The Altering of Social Skills from Technological Advancements
In my categorical argument, I compared the different mechanisms that were leveraged to develop social skills in times past versus present. This casual argument will now describe both the cause and effect of the most recent generation’s overwhelming increased usage, and apparent dependency, on technology in their development of social skill. While mostly everyone would have to agree that advancements in technology have resulted in numerous positives in our world, spanning everything from curing diseases, extending life expectancy, and countless other efficiencies that we have become accustomed to, I do not believe there was any intention to ultimately replace life’s method for developing one’s social skills and their ability to establish relationships with technology.
Slowly over time, technology has taken a toll on face-to-face communication. In the article “The Effect of Technology of Face-to-Face Communication,” Emily Drago states that: “Many studies have been conducted regarding technology’s effect on social interaction and face-to-face communication since the rise of cellphone and social media usage in the late 2000s.” Every study conducted shows that people who spend more time on their devices everyday lack certain social cues that people who do not spend so much of their time on the internet do not. In the same article, Emily Drago explains: “researchers found that conversations in the absence of mobile communication technologies were rated as significantly superior compared with those in the presence of a mobile device. People who had conversations in the absence of mobile devices reported higher levels of empathetic concern, while those conversing in the presence of a mobile device reported lower levels of empathy.” It is situations like such, where we are not able to recognize the same cues that people are trying to portray in a text message rather than if they were doing so in person.
One particular area where technology has greatly altered the manner in which social skills are developed, and even changed during one’s life, is the tremendous impact it has had with on-line relationships. In “This Is How Technology Is Affecting Your Relationship,” Jessica Leader writes: “Technology has put our relationships in beta, redefining how we communicate our desires and trust one another.” While there are many nice stories that we read about where old high school classmates are reconnecting through social media, there is also the adverse effect where we read about families being broken up due to an on-line relationship, often where one or even both parties are not really what they advertise themselves as. It is not uncommon for a person to become much bolder, and much more confident in what they say or type, when they are communicating through some type of media as opposed to doing so face to face.
In times past, where social skills were developed as a natural progression from childhood through teen and adult years, other types of social skills such as recognition of other people’s behavior was a natural by product. However, developing these types of social skills are nearly impossible because we cannot detect such behavioral traits of another when technology becomes the conduit for introductions and developing of relationships. One of the most dreadful types of stories that we read about today, and one that seems to be increasing exponentially, are the dangers that far too often come with romantic relationships that are developed through some type of technology.
It is easy to understand that developing a relationship that was heavily supported by technology is easier than taking the time to let a relationship evolve through its natural course. On the surface, technology opens many doors to broaden the search for the right partner. Distance, for example, is not a deterrent for a blossoming on line relationship. Through a few clicks of a mouse we could be on line chatting, or even video chatting with someone on the other side of the world. And that someone could very easily be the exact opposite of the person they are describing themselves as. This can be troublesome in the event where the on-line relationship develops into one where the two people decide to take the virtual relationship into a real-life relationship. They do so without ever having to experience actually being in the other physical company. All too often, people find out that the person with whom they have developed an on-line relationship with, is a far different person when they eventually meet face to face.
This type of scenario is a direct effect of the role technology has increasingly played in our ability to develop requisite social skills, especially as it relates to forming relationships. There are so many important aspects of one’s personality that just cannot be detected through the use of technology. For example, if someone is in the early stages of a new relationship with a person that they see and speak to in person on a fairly regular basis, they will start to pick up on certain mannerisms that will help understand their own social behaviors. This may come in the way of detecting many human emotions such as nervousness, anxiety, and even love. Having these face to face encounters can also bring other traits of the person to light, including habits such as truthfulness and deceit. Recognizing these types of behaviors is starting to become more and more scarce in this day and age where so many relationships are being nurtured by technology in lieu of human interaction. This is a social skill that while still being developed, albeit more so through technology, seems to be more robot like than human.
While the emphasis of this argument has centered on how these altered social skills are involved in developing romantic relationships for the most part, it also very easily translates to all types of relationships. According to the article “The Impact of Social Media Use on Social Skills,” the website newyorkbehavioralhealth.com claims: “Teenagers, between the ages of 12-17, report using text messages in their daily lives more than any other form of communication, including face-to-face interaction.” A person that relies wholly on communication in this form is likely to lack many social cues. On the other hand, someone who communicates almost entirely face to face will have fine-tuned social skills and is more likely to have healthier friendships as well. Additionally, someone who has developed their social skills through without the total reliance of technology, is also likely going to be better prepared to take on the challenges of the real world, be it in their careers or in their ability to raise a family. There are critical elements in growing socially that can only be attained through real life experience, and technology may be one of the largest detractors of allowing these skills to be honed. In Katherine Bindley’s article “When Children Text All Day, What Happens To Their Social Skills,” she writes: “It’s true many of us don’t exercise our face-to-face socialization muscles as frequently as we did before the age of smartphones.” It is hard to imagine that a person can gain the necessary social skills in life when they grow up sitting behind a keyboard and monitor while establishing the majority of their relationships from that position. However, based on many recent findings, this type of behavior is becoming the norm and is clearly altering the development of social skills.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that technology absolutely does have a meaningful role in support of our social lives. However, what is critically important, is that we try to utilize the technology afforded to us to leverage the right type of benefits in our social make up. Unfortunately, it seems as though our society is increasing the amount we rely on technology to support our social development. I really do not see any signs that this is going to slow down, nor do I know what it would take for people across the word to come to the realization that we do not really need technology to be such a critical component to our development of social skills.
Bindley, Katherine. “When Children Text All Day, What Happens To Their Social Skills?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 09 Dec. 2011. Web. 18 Apr. 2017.
Drago, Emily. “The Effect of Technology on Face-to-Face Communication.” The Effect of Technology on Face-to-Face Communication by Emily Drago Web. 29 Apr. 2017.
“The Impact of Social Media Use on Social Skills.” New York Behavioral Health. Web. 19 Apr. 2017
Leader, Jessica. “This Is How Technology Is Affecting Your Relationship.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 17 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 Apr. 2017.