Monday, 18 February 2013

“Um… Do I know you?” Part 2: Social Suffering

Social media, this word leads me to the assumption that those that are highly engaged in social media are, additionally, quite social in real life. Turns out, however, that there is a difference between social skills and social media skills.

In my last blog post I discussed the issue of Facebook Friends versus real life friends and how a single person can have two completely different personalities online and face-to-face. Stemming from that slightly frustrating discussion, were thoughts related to interpersonal abilities of people growing up in this age of technology. In pondering this I was overcome with concern for the generations succeeding mine whose social skills could potentially be drastically altered with the increased communication via technology as opposed to in person. Studies have already begun discovering evidence of the hindering of social skills in children growing up with new technologies. As I’ve mentioned, many of my own experiences have come to support this evidence as well, and clearly so have other bloggers.

            There are so many skills we gain from interacting with people in person, from picking up non-verbal cues such as body language, tone of voice, eye contact, etc. that I fear for the ability of individuals to develop the same types of relationships in real life that they have online. Online relationships deceive us into believing we are more social, and socially competent than we truly are. Relationships online, however, are “shallow” and often “superficial”. Yet the trend in social relationship building appears to be on the rise. Perhaps close friendships in the physical world won’t be as valuable in the years to come seeing as one can simply vent their feelings in a method “akin to diary writing” as suggested by Danah Boyd in her article “Blogging Outloud: Shifts in Public Voice” as opposed to spilling their feelings to their friends in search of advice.  Moreover, if they do so, these people can get seemingly honest, true, emotional (yet sometimes harsh) advice from readers’ responses.

Can this ‘diary writing’ be a real substitute for human interaction though? Will face-to-face social skills sink on a level of importance in relation to an ability to cultivate mediated relationships? Are computers man's new best friend?

Good news is at least writing skills should improve! Rite? Right? Write? Well, at least we’ll have spell check and online dictionaries … hopefully pens and paper will become extinct and computers will be allowed in exam rooms, otherwise I wouldn’t want to be the teacher marking those essays… 

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