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Sunday, April 22, 2012

Are “Social” Networks Making Us Less Social?

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You walk into the mall.  As you look around yourself, everyone around you is staring at a small screen in their hands learning more about their friends that are miles away than the ones that are standing right next to them.  They are more interested in their “social” network than the environment around them.  For this reason, many sociologists believe that social media is actually making us less social.
            Social networks are destroying our ability to communicate one-to-one with other people.  Because people are looking at their phone more than the people around them, they are losing the ability to speak to someone in person. 
Skills such as using eye contact, active listening, and gestures are not used when sending a message via text or instant message. One scary survey conducted by Neilson shows just how out of hand that teenagers are getting with texting.  According to their study, the average teenager sends a whopping 3,339 text messages per month.  This works out to more than four text messages per hour! 
Because we are always typing our messages instead of speaking face-to-face, we are losing the ability to look into someone’s face and feel empathy for them.  When you receive a message, you cannot look into someone’s face and put yourself in his or her shoes.  Many people are losing their ability to feel what others are feeling.
An article on MSNBC goes as far as saying that social networks may be making us “less human”.  It states that while we have gained the ability to talk to people who we would never talk to otherwise because of distance and time, our interactions with close friends and family are “eroding”. 
Families are not speaking to each other as much as they used to.  Many families usually eat together for dinner and share how their day went.  Now, many family dinners consist of all of the families being close together at a table physically, but mentally, each family member is in their own world checking their news feed, tweeting, or reading their newest messages.
Not only have social networks degraded society’s face-to-face conversations and family bonds, but they have also started to take an effect on many of our writing skills.  According to Mary Nemanic and Kevin Moist, two communication professors at Penn State Altoona, student’s writing skills have decreased from social media.  While students are sending thousands of messages a month, their grammar has become more fragmented from texting and their spelling is getting worse.  When people are writing letters or doing academic reports, many of them are writing the same way that they would write a text message. 
If someone sends an e-mail telling their boss, “Srry, I cn’t make it to work. g2g to doctor”, their personal image will most likely be degraded in his eyes.  While many people would think that no one would be socially awkward enough to send a message like this, many people do.  The line between the way people text and send formal letters is becoming fainter every day.
As the years go by, it seems that many people are consuming their time more and more on social networks.  When being used as a tool to communicate with people far away, social networks are great.  When they begin to eat away at your life, however, that is another story.  The loss of social skills can be prevented while using social networks.  If everyone would check their messages on their time and not when they are eating at a restaurant with their best friends or grandparents, people would begin to recover from their loss of social skills.

Image By Thor4bp (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons 
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  1. That is a pretty accurate depiction of social networks. I too feel as though I have lost my ability to speak in private face to face conversations after the use of social media.



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