Glance around a restaurant and youâ€™ll be hard-pressed to find people who donâ€™t have their heads down using their cell phones to text, Tweet, or update their Facebook statusesâ€”all while sharing a meal with others at their table.
Social mediaâ€™s effect on our ability to interact and communicate is visible throughout all areas of society, so what does this mean for interpersonal communication? According to Paul Booth, PhD, an assistant professor of media and cinema studies in the College of Communication at DePaul University in Chicago, social media certainly affects how we engage with one another across all venues and ages. â€œThere has been a shift in the way we communicate; rather ...view middle of the document...
Last, we tend to follow and interact with people who agree with our points of view, so we arenâ€™t getting the same diversity of viewpoints as weâ€™ve gotten in the past.
â€œCertainly, with every new communication technology comes changes in the style and type of interpersonal communication,â€ Booth says. â€œObviously the bigger the influence of the technology, the more changes we see in communication styles.â€
Nicholas David Bowman, PhD, an assistant professor of communication studies in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia University, says actions that trigger a bad online relationship likely are the same ones that trigger a bad relationship in real lifeâ€”only the modality has changed. â€œFor example, cyberbullying has largely the same antecedents and behavioral, emotional, and affective consequences as does [noncyber] bullying,â€ Bowman says. â€œYet the difference is the â€˜moreâ€™â€”that is, social media allows for more contact, more communication, and in a more public manner.â€
In a bullying event, often the person being bullied can remove himself or herself from the environment, at least temporarily. For example, a child being bullied at school can escape the playground when he or she goes home each night. â€œHowever, cyberbullying is marked by its persistence,â€ Bowman says. â€œThe bullying messages donâ€™t stay in a particular space, such as a playground, but can follow the child home. If we consider that bullyingâ€™s effects on an individual can build over time, then there is a real concern that increasing contact between bullies and their targets in persistent and digital interactions might exacerbate the problem.â€
One big concern surrounding social mediaâ€™s impact is communication overloadâ€”learning how to handle and make sense of this â€œmoreâ€ information we now have.
As Bowman explains, weâ€™re getting more information about more people than ever before, and we feel a need to process and perhaps even respond to it all. â€œIn fact, there has been some very early recent data suggesting that teens are perhaps pulling away from Facebook because itâ€™s just too much for them to handle,â€ he says.
Another concern lies in technology addiction, when individuals spend more time with their smartphone than interacting with the people around them, to the detriment of those face-to-face relationships. â€œIt may be the parent checking his or her e-mail during a family dinner or the young college student updating Twitter while on a first date,â€ Bowman says. â€œFor these people, they likely feel such a strong sense of identity online that they have some difficulty separating their virtual actions from their actual ones.â€