As science and technology advance and flourish, social media becomes an indispensable part of people’s daily lives since it provides people with a mean of communication and socializing, effective marketing for businesses as well as an universal exchange in information and news. Comparing to life in the 80s when computers were still considered fancy and unfamiliar, today life has been affected a lot by the arrival of social media, both in good and bad ways. So how does social media influence interpersonal communication? Recent research findings suggest that social media allows people to interact with a larger range of audience, changes the ways people interact and feel about communications, create a decline in communication skills and distance among people in society.
First, one of the most noticeable advantage of social media is that it provides a large range of interaction. Nowadays, with the presence of social media, geographical locations are no longer an obstacle to communications. In modern society, people no longer wait for letters that arrive after months, receive messages from fax machine, or put in coins to use the public telephone on the street.
People can keep in touch with their friends and family across the world at a fascinating speed anytime and anyplace. As a result of a large range of interaction, messages and individual opinions can be spread to thousands or even millions of audiences. Social media allows people to share one’s personal thoughts, pictures, videos, and feelings in numerous ways, such as statuses on Facebook, tweets on Twitter, stories on Instagram which are only available for 24 hours.
Social media has created such an easy way for people to constantly update information. With that being said, the need to share and be shared now has become a habit. From a 2011 study by AOL/ Nielsen, 27 million pieces of content and 3.2 billion images are shared everyday on social media (“Amazing Social Media Statistics and Facts“). Moreover, social media gives everyone a freedom of expression and a voice in society that never happened before. Consequently, through television, newspapers, books, the Internet, and social media etc, people receive an average of 105,000 words per day which is 34 gigabytes of information (“The Human Brain Is Loaded Daily with 34 GB of Information”). Social media plays a crucial role as one of the main sources of information since two-thirds of Americans are getting news from social media in 2017 (Shearer). An explosion of information that is spread, duplicated, and even distorted makes irrelevant information outnumber trustworthy and relevant information. The overload of information makes it difficult and time-consuming for people to find required information that are both reliable and accurate. In addition, the trendy and latest news that is spread with incredible speed on social media attract people to spend a lot more time on it instead of spending time with other people in real life. One thing to keep in mind when using social media is that social media lacks of privacy and security. It is possible to find personal information on social media such as email addresses, phone numbers, birthdays or even current locations.
Second, the usage of social media has changed the ways that people communicate and feel about communications. Since social media has offered an easy and efficient way of communicating, people prefer interacting with others online rather than communicating face-to-face. Despite the fact that face-to-face interaction has always been the fundamental step in developing strong-bonded relationships, about two-thirds of teenagers favor online interaction with their friends over talking in person from a study of Common Sense Media (Morris). Unsurprisingly, online relationships have become popular and prevalent among people universally. Online dating statistics show that 20% of current committed relationships began online and 7% of marriages in 2015 were between couples that met on a dating website. With the constant increase in the need for online dating services, online dating became a $3 billion dollar industry in the early 2017 (Matthews). Moreover, the researchers find it easy for people to ignore thinking about the consequences of words and actions on social media. People tend to express or share information with little thoughts about how influential words can be. As a result, misunderstanding and miscommunication can be the threats to relationships. More importantly, people are making online communication on social media unregulated and disordered. According to a research by Pritta Chasombat in 2014, “people are more likely to disclose more personal information on Social Networking Sites than they would in face to face communication because the level of control is higher” (6). When communicating on social media, people can comfortably say what is truly on their mind without hesitation and nervousness. Therefore, the conversations are more honest and open.
Not only do the ways people communicate change but the communication skills are also affected, especially in writing techniques and styles. Social media has been a factor that contributes to the prevalence of poor grammar and spelling usage in teenagers and even adults. Because of the convenience that social media has brought to life, people tend to express messages as shortly as possible while writing in a grammatically correct manner or spelling properly are considered unnecessary. Besides, people choose to use shortened versions of words and abbreviations on social networks. Because of the popularity and advancement of online communications, a new texting language of abbreviations and summarized writing emerges to save time and effort of the users. For example, “OMG”, “ILY”, “NVM”, and “LOL” are some frequently used texting abbreviations. Since abbreviations and shortened words are common on all types of social media, people bring this bad habit into formal writing.
Social media can bring people across the world together while create distance among society. The shift in the ways people communicate has led to a reduction in direct contact between people. Nowadays it is familiar to see people checking their notifications on social media, texting, or scrolling the newsfeed rather than talking to each other on a family dinner, a date, a meeting etc. In fact, research suggests that global internet users spend an average of 135 minutes a day on social media with the total of 3,397 billions active users (Hanke). Spending much time and attention to the virtual life on social media causes people to invest less effort to develop real life ’s relationships without noticing it. A study shows that the presence of mobile devices while interactions impacts the quality of conversations and closeness between people, which further weakens the social ties (8).
In conclusion, social media is an incredible breakthrough of technology as it allows people to connect with a large range of people despite geological locations. It affects the ways people communicate and feel about interactions. Finally, it impacts the usage of communication skills in a bad way and creates a distance among people in society.