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The Negative Impacts of Social Media on Face-to-Face Interactions

Introduction

Social media is described as the collection of online communication channels dedicated to community based input, interaction, content sharing and collaboration. Some of the commonly known communication websites are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. Within these websites people can share memories, reconnect with friends, plan events, and communicate almost instantaneously.

This luxury was initially accessed strictly through computers. However, with the great technological advancements over the last ten years, people have had the option to purchase a “smartphone” that could access almost anything a computer could, while still functioning as a cell phone. Initially, these phones did not sell well when they became available to the public. However, this quickly changed as these phones became very easy to use and people started recognizing the benefits of owning a smartphone opposed to a traditional cell phone. As the popularity of smartphones began to increase, social media began to adapt to operating on a cell phone through the use of applications that can run more efficiently on a smartphone. As of today, there are a little over 322 million people that live in the United States, 64% of whom own a smartphone. This means that approximately 206 million people have access to social media, anywhere at any time. Furthermore, a significant amount of people still access these website by computer. It is estimated that 73% of the United States accesses social media accesses social media in one form or the other and that number increases every year. So, with the steadily increasing use of social media, and the fact that it hasn’t been around for very long, social media poses many issues with the interactions that people have in real life.

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Decreasing Amount of Face-to-Face Interactions 

First, social media has led us to have fewer interactions with the people that they associate with. The majority of people have access to social media at any time they please via their smartphones, so this only worsens as more people begin to acquire smartphones. Since it has become more prevalent, social media has made people have a tendency to want to interact with people online rather than in person because it has made the process simpler. A simpler process allows for things to be done easier and more efficiently, which attracts more people to give it a try. Although it may be viewed as a positive change, this has caused people to become more antisocial than ever before, as counterintuitive as that may sound. Facebook was not an entity outside of the current generation and it has caused a bit of a culture shock. Studies have shown that people have less interest in interacting with other people both in similar age groups, and with people that are in other age groups. The world has changed into a society that is complacent sitting behind our computer screens. Social media is a leading cause of this complacency. These same studies have shown that relationships that form completely online are becoming increasingly common. In a study done in 2002, 1,501 youths were surveyed about their relationships that they had made online. Two percent of these teens admitted to having a romantic relationship with someone, purely online, that they had never met in person. 2002 may sound like a long time ago, especially for something concerning the internet, but this just goes to show that this has been an issue for a significant amount of time. This says a lot about the relationships that the younger generations in this country are forming with one another. This particular study shows that people tend not to grasp the issue at hand, and the impact that a lack of face to face communication can have with one another.

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Decreasing Quality of Face-to-Face Interactions

The number of face-to-face interactions is not the only thing that has been negatively impacted. The quality of these decreasing interactions are suffering as well. People are not having these intimate conversations and personal interactions with each other anymore. People, instead, have turned to the Internet to take away some of the nervousness that some may find in trying to start a relationship with another person. Social media is a driving force behind these changes. These sites want people to use them as frequently as possible. When they see that they could get more traffic from those people having interactions with their online resource, they jump at the chance to take advantage of the situation. All of these sites use ad revenue to generate a lot of their profit and thus, more traffic equates to higher net monetary gains. Although money is the primary focus for these companies, people never focus on this when they are utilizing their services. The only thing that seems to happen is that the general populous becomes normalized to this instantaneous, and constant source of news, gossip, and other forms of media that are at our fingertips at a moment’s notice. Susan Tardanico brings up an interesting idea that people need a “new golf course”. What she means by that is that people need a new place in business to conduct face-to-face communication. It used to be that business could be discussed on a golf course, however, that has become vastly less practical than using an online medium. She argues that these new sources of online social media have begun to ruin these business relationships as well. People need to focus on getting into more personal relationships, which will lead to more trusting, and open connections in the future.

Quality

Decreasing Amount of Relationships

Not only has the influx of social media been decreasing the quality of interactions, but it has also drastically changed the amount of relationships that people have in person as well. There is a trend with people having a lack of interest in talking to one another while in person. The most recent generation will be fifty percent of the workforce by 2050 and an overwhelming majority of those would prefer to deal with matters in the workplace via instant messaging or email services, rather than in person. This is going to lead to some serious issues. It has been proven that 93 percent of communication is nonverbal and without these cues that people use to decipher the messages that is received in person, people will not be able to properly understand what the other person is truly trying to say to the them. Not only will this lead to issues with work relationships, but it will also lead to people having issues within their own families. Some experts have argued that, more often than not, families tend to text rather than have conversations.

