The widespread use of digital communication prevents people from developing interpersonal skills and having meaningful relationships with others for four key reasons. First, people who use digital media no longer exchange the critical social interactions or develop the strong friendships and personal relationships that face to face conversations offer. Second, digital communication encourages people, especially younger people, to use hasty or abbreviated language patterns, which prevents them from being able to use or develop important language skills. Third, people have a tendency to lose their rationality and become unfriendly when they use digital communication. Fourth, learning environments that are reduced exclusively to digital interfaces don’t provide children the face to face interactions that are needed to develop important non-verbal social skills.
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Much of the critical social information that is exchanged in face to face conversations includes “vocal and visual cues” (“The Impact of Social Media Use on Social Skills”). These vocal and visual cues give people insight as to what the people who they are talking to may be thinking or feeling as their conversation unfolds (“The Impact of Social Media Use on Social Skills”). These vocal and visual cues are not typically apparent in conversations that take place through means of digital media (“The Impact of Social Media Use on Social Skills”). For instance, if someone is texting and they are asked how they feel about a certain situation, the person asking the question will not be able to see the manifestation of the responding person’s real emotions when they answer. These kinds of conversations do not allow people to communicate with one another in a way that provides insight into what the other person may truly be feeling. But if these same people were having a face to face conversation, they would be able to pick up cues from each other’s body language and tone while talking to one another (“The Impact of Social Media Use on Social Skills”). “Studies show that only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word” (Tardanico). “A whopping 93% is based on nonverbal body language” (Tardanico).
Because people spend so much time using digital communication, it consumes all of the quality time that they could be spending with loved ones or friends. Many of these people feel like it is more important to talk with others online or on social media than it is to have quality time with friends or family in person. People also allow themselves to acquire a false sense of importance to other people through digital communication. As a result, these individuals become loyal to digital communication and they are willing to postpone or forgo meaningful time with people in person and instead devote that time to posting comments or texting. “In addition, these social networks sometimes replace a small number of strong social connections with a larger number of much shallower connections, leading to situations where a user may have large numbers of “friends” but few actual real-world companions” (Kazmeyer).
Just like a drug, people can become addicted to digital communication. This can have a negative effect on their ability to socialize with others in person. People who become addicted to digital communication typically end up rudely interrupting most of the face to face conversations they are having with others to either look at a text or comment on a post. This can anger people around them and these people may take this kind of interruption personally. Many people have now made it a habit to try to hold regular conversations while also looking at their phones or using other forms of digital communication. Unfortunately, the habit of using digital communication has almost become compulsory in society and many people don’t realize that they have a problem. These People can potentially become dependent on digital communication to cope with the reality of their everyday lives. Consequentially, people can also develop fears of having face to face conversations with others and they may also acquire timid personalities. Even more so, people who do not develop social skills at a young age are not likely to be as friendly or outgoing as others who do obtain those skills. People who are engrossed in digital communication for the majority of their childhood can develop a “natural dependency” on its use (“Technology’s Negative Impact”). This can affect “the way they process information, communicate, and socialize” (“Technology’s Negative Impact”). These people can end up developing social issues that may prevent them from being successful and building strong relationships with others later in their life.
Early in life, children are introduced to digital communication and from that point on they are almost constantly using it. Since typing characters is fundamental to texting or using other forms of digital media, most people try to cut corners when they want to convey their messages more quickly. “Use of symbols, such as smileys, emojis and abbreviated words like “l8r” for later, “lol” for laughing out loud and “btw” for by the way, has made teens to become too casual on language use” (Nyakang’i). Digital communication has encouraged people, especially young people, to use these kinds of language patterns. This habit of using short statements and speedy language in digital media can prevent younger people from being able to use higher level thinking skills to convey their ideas (Nyakang’i). If they make this a habit in face to face social settings too, they may lose or never even develop the social skills to effectively convey meaningful ideas or get their point across to the people they are talking to. In other words, if people start excessively using language shortcuts in digital media at a young enough age, they may never develop the skills needed to socialize in face to face settings with others when they are older (Nyakang’i). This has already been noticed within the Millennial population. “Proper grammar, body language, and social cues are all disabled through technology, so the Millennials aren’t acquiring these basic communication skills” (“Technology’s Negative Impact”).
