more than meaningful communication,” (Cain). He believes this has caused us to have shrinking attention spans and has made us want to share more personal information that we normally would not be comfortable sharing with others. “[We] overshare a variety of information that was once unthinkable for public consumption,” (Cain). On the other hand, Lori Takeuchi’s more researched article, “How Tweens Use Digital Media to Develop Their Identities” is not quite sure what kind of consequences our overexposure to the internet will have. She believes it can have both positive and negative effects based on a child’s exposure to the internet and the parental involvement surrounding its use.
Takeuchi writes, “…reading Club Penguin’s newspaper, for example, can help foster children’s reading comprehension skill and negotiate, collaborate, and evaluate,” (Takeuchi). Even though Takeuchi believes these can be important aids to our children’s learning curve, she does not think that it should completely replace the non-technological part of our lives. She states, “Rather than replacing or eliminating activities, digital media represent an additional layer of their everyday lives,” (Takeuchi). Takeuchi is very clear in stating family and outdoor activities are still very important and necessary. Although it is clear that electronic and social media is having a powerful impact on our society, it still is not entirely clear whether this influence is for the betterment of the society as a whole. It is however, unquestionable that the internet has changed our lives forever. Although the long term effect of electronic and social media has not been thoroughly vetted, it seems as if the misuse of this resource can leave us with undesirable results.
Electronic and social media has positive functionality in our everyday life. It can enable a person to research a wide range of topics including, searching medical diagnoses or treatments on sites like WebMD for injuries or illnesses, collecting material for school projects, or it can reconnect you with old friends through Facebook and Twitter. Although communication through Facebook and Twitter can be entertaining and fun, it consumes untold hours each month. Surprising, most users are unaware of this fact. A study in August of 2011 showed that Facebook usage alone accounted for nearly eight hours of online time per person. Twitter did not register quite as high on the scale of online time usage, but it is believed to be because Twitter, like most other websites, does not track the time spent using mobile phones. So, “these numbers only track visits to Twitter.com, and do not take into account mobile usage,” (Konrardy).
That means that the total time spent on these websites is actually much higher. If one takes into account how much time one observes people on cell phones checking their social media, the total time wasted on these sites would be much higher. Not only are people spending an exorbitant amount of time on social networking sites, they are also developing a tendency to be more comfortable having serious conversations through social media or some other form of non-personal communication. This is especially prevalent amongst children ages thirteen to eighteen, “young Facebook users are relying less on interpersonal communication skills and more on technology to communicate for them,” (Konrardy). This can be a huge detriment to their development of interpersonal skills. If children do not learn how to communicate effectively at a young age, it can hinder them in the future whether in job interviews or when dealing with personal conflict in relationships.
Communication is necessary to live peaceably in our society. If children are taught that Facebook and other social networking sites are acceptable forms of serious conversation, they will be less likely to succeed in their personal and public lives. Susan Tardanico said in an article that, “…these generations – which will comprise more than 50% of the workforce by 2020 – would prefer to use instant messaging or other social media than stop by an office and talk with someone,” (Tardanico 1). This change in communication styles has made it difficult for employers to build trust and employee loyalty which then, in turn, can negatively impact productivity. Cell phones and social networking sites cannot offer true communication because “A whopping 93% [of communication] is based on nonverbal body language,” (Tardanico 1).
This makes it extremely difficult for an individual to discern what another person might be meaning through words alone. In October of 2011 Sharon Seline was texting her daughter, who was off at college, asking how her life was going at school. Her daughter continually responded with positive responses, smiley faces, and hearts. This made Seline believe her daughter was quite happy and having a wonderful time at college. In reality, she never left her dorm room and showed tales tell signs of depression, a fact that did not come across in her texts and social networking posts. Later in the same night while she was ‘talking’ with her mother, she tried to commit suicide. Because the daughter’s non-verbal communication was absent from their conversations, her mother was unable to decipher the seriousness of the situation.
