As social media reshapes how we connect, we have to rethink what we need to feel fulfilled in our relationships, and realize that no amount of tweets, texts, or Facebook status updates can provide it. Digital connections may give the effect of companionship without the demands of friendship, which becomes irresistible when what it offers meets our human vulnerabilities We cannot become so dependent on technology to do things it simply cannot do like fulfill our deep need for intimacy, genuine connection and real friendship. How is technology shaping our modern relationships with ourselves, others, and how it proposes itself as the designer of our affections? The more we overuse technology, the less time we have to nurture our primary relationships that will endanger the development of future generation’s mental focus and vital interpersonal skills.
In 1876, the telephone was invented and in its day, this technological breakthrough revolutionized long-distance communications, causing a huge shift in the way many transactions orally took place. Valerie Johnson explores the history of the telephone as an up-and-coming technology in the late nineteenth century as it related to the retention of records, comparing it with the possible loss of data in our present digital age. The way we communicated through telegraph resulted in paper transmissions that were maintained in the past. Johnson conjoins this to our digital age today by acknowledging that various data was lost when the telephone was invented and with the increase of digital technology. Johnson is aware that there are pros and cons to this and argues that the pros exceeds the cons, and suggests, “We cultivate and familiarize ourselves with the tools that are accessible to us” (Johnson 2011).
Although Johnson opposes people who are unacceptable to innovative technology advances, she points out communication before the internet and sheds light to anticipated negatives about the telephone in the past. Moreover, she makes a connection to how we perceive technology today by using the evolution of the telephone. For instance, similar to the internet, the telephone worked to improve privacy while at the same time leaving people open to invasions of their privacy. In the beginning days of the telephone, people would often have to go to the local general store or some other place to be able to make and receive calls. Most homes were not wired together, and eavesdroppers could hear you conduct your personal business as you used a public phone. Yet, the invention of the telephone also worked to increase privacy in many ways. It allowed people to exchange information without having to put it in writing, and a call on the phone came to replace such intrusions on domestic seclusion as unexpected visits from relatives or neighbors and the door-to-door salesmen. The same goes for the internet privacy concerns that have been enhanced in some ways because e-mail and instant messaging have reduced the frequency of the interruptions previously dished out by our telephones.
Nevertheless, “Between smart phones in our pockets and lively social networks on our computers, we are connected more than ever before.” As a result, this technological connection is damaging to our interpersonal connections we develop in face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Science Professor, Sherry Turkle’s perspective in her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. She shares valuable information with 15 years of research experience and hundreds of interviews with children and adults. She observes how devices are changing the way parents relate to their children, how friends act together, and why both young and old keep their devices in-hand all the time, even when they go to sleep. She states “Under all this communication lies a deep human need for quietness, seclusion, and affection,”(Turkle 2012). Actions such as texting, email, social media postings let us present the self as we want to be. Turkle believes it is possible to be in constant digital communication and yet still feel alone. Whenever Turkle interviewed several adolescents, that say they get nervous when they have to talk to an adult or conduct an interview, and technology is ultimately to blame. We all know we spend an extensive amount of time on our phones and computers. But at what cost? Turkle doesn’t really answer any questions about how we will ultimately be affected by this new lifestyle and I think that’s the central question.
On social networks, people are reduced to their profiles. We can pick and choose which photos we share and craftily edit our words to ensure we convey the image we want others to see. Yet, it also provides the illusion of friendship that, in real life, may be shallow, superficial, and unable to stand the demands, and pressures genuine friendships entail. In order to test the hypothesis, Roy Pea, a seasoned Professor of Learning Sciences at the School of Education at Stanford University, used data collected from over 3,400 girls, examining levels of video usage, video gaming, video chatting, texting, messaging, emailing, social networking, music listening, and time spent engaged in homework and reading. He wanted to find out exactly how the use of media channels in general, and how multitasking between such channels in particular, affected the social well-being of young girls. He was specifically interested in determining if false relationships online or over texting and video chatting were stronger and more intimate than those developed through face-to-face communication. Pea also looked at rejection coping, positive and negative affect and hours spent using media in relation to total sleeping hours per day, this study examined those oversights in a large-scale survey using data collected from over 3,400 girls. The results of this investigation indicate nearly all of the face-to-face encounters resulted in an increase in positive emotional well-being and social functioning.
Adding to Peas research, a Pew report points out that a widely publicized 2006 study argued that since 1985 Americans have become more socially isolated, the size of their discussion networks has declined, and the diversity of those people with whom they discuss important matters has decreased (Hampton et al. 2009). In particular, the study found that Americans have fewer close ties to those from their neighborhoods and from voluntary associations. Sociologists Miller Mcpherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin and Matthew Brashears discuss the measures of social isolation in America. They researched the relationship between new information and communication technologies, social networks, democratic engagement, and the urban environment. It was found that the rise of web and cellular phones was revealed as one of the motives that pulls individuals away from face-to-face social settings. Sherry Turkle (2012) agrees with this report when she states,” Although we are lonely, we are also scared of closeness” this article could possibly explain why we are digitally divided (2012). For instance, some people who are older and are unfamiliar with technology such as; computers, mobile phones etc. might not spend time on social networks that consume their human connectedness which probably is the reason they are wise and able to give us so much advice on life experiences. On our mobile devices, we often talk to each other on the move and with little disposable time that we communicate in a new language of abbreviation in which letters stand for words and emoticons for feelings. It appeals to our vulnerability and self-importance. The report results connect closely with Gonzales and Hancock examining effects that communication technologies have on individual identity, social support, and well-being.