The use of communication online for children has obviously increased drastically over the past few years. This has led to them having fewer relationships down the road in life. These interactions online are having a detrimental effect on their emotional health that is seemingly irreversible. Children that begin learning how to interact with one another online are always behind the curve when it comes to having deep emotional connections with people and as a result, tend to struggle to make and hold onto friends for long periods of time. Studies in recent years have shown that their lack of social skills just ends up being a vicious cycle of children that keep falling behind their peers when the other kids in their age group are not using social media, and the internet in general, nearly as much as them. The kids in these studies seem to have trouble having as much emotion attached to exchanges in person despite them being able to hold conversations online. They can never fully be invested with one another and that is where the problem truly lies. Chandra Johnson relates it to the act of a child exploring the world with their own eyes, compared to looking at the same things in pictures. The two can never be equaled, just like these online interactions versus meeting people in person and forming relationships that way.  Johnson also argues that these children have also showed signed of lacking the ability to properly deal with bullies. They lack the experience necessary to properly cope with what is happening to them and shut down instead of facing their issues as a result. Their lack of ability to deal with situations that are stressful in person has led this generation and more than likely, future generations, to have less friends that they are as close to as the ones that we have in person in relation to the past generations. Future generations can no longer maintain the same level of friends that other generations have been able to in the past.  This is a constant theme that has a direct correlation with the use of social media. An increase in a child’s use of social media has shown a proportional increase in a child lacking the ability to function healthily among his or her peers. When they can no longer function within these groups, they are not going to develop properly and when they eventually join the workforce, these issues will only be more prevalent and will become an increasing problem.

 

Decreasing Language Skills

People tend to forget that the English language is neglected while online. It tends to get swept under the rug when they are online. People use shorthand and shortened versions of the words themselves in order to convey a message much quicker. This doesn’t necessarily negatively affect how we communicate because written language tends to be easier to decipher. The issue that people will run into is when they try to integrate these forms of communication into the language that is used every day. It lowers their social skills when they use those kinds of words and phrases because they cannot properly convey what they need to these days without using some sort of speech that is colloquial or not in a reputable dictionary. It leads people to try and shoehorn our colloquial metaphors into daily conversations and use the slang terms that social media has helped develop, form, and popularize into the mainstream media. This has shaped a society that is no longer functioning healthily in social situations. Often time’s people will seem awkward or out of place in these situations and it has been affecting the society in a negative way. Although technology has created a quicker means for people to communicate, they have lost a significant portion of the efficacy of their speech, especially in person. Nothing shows this better than studies of college students who use social media. They have been affected to such an extreme that their focus and ability to engage in face-to-face conversations have both been drastically reduced to the point of virtually no functionality. This is certainly not limited to college students however. Social media and text messaging alike have spread people further apart both geographically and emotionally. People can no longer connect with others in the same manner that many are used to in the real world. Experts believe that people are beginning to mix their business and personal relationship language guidelines, which can lead to serious issues with coworkers. It causes a lack of professionalism that they have not had to deal with before, other than with the invention of the social media platforms that we see today. People are beginning to have less etiquette and manners when interacting over mediums, like texting, that limit character amounts to a specified number. It can limit what we say and eliminate any tone that the speaker may be trying to convey. As people have become used to these methods of communication, they have started integrating the same lack of politeness and manners that people see over instant messaging services. Experts in these fields have come to a nearly unanimous decision that those who use social media in excess are beginning to lose their manners in areas that are essential to everyday life, such as a workplace environment. These same limits on the social vocabulary of emotions have become even more noticeable and prevalent in interactions with people that they are closer to such as friends and relatives. People are still having the same effects in this area although the downsides seem to be exacerbated when they interact with peers according to the most recent studies and data that are available. These studies have come to the conclusion that people “come off as cold” even when we do not mean to be. When this is a repetitive occurrence during social contact such as emails, it can become a habit to be cold or distant when they speak to the same person face to face.

This is a video of a presentation by Stacey Irwin. She talks about how social media is negatively effecting our communication skills on a day-to-day basis.

Cyberbullying within Social Media

Another major downside of social media with regards to face-to-face interactions is cyber bullying. Social media is one of the foremost causes of cyberbullying in recent years. The children that have become exposed to repeated emotional distress are being affected a lot more than just online. Their schoolwork and homework are not high on their list of priorities after they become a victim to cyberbullying. They no longer put as much focus on what is happening and try to begin the repair process for their online presence. These sorts of changes in the forming mind of adolescent school kids can lead to them not wanting to interact with one another. They believe that if they go to school and try to make friends with their peers, they will be judged in the same light that they were online. They want to avoid bullying, but the internal need to remain active on social media makes it hard for them to stay offline to eliminate any chance of getting bullied. It becomes an issue when they rely on this solely for their source of joy or accomplishment (Brown, 2013). This addiction can cause them to fall into a cycle of only finding happiness from this source and when they see that some of their friends have been accomplishing things in real life, it can lead to jealousy. These people that rely on social media are the same people who will be running into issues later on when they figure out that the skills and bad habits that they developed are non-transferable in the workforce. As a result, they never fully involve themselves with their peers and lack the proper communication skills necessary to function (Graham, 2014).

