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. It is common among the teenage and young adult age groups that technology may be preventing people from developing proper social skills that are needed in life. Although technology does offer many benefits as communication networks are available, when it comes to introductory steps in a social setting, there is something to be said for face to face communication. The ability to truly understand how a friend or acquaintance feels cannot be based off of what is said through a text message or chat on-line. We have become accustomed to the advancements in technology and are relying way too much on social media and networking sites to establish relationships with others.
Years ago, children usually had to rely on meeting someone in person to get to know them. Even at a young age, this human element to the introduction allowed children to have a much easier time identifying with someone with whom they could become friends with. The people skills that were developed from situations as such often resulted in a socially stable adult. Today, children are able to do so many things from the inside of their homes with all of the social media sites and technology available at hand. With the abundant amounts of communication sites that are accessible, it is common that teenagers more so meet people on-line as opposed to in person. In generations past, it was unheard of that a teenager would spend a nice day indoors. Nowadays, this has drastically changed with the increased use of technology. Statistics show that teenagers typically average anywhere from four hours or more per day on the internet, so it really isn’t surprising that most of their friends are made through social media sites.
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.
In an article by Stuart Wolpert, he talks about a study that UCLA scientists conducted on two different sets of sixth graders from a public school in Southern California. One set of students consisting of fifty-one children lived together for five days at the Pali Institute (a nature and science camp) which did not allow them to use their electronic devices. The other group consisted of fifty-four students who would later attend the same camp after the first group was finished. Both sets of students were evaluated on their capabilities of recognizing other people’s emotions in pictures and videos at the beginning and end of the study. In this article by Stuart Wolpert, “In our digital world, are young people losing the ability to read emotions?” he states: “The children who had been at the camp improved significantly over the five days in their ability to read facial emotions and other nonverbal cues to emotion, compared with the students who continues to use their media devices.” Some students had trouble adjusting to the consequences of not having any technology, however, it is made clear from this study that people are bound to communicate more face to face when no devices are available.
There are many behind the scene behaviors that can only be understood through actual human interaction. In an article called “The Negative Effects of Technology on Social Skills,” the website Study.com explains: “Spending an extended amount of time in front of a screen prevents children from spending time in front of another person. This limits their practice in social skill development.” Face to face interaction with others helps us adjust to certain social cues that we would never grasp onto through texting or chatting. For example, if a person is looking down or dozing off that might mean they are upset, so a person would usually ask if everything is ok. Clearly, this is not something that would be noticeable to us through a text message. Most of the time we are not thinking about our social skills and how we use them but that is because they come so naturally from personally interacting with others. Actions as simple as smiling, laughing, making eye contact, pausing, asking questions, etc. are all normal skills that we develop from face to face communication. This is something that children today lack and new generations will continue to lack in if too much time is spent on devices. It is important for people to understand social cues and have face to face interaction with others to steer through the social situations they will encounter in life. From a virtual world, we would never know what is emotionally occurring in someone else’s life therefore, we would not be developing the skills to offer someone support if a casual conversation happens to unintentionally inflict emotional pain on a person. As technology advances, we become more addicted to our virtual lives, which is causing a strain on our societal traits.
Social cues are simply something that cannot be recognized by a person through online chatting. 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.” This statement allows us to see that the importance of social interaction is not only necessary in regular conversation but it is also extremely important for people with such disorders because 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 norm today. In the article “Is Technology Making People Less Sociable?” the website http://www.wsj.com states: “With the spread of mobile technology, it’s become much easier for more people to maintain constant contact with their social networks online. A recent Pew Research survey of adults in the U.S. found that 71% use Facebook at least occasionally, and 45% of Facebook users check the site several time a day.” It is not uncommon to see 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. According to the article “Viewpoint: Why Social Media is Destroying Our Social Skills,” the website college.usatoday.com describes that: “Social media interaction now dominates both online and offline conversations. 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.” It is seen way too often that people are attached to their smartphones worrying about others’ lives rather than communicating with those around them. In the same article “Viewpoint: Why Social Media is Destroying Our Social Skill,” Mark Clennon, graduate of University of South Florida stated that: “People tend to want to show others that they are having fun than actually having fun themselves.” Everywhere we go today, we always see someone taking a selfie, or posting about where they are or what they are doing or are simply just occupied by their devices. In this day and age, we never see everyone in our surrounding area just capturing the moments for their own memories. 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 are physically with. As a society today, we have become so accustomed to the lack of communication and attachment to our smartphones that seeing people at dinner, not interacting with each other due to their devices is a normal occurrence to watch. Years ago, 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.