Similar to Turkles perspective, the Department of Telecommunications, Assistant Professor, Amy Gonzales and Jeffery Hancock agrees with the Pew report conducted by Sociologists Miller Mcpherson, Lynn Smith-Lovin and Matthew Brashears’ study that the rise of web and cellular phones are one of the motives that pull individuals away from face-to-face social settings. Communicative technologies had a negative impact on individual identity, social support, and well-being. People turned to the internet or used social applications such as text-messaging etc. on their cellular phones to express their interests, confess personal histories, or present themselves to future romantic partners; there were shifts in self-perceptions of identity that in turn influenced future social interaction. There are indications that self-presentation had the power to change our identities. The team achieved this study by comparing the effects of private versus public computer-mediated self-presentations on self-concepts of forty-four female and 32 male participants who were from introductory communication courses in college. Given the textual nature of computer-mediated self-presentations, Gonzales and Hancock used computerized verbal analysis to explore the conditional differences in private and public online self-presentations to understand the verbal features associated with public commitment. Online self-presentations were examined and how they tend to portray strategies of exaggeration and competence, proposing that individuals want to help social relationships while trying to impress others.
As you can see, there are many sides one can take concerning the technical advances that have led to our loss of face-to-face connection. In fact, virtual communication is having an impact on our emotional intelligence, and specifically on empathy. Although some scientist say that technology may make social connectivity easier, the evidence shows that limiting social media use such as Facebook lowers depression and anxiety and gives a greater satisfaction with life.
On account of the huge growth of the internet, and especially social network sites like Facebook, it has resulted in large amounts of research trying to decide whether or not ‘being online’ is good for us. A team of Australian psychologist researched a program examining risk and protective factors in depression and anxiety; in 2012 they have continued to investigate cognitive and emotional processes related to mental health. They consider how people interact on-line (for example, using social networking sites), taking into account their personality, emotional processing styles, memory and social skills, and try to determine how this relates to their mental and social well-being. The article Face-to-Face or Facebook: Can Social Connectedness Be Derived Online?, provide information that explore social connectedness resulting from the use of Facebook. In fact, it is revealed that by limiting Facebook use helps develop and maintain social connectedness in the online environment. In general, Facebook acted as an additional way in which to develop and maintain relationships, providing a temporary social channel associated with a variety of positive psychological outcomes.
Both Gonzales and Hancock favor with author of The Over-Mediated World, and Director of Communications, Patrick Tucker when he discusses what happens when the stresses of the real-world conflict with the virtual world, leading to too many people giving too much attention to devices and ignoring reality. His research confirms that people are more likely to communicate through social networks, consequently leading them to ignore the people in their immediate environment. The problems and abuses of inter-connectedness, and what this means for higher education, and the effect of technology on human value systems and communication. He speaks on the availability of media such as television, computers, radio and MP3 players cause people to have less time for nurturing primary relationships. Tucker agrees with Gonzales and Hancock communications systems alter value systems. We are spending more time communicating via social networks, ignoring those in our immediate environment. He makes a point to the common sight of parents driving and talking on their cell phones while their kids sit in the backseat and watch a DVD (Tucker 2007). “We have gone from family time to quality time to media time, or defining activities around media,” says Tucker (2007). This can circle back to the negative effects on technology redefining human connection.
On the same line of Tucker’s research on communications systems altering value systems, a team of Professors in Behavioral Science of Psychology seek to explore how the absence of verbal cues (body language, gestures, tonal fluctuations, emphasis, etc.) affects our interpretation of tone and emotion when communicating over e-mail. The article explores five difference experiments, complete with method and the results, lending to the credibility of this source. The results of these experiments show that the standard way of thinking about communication is that we talk far more effectively with e-mail than we actually can. Conversely, evidence shows that we often misinterpret the tone and meaning in online text-based communication. It also displays that we have difficulty detaching ourselves from our own perspective to evaluate the perspective of another person when communicating online.
This is equally important given the growing popularity of e-mail and social media, successful communication depends partly on the ability to anticipate miscommunication. This further explains why we need face-to-face communication instead of relying on text messaging, instant messaging, Facebook posts, and more importantly email. If comprehending human communication consisted just of translating sentences and syntax into thoughts and ideas, there would be no room for misunderstanding. But it does not, and so there is. People convey meaning not only with what they say, but also with how they say it and the body language also give off clues . Overall, this research shows that once a statement is interpreted as, say, sarcastic, it may be difficult to “hear” the statement any other way, leading people to believe they understood their partner’s communication better than they actually did.
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