 

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Social Media Addiction

All of these negative impacts from social media are only worsened by the addiction caused by social media. This generation and the generations that follow, have become fixated with the use of social media. It has caused a very distinct generational gap between those who have grown up with the use of social media, and those who were raised in a time when it was not available. This addiction that they are seeing, where these children are unable to remove themselves from social media has started to become a detriment to their functioning inside of social groups.  It is a source of procrastination for a lot of those children that have become accustomed to using social media for entertainment. During a study done with teenagers, they were disconnected from social media for a brief period of time. Over this period, they described feelings that are similar to drug or alcohol withdrawals such as “cravings, anxiety, and jitters”. These forms of social media are so efficient at wasting users’ time due to the way that information is delivered through constant status and photograph updates.  This addiction can lead to eventual depression and an increase in anxiety when the user is comparing their life to those of their friends to which they are constantly being updated.  The abuse of these mediums leads to additional sources of stress that are leading factors for depression and anxiety (Drussell,2012).

 

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Conclusion

Whether or not people want to accept it, social media has several severe negative impacts on their daily lives. Despite some of its vast benefits, they as a culture have to limit their use of social media to a manageable amount. Social media needs to be recognized as a tool to be utilized to a certain extent and not let it take over their lives like it seems to be heading towards every day.  Websites such as Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest are very helpful to provide news, gossip, and to keep in contact with friends and family, but people cannot afford to let them become the focal point of their life. People have to, culturally, decide how to manage how this information that is fed to them in order to try and curb the side effects which have been getting worse every year. Websites that cause depression and anxiety should not be tolerated by elder members in today’s social order to any extent. People should be focusing on limiting their children now so they can get the proper exercise they need along with social interactions in order for them to form skills for interacting with other people within their age groups and social strata properly when they are of age. The access that people have on the Internet, and social media specifically, has become too easy. It has made the language lazy and also made people uninterested in meeting others in person. Which eliminates any chance for a deep, meaningful conversation. People have started losing their ability to communicate efficiently, which is a testament to what kind of total control social media has over their lives. If people were to start reversing the process of influence it has over them now, it might be reversible to the point where people wouldn’t see any serious detrimental effects over a generational gap. If nothing is done however, there will be a society filled with socially awkward individuals who can no longer hold a conversation in a normal, modern social environment. Overall, social media can be beneficial if used properly and in the proper proportions with normal face-to-face interactions. Currently, people are not doing this. They instead, are overusing it and allowing it to negatively impact how they conduct their lives, so it is easy to conclude that the negative impacts of social media far outweigh any benefits that they may provide to society at this time.

References:

Drussell, John. “Social Networking and Interpersonal Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills among College Freshmen.” 1 May 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.<http://sophia.stkate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1021&context=msw_papers>.

Brown, Cecilia. “Are We Becoming More Socially Awkward? An Analysis of the Relationship Between Technological Communication Use and Social Skills in College Students.” 2013. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.<http://digitalcommons.conncoll.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1030&context=psychhp>.

Wilks, Mary. “Online Social Networking’s Effect on Adolescent Social Development.” Web. 15 Nov. 2015. <http://www.eckerd.edu/academics/ford/files/11/Mary_Wilks.pdf>.

“The Negative Effects of Social Networks – Social Networks.” The Negative Effects of Social Networks – Social Networks. Web. 5 Nov. 2015.                              <https://sites.google.com/site/socialnetworkpaper/the-negative-effects-of-social-networks>.

Johnson, Chandra. “Face Time vs. Screen Time: The Technological Impact on Communication.” Face Time vs. Screen Time: The Technological Impact on Communication. 29 Aug. 2014. Web. 6 Dec. 2015. <http://national.deseretnews.com/article/2235/face-time-vs-screen-time-the-technological-impact-on-communication.html>.

Graham, Regina. “Psychologist: Social Media Causing A ‘Distancing Phenomena’ To Take Place.” CBS DC. 16 Apr. 2014. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.                      <http://washington.cbslocal.com/2014/04/16/psychologist-social-media-causing-a-distancing-phenomena-to-take-place/>.

Warrell, Margie. “Seduced by Social Media: Is Facebook Making You Lonely?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 8 Nov. 2013. Web. 6 Dec. 2015. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/margiewarrell/social-media-lonely_b_4034744.html>.

Tardanico, Susan. “Is Social Media Sabotaging Real Communication.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 30 Apr. 2012. Web. 6 Dec. 2015.                               <http://www.forbes.com/sites/susantardanico/2012/04/30/is-social-media-sabotaging-real-communication/>

 

One Comment

  1. I Anderson I Anderson

    Bravo! Bravo! If I ever go back to school, this is what my dissertation will be on. It’s so obvious, yet no one really cares about the long term affects of what’s about to happen.

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