A huge part in how we grow and develop into adults is based on how we are raised. 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. 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.
Children and teenagers are not the only one’s forming relationships through social media, but people are now establishing romantic relationships with the aid of technology. Technology has had a tremendous impact with on-line relationships and has greatly altered the manner in which social skills are developed. Although there are the stories we read about of old high school classmates rekindling, there is also the adverse effect where we read about families that are 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 extremely common for a person to become much bolder, and much more confident in what they type, when they are communicating through some type of media as opposed to doing so directly in person. In the article “This Is How Technology Is Affecting Your Relationship,” Bea Arthur states that: “Whatever dating site you use, you ‘meet’ someone and immediately start fantasizing about them, because it can be more fun than reality. Expectation is the root of the most disappointment in online dating.” Forming a relationship that is supported by technology can be easier than letting one evolve naturally. This however, can be troublesome in the way that within a few clicks of a mouse a person can be chatting with someone who might be the exact opposite. This turns into an uncomfortable situation, when the two people decide to take the virtual relationship into a real life relationship. In this position, people often find out that the person they have developed an on-line relationship with, is a far different person than when they meet face to face.
This unrealistic portrayal that people display themselves as on dating websites all goes back to the direct effect that the role of technology plays in our ability to develop requisite social skills. Especially in the instance of forming relationships, it is important to be able to detect a significant other’s social behaviors. So many relationships in this day and age are being nurtured by technology instead of human interaction. It is simply not possible to understand the important aspects of one’s personality through technology. If someone is regularly seeing and speaking to their significant other, they will start to pick up on social cues such as nervousness, anxiety, and even love. The recognition of these behaviors is becoming less noticeable, and the social skills being developed through dating websites seems to be more robotic-like than human.
Social media has impacted so many different aspects of life upon society today. Some would never even think of it, but it has had a huge influence on politics. In the article “What Impact Has Social Media Truly Had On Society,” the website business2community.com stated that: “Social websites have played an important role in many elections around the world, including the U.S., Iran, and India. They have also served to rally people for a cause, and have inspired mass movements and political unrests in many countries.” Politics can be a very touchy subject for some and when social media gets involved, a lot of problems and drama tend to occur. For example, in the article entitled “The Political Environment on Social Media,” authors Maeve Duggan and Aaron Smith write that: “More than one-third social media users are worn out by the amount of political content they encounter, and more than half describe their online interactions with those they disagree with politically as stressful and frustrating.” This goes to show that due to social media we are not only lacking social interaction and cues but it is causing unnecessary dram in our lives.
As a product of technology becoming society’s primary use of communication, times are not the same as they used to be. In times past, social skills were developed as a natural progression from childhood through teen and adult years. Social skills such as recognition of other people’s behaviors was a natural by product. However, developing these types of social skills are nearly impossible because they do not detect such behavioral traits of another when technology becomes the conduit for introductions and development of relationships. 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 previous times. It is critical that we learn our social skills from real life experiences rather than basing them off of technology so that we are able to better our lives and become successful. Someone who has developed their social skills without relying solely on technology is more likely to be better prepared to take on the challenges of the real world. In the article “Is Technology Killing the Human Touch?” Chris Morris writes: “In 2012, in fact, scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that the brain chemicals of people who habitually used the Internet had abnormal connections between the nerve fibers in their brain. These changes are similar to other sorts of addicts, including alcoholics. That can impact communications, relationships and our day-to-day interactions with others.” From this we are able to see that the overuse of social media and technology is unhealthy for our brain which is why our ability to read emotions and social cues is becoming worse and worse. Whether it is eventually in a job or raising a family, having the skills that it takes to develop from face to face encounters will help better them in the future than if they relied wholly on technology to form friendships and relationships.
