Is Technology Impeding Social Skill Development
In our world today, it is not unusual for people to have their initial introduction via some avenue that is supported by technology. In the business world, technology clearly offers many benefits as communication channels are available far and wide. However, when it comes to introductory steps in a social setting, there is something to be said for face to face communication. In today’s world, especially in the teenage and young adult age groups, there can be an argument made that technology may be preventing people from developing proper social skills that are needed in life, and the ability to truly understand how a friend or acquaintance really feels.
In generations past, and probably as recent as ten or twenty years ago, people generally had to rely on meeting someone in person to get to know them. Children often met their friends through gatherings in the neighborhood or playing in a park. This added the human element to the introduction and even at a young age children would have a much easier time identifying with someone with whom they could become friends. The people skills that are developed and honed through these early years often results in a socially stable and secure adult. But as our technology has advanced exponentially in recent years, there is a thought that it has also become a detriment to our societal traits.
In an article titled “Social Psychology, ” Michael Argyle states that: “Problems in the process of socialization that have been studied by experimental methods include the analysis of mother-child interaction in infancy; the effects of parental patterns of behavior on the development of intelligence, moral behavior, mental health, delinquency, self-image, and other aspects of the personality of the child; the effects of birth order on the individual; and changes of personality during adolescence.” This statement shows us that technology is not the only component factoring into the loss of social interaction. A huge part in how we grow and develop into adults is based on how we are raised. If a parent or guardian influences bad social behavior upon us, it is likely that we will have similar traits later in life. This is a common issue and leads children to believe that even if their parent or guardian lacks social interaction or cues, it is still the norm.
As new generations come about and technology continues advancing, our world today does not compare to those who raised us. With the statistics recorded showing that teenagers typically average anywhere from four hours or more per day on the internet, it really isn’t surprising that it is not uncommon for them to meet people on-line as opposed to in person. Prior to the internet boom around fifteen to twenty years ago, it was unimaginable for a teenager to sit in his or her house during the day while on summer break. That seems to have changed dramatically with the increased use of technology. Children can do so many things from the inside of their house, and it turns out that they are often meeting new friends through this virtual world. The downside of all of this is that the natural development of human interaction which helps one steer through the social situations they will encounter in life.
There are many behind the scene behaviors that can only be understood through actual human interaction. For example, if someone is having an online, or social media chat with someone, they would never see their actual expression or other type of human reaction that would give a real understanding of how one truly feels. Hypothetically, let’s say that someone made a friend on Facebook, even though both people have never met them in person, they are having an on-line messaging session. One person happens to mention that their neighbor’s grandmother recently passed away and they were attending the funeral. In this hypothetical scenario, that virtual friend also recently lost a grandparent. As our virtual friend is reading the message, her eyes start to tear up as she reflects on her own loss. In a virtual conversation, we would never see the tears and therefore would not know to respond to an important visual cue. In an article called “The Negative Effects of Technology on Social Skills,” the website Study.com explains: “Social cues are important for many reasons but mostly because they help us navigate social situations.” Without seeing the tears that result from our comments, we wouldn’t know we were unintentionally inflicting emotional pain on a friend.
Social cues are simply something that cannot be recognized by a person through online chatting. Social interaction is important with all aspects of life. In the article, “Social Psychology,” Michael Argyle writes that: “Research into the causes of mental disorders has shown the importance of social factors in the family and elsewhere. Many social psychologists hold that social factors may also apply to such disorders as schizophrenia, which also seem to have hereditary and chemical bases.” From this statement, we are able to see that the importance of interaction is not only necessary in regular conversations. But for people with such disorders they must engage in all different types of social therapy. In order for therapists to compensate with these people, they must help their patients strengthen their abilities to interact with others. If they are not able to do so, it will be a lot more difficult to help better the disorder.
As a result of the increasing reliance on technology as a social tool, there is a phenomenon that has become what seems to be the standards today. It is not at all unusual to see a group of people in a social gathering with their faces all buried in their smart phones. According to the article “Viewpoint: Why Social Media is Destroying Our Social Skills,” the website college.usatoday.com describes that, “In a society where interacting and over-sharing online is the norm, you’re probably more likely to speak to friends and family through electronic devices than face-to-face.” This behavior, while seen very often with teenagers and young adults, has become so widespread that it’s hard to tell if people are actually in each other’s company. We have all seen a group of people at a restaurant, sitting at a table together, but nobody is communicating with each other because they are wholly occupied by their smart phone. It almost seems as though people are more interested in what else is going on, and what all of their other ‘friends’ are doing, as opposed to showing an interest in the people that they’re actually with in person. Some people have offered the opinion that these behaviors were developed from the lack of nurturing one’s social skills due to their overwhelming amount of time relying on technology. It is almost understandable that people have become more comfortable in a setting where they can communicate via technology instead of through nature’s own channels because they have become so accustomed to it. In generations past, the dinner table was always the setting for which a family had their in-depth conversations. Nowadays, that setting is probably more of an exception and not the norm.
Human interaction had always been the foundation for developing a person’s sociological make-up, and it is a growing concern that technology may be forcing its way into this critical equation. Technology cannot replace human emotion, and it is becoming increasingly more apparent that people in today’s society are beginning to lack specific aspects of the human touch when compared to times past. It is still too early to tell what the outcome of all of this will be as we are still in the early stages of technology taking a greater role in the development of our societal make-up. There are no indications that the use of technology will decrease, in fact the usage of technology is growing significantly.
In conclusion, it is realistic to believe that over time, people’s social skills may continue to decrease and the ability to display true human emotion may be a rarely seen trait. However, in the long run I am optimistic that it will all work itself out. We are a world that is ever-changing, and human history has proven to be able to adjust to just about everything.
Argyle, Michael. “Social Psychology.” Britannica Academic. Web. 29 Apr. 2017.
“Negative Effects of Technology on Social Skills.” Study.com. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.
“Viewpoint: Why Social Media Is Destroying Our Social Skills.” USA Today. Gannett Satellite Information Network, 18 July 2014. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.