People now spend most of their childhood and adulthood communicating digitally. This not only stunts an individual’s communication skills, but it also further hinders their ability to be rational and friendly while talking to others in a face to face conversation. Often times when people use social media or are playing games with other people online, they will say things that they wouldn’t usually say in a face to face conversation. When people use digital communication, they can sometimes end up saying things that they may think are funny but that other people may find hurtful (Kazmeyer). “When the Internet reduces a person to a faceless screen name, it can make it hard for some users to remember that an actual person exists behind the avatar, which can encourage hostility and exclusionary behavior” (Kazmeyer). Because they are not talking to others in a face to face conversation when using digital communication, people can sometimes get the feeling that they are not talking to a human being at all, but instead to something they can use as a verbal punching bag (Kazmeyer). As a result, people can become so used to hurting others online that they eventually don’t have any regard for what they say when others are in their company. Furthermore, people who are used to being jokingly insulted by other people online will not likely know the difference between friendly humor and bullying in a face to face social setting.
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Many people say that digital learning environments actually help children enhance their learning skills. However, since many of the critical elements of learning involve social interactions, this argument is false and there is evidence to refute it. Studies have shown that children who learn in environments exclusive to digital interfaces do not develop any improvements in their social skills and in-person interactions. On the other hand, children who learn without digital interfaces and interact with others in person have shown improvements in their social interactions with others. For example, in a study involving an experimental group and a control group of children, the experimental group spent 5 days in a camp with no access to any kind of screen-based or electronic communication; instead, they were limited to only in-person interaction (“The Impact of Social Media Use on Social Skills”). The control group, however, stayed at home with access to all electronic devices. (“The Impact of Social Media Use on Social Skills”). At the end of the study, the experimental group of children showed significant improvement in their in-person interactions, in terms of reading facial emotions, but the control group’s skills were unchanged. (“The Impact of Social Media Use on Social Skills”). Furthermore, although digital learning environments may make learning faster, these environments do not necessarily teach children the learning skills that they need to function beyond a screen. These learning skills can include being able to follow an individual’s instructions, pay attention, or ask questions to others when uncertain. Mata states that, “The Internet gives students instant access to answers beyond what’s in their textbooks. In fact, today’s kids are already familiar with “Googling-it” to find answers to questions” (“The Importance of Technology in the Classroom”). Although Mata is saying that this is a benefit to children when they are trying to learn, having such easy access to such a vast supply of information can actually be more of a negative thing. Children who are in school today are so dependent upon digital interfaces such as the Internet to gather knowledge that they do not have the interpersonal skills needed to ask people questions when they need help. Because of this, the learning skills of children are by no means enhanced by the use of digital learning environments.
In conclusion, digital communication has become so popular and widespread that it has replaced many of the face to face conversations and in-person interactions which provide essential social exchanges that adults and children who are developing interpersonal skills at a young age need. Digital communication has taken over the social aspect of the lives of many people who use it. Consequentially, these people can end up spending less time socializing with others and developing interpersonal skills. Because of this, adults and children are becoming familiar only with digital communication and they may lose or never even develop the ability to communicate with others in real social environments. As a result, digital communication prevents people from being able to have meaningful relationships with others and it keeps them from developing interpersonal skills.
- “The Impact of Social Media Use on Social Skills.” New York Behavior Health, http://newyorkbehavioralhealth.com/the-impact-of-social-media-use-on-social-skills. Accessed 23 November 2018.
- Tardanico, S. “Is Social Media Sabotaging Real Communication?” Forbes, 30 April 2012, https://www.forbes.com/sites/susantardanico/2012/04/30/is-social-media-sabotaging-real-communication/#6ddb55402b62. Accessed 23 November 2018.
- Kazmeyer, M. “Negative Effects of Technology on Communication.” Techwalla, https://www.techwalla.com/articles/negative-effects-of-technology-on-communication. Accessed 23 November 2018.
Nyakang’I, E. “Negative effects of social media on communication skills (verbal).” Kenyayote, 28 October 2017, https://kenyayote.com/negative-effects-social-media-communication-skills-verbal/. Accessed 23 November 2018.
- “Technology’s Negative Impact.” Knock Media Captivate, 22 December 2015, https://www.knockmedia.com/technologys-negative-impact/. Accessed 23 November 2018.
- Mata, W. “The Importance of Technology in the Classroom.” Centre Technologies, 25 March 2015, https://centretechnologies.com/importance-of-technology-in-the-classroom/. Accessed 26 November 2018.
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