She had to take her daughter’s written word as fact because she was, unable to “hear [her] tone of voice or look into [her] eyes… [and] know when “I’m fine” doesn’t mean [she’s] fine at all…” (Tardanico 1). If Seline would have been able to see her daughter’s body language, she would have easily recognized, through non-verbal communication that she was not okay and needed help. In this case, face-to-face communication might have been able to keep a young lady from attempting suicide. There is also a direct correlation between the usage of Facebook and other social media sites to a person’s shyness. A study showed that those who have a tendency to be shy, generally have less ‘friends’ but spend more time on these sites. “…although shy individuals do not have as many contacts on their Facebook profiles, they still regard this tool as an appealing method of communication and spend more time on Facebook than do nonshy individuals,” (Liebert 339).
Although it may be appealing to those who have a hard time meeting others, what it really does is immobilize them from entering into meaning relationships with others. It reinforces their shyness and perpetuates their lack of social ability in the ‘real’ world. They use it as a means of communication, so they do not have to go out into the world to overcome their shyness. It is easy to see that this study’s, “…findings might be explained by the anonymity afforded by online communication, specifically, the removal of many of the verbal and nonverbal cues associated with face-to-face interactions,” (Liebert 339). Again, this ability to hide in an online community does nothing to help an individual overcome their shyness. In fact this behavior hurts them by creating a false connection and an altered reality by inhibiting them from actual interpersonal relationships’.
Without practice, a shy individual will have limited exposure to verbal and nonverbal cues that could in turn negatively impact them in job interviews or other “real” life situations. Unadulterated social networking has also been observed to negatively impact college student’s grades. Megan Puglisi says that, “According to Northern Michigan University, college students who used Facebook while studying, even just having it in the background, earned grades 20 percent lower on average than non-users in 2010,” (Puglisi). The impact of lower grades in college could adversely affect ones future life and well-being. For example, if a student can achieve a 20 percent improvement in their GPA simply by removing the constant interruption of social media sites from their environment, this could result in not only better grades, but scholarship opportunities. This in turn could improve that student’s financial burden.
If, however, ones grades drop by 20 percent, because of the constant interruption from social media sites, at the extreme end of the spectrum, one could get kicked out of college which would hinder one’s ability to acquire future employment. So sacrificing a little time on Facebook could greatly affect ones present and future life. Puglisi also found that college students’ tendencies to use social media reduced their relationship with their professors. In her article, she quoted Dr. Kelley Crowley, a professor who “teaches public relations writing and principles of advertising at West Virginia University,” (Puglisi). According to Crowley, students should be pursuing real relationships. She believes that, “‘Avoiding personal interactions harms the competency of young professionals … (It’s difficult for students) to speak to respected professionals during interviews because they lack the necessary nonverbal behaviors, like eye contact,’” (Puglisi).
Again, this directly relates to how social media can adversely affect college age students when applying to the work force. By not developing proper communication skills necessary for success, these students are affecting their life in a negative way. Puglisi is also a strong advocate for writing correctly on social networking sites. She believes making poor grammatical mistakes can make one look bad. She believes if one proof reads what one says before one posts it, one can “prevent looking like a fool in front of professors, friends and future colleagues,” (Puglisi). Employers now search out a person’s social media site to see what type of individual they really are. If one used poor grammar and made careless mistakes, the company would be much less likely to hire them. The many articles and researched opinions on this matter coincide with everyday observable behaviors.
On any given day, one can walk down the street and see someone on their phone, texting, on Facebook, or looking at different internet sites. People are simply occupied with their electronic devices rather than with the world around them. This lack of interaction with the outside world can cause chronic electronic users to make stupid and sometimes irreparable mistakes. The other day my friend was riding his bike to class. A girl distracted while looking at her phone, walked out in front of him. He had to swerve out of the way so he would not hit her. He ended up crashing his bike, and spraining his ankle; a relatively small injury compared to what could have happened. In this instance, if the girl would not have been checking her phone, she would not have stepped out in front of him, and he would not have been injured. Another more personal incident occurred while I was driving my parent’s car. I only had my permit and my brother and I were heading to my swim practice when I went to turn left at a green light.