Although the people skills that are developed from face to face interaction are not developed through the use of the web, many people feel that being able to interact with others virtually has had a positive impact on their lives. As mentioned previously, online dating is one of the main components of virtually meeting a person in society today. With online dating of course comes the risk of being “catfished” which is someone who depicts themselves as something online that they are actually not in real life. Dating sites are filled with hundreds and thousands of different people that are also looking to start a relationship. This is why people today tend to feel that online dating has made it much easier to find a partner. Having all of these options at hand may become stressful, so most sites consist of personality tests to match people with someone of similar interests. Dating sites often benefit single adults the most; it can be tough trying to find a significant other while handling all of the responsibilities a job and child can take. Certainly, dating websites have allowed people that fit into this category to take a little time out of their busy schedules to find a match for themselves. Of course these sites do not guarantee a perfect match however, matching may help evade one from a situation that may have been uncomfortable. These sites also provide ways to communicate with the people that they are matched with before meeting in person so that they are able to get a feel for if they would be comfortable linking up with that person or not. With these communication components available, people are able to see if there is an initial connection from the start.
As also mentioned previously, friendships are being made through social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter Instagram, etc. With sites like these, although they do not have the same goals as dating sites, they can be effective even without certain social skills. This is the reason why many people in society support the idea of meeting new people through social media. It is very common for teens to share their social media accounts with someone they just met so they can “follow” or “be-friend” one another to keep in touch. Social media is also one of the primary ways “that teens interact with their existing friends,” according to Amanda Lenhart in the article “Social Media and Friendships.”
It is normal that teens post about the things going on in their lives and how they are feeling on social media, allowing their followers or friends to feel more connected to them now that they know this information. A high school student in the article “Social Media and Friendships,” stated: “One good thing to come out it is you can find out what your friends do and check on them if you’re not there. So like find out who they hooked up with and what they did…” Many teenagers are interested in seeing or hearing about information like this. Children in this age group are usually more concerned with what is going on in other people’s lives rather than focusing on their own, which is why they look at being constantly connected to others through social media as a positive factor. Social media also allows people to show different sides of themselves online that they are not comfortable with showing in person. Teens enjoy this aspect of it because they tend to get nervous with face to face confrontations at their age groups.
Of course technology can be useful in the positions of finding a significant other or learning information about your surroundings. However, this does not take away from the fact that we cannot rely on technology to support our social development. Human interaction has always been the foundation for developing a person’s sociological makeup, and it is a growing concern that technology may be forcing its way into this critical equation.
It is clear that there are important elements in growing socially that can only be attained through real life experiences, and technology may be one of the largest detractors of allowing these skills to be learned. A person is not able to receive the necessary social skills in life when they grow up sitting behind a computer while establishing the majority of their relationships from that position. As this type of behavior is becoming more of the norm, it is obviously altering the development of social skills. 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 makeup. But, there are no signs that the use of technology will decrease, all that is being shown is the ways in which it is growing and becoming more advanced. This is why it is extremely important that we try to utilize technology afforded to us to leverage the right type of benefits in our social makeup.
In conclusion, I strongly believe that technology does not have a meaningful role in support of our social lives whatsoever. It is unfortunate to see that our society is increasing the amount we rely on technology to support our social development. One must think of what will become of a world that cannot function and grow socially without the support of technology? What will it take for people to come to the realization that we do not really need technology to be such a critical component to our development of social skills? Could the continued diminishment of human interaction have an adverse reaction on world peace? It is hard not to wonder questions like this when we have a society that is declining in normal social behaviors. Over time, 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.
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