A young lady was texting on her cell phone and went through her red light and nearly hit us. That young lady was tremendously lucky because had she hit us, I would have, in all likely hood, been killed. Two seconds separated me from life and death. This distraction of electronic media can sometimes have very tragic results. In 2012, a Philadelphia man was walking while using his cell phone. Because he was distracted, he fell onto a set of train tracks. Luckily, no train was coming and he was able to recover and get himself out before being crushed. In this case, distracted walking almost cost a man his life. More and more reports of injuries due to distracted walkers are being reported. A study showed that, “[All]though overall traffic deaths were lower in 2012 than the year before, pedestrian fatalities rose by 4.2 percent and injuries by 19 percent,” (Lowy).
This shows a direct correlation between the use of social media and pedestrian deaths. This is no surprise to researchers, “‘I see students as soon as they break from a class, they have their cellphones out and they’re texting to one another. They’re walking through the door and bumping into one another,” said Jack Nasar, an Ohio State University professor and expert on environmental psychology,” (Lowy). This distraction can easily turn into something much bigger and cause serious injuries. “A study Nasar conducted at intersections on campus found that people talking on cellphones were significantly more likely to walk in front of cars than pedestrians not using phones… reports of injuries to distracted walkers treated at hospital emergency rooms have more than quadrupled in the past seven years” (Lowry).
These studies and reports show how social media and networking sites can greatly harm an individual when undivided attention is not given to the task at hand. Social media has also completely changed the way we read and process information. Nicholas Carr in is article, “Is Google Making Us Stupid” talks about how the internet has made it more difficult for people to stay focused. “The more they use the Web, the more they have to fight to stay focused on long pieces of writing,” (Carr). This can greatly affect your studying and work ability. By having this inability to be focused, you may have trouble gathering information you may need for a class or work project. This can negatively affect your performance and cause you to do poorer than you originally would. Carr also states that, “Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged.” (Carr).
Again, this inability to make connections and interpret the written text can make us less marketable, which in turn damages our quality of life. Carr, when researching his article, came across a five-year long research program. The scientists studied the behaviors of visitors to two different research sites, both offering any different forms of written information. In the study, “They found that people using the sites exhibited “a form of skimming activity,” hopping from one source to another… They typically read no more than one or two pages of an article or book before they would “bounce” out to another site,” (Carr). This type of skimming and non-ability to analyze written word has become a great drawback of social media. Social media and networking sites have had a great impact on our society. It has given us the ability to access any information we want, whenever we want. But this gift has taken us to a level we could never have imagined, and it has not always been in a good way.
Through continually having access to social media, we have created many dangerous side effects. By not being able to read one’s body language, we can have a difficult time discerning what they really mean. By hiding behind a computer screen, we can lose many of the abilities to communicate effectively. By constantly having our faces glued to our cell phones, we can cause bodily harm to ourselves and to others. All of these negative ramifications can greatly hinder our capacity to find a decent job, do well in school, and communicate in an effective manner. If people do not become conscience of our misuse of this great resource, we may see even worse side effects than we have already encountered.
Cane, Kevin. “The Negative Effects of Facebook on Communication.” Social Media Today RSS. Social Media Today, 29 June 2012. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. . Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic July-Aug. 2008. Web, 16 Nov. 2012. < http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/>. Konrardy, Nate. “Face-to-Facebook Communication.” The Northern Iowan. The Northern Iowan, 3 Oct. 2011. Web. 17 Nov. 2012. . Lowry, Joan. “Distracted Walking: Smartphone-wielding Pedestrians Stumble into Danger.” The Christian Science Monitor, 30 July 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. Orr, Robert R. et al. “The Influence Of Shyness On The Use Of Facebook In An Undergraduate Sample.” Cyberpsychology & Behavior 12.3 (2009): 337-340. Puglisi, Megan. “Social Networking Hurts the Communication Skills of College Students.” The Daily Athenaeum. The DA Online, 13 Oct. 2010. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. . Takeuchi, Lori. “MindShift.” MindShift RSS. Mind Shift, 29 Feb. 2012. Web. 4 Nov. 2012. .