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Social Media Essay

1268 words - 6 pages

Glance around a restaurant and you’ll be hard-pressed to find people who don’t have their heads down using their cell phones to text, Tweet, or update their Facebook statuses—all while sharing a meal with others at their table.

Social media’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. “There 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 aren’t getting the same diversity of viewpoints as we’ve gotten in the past.

“Certainly, with every new communication technology comes changes in the style and type of interpersonal communication,” Booth says. “Obviously the bigger the influence of the technology, the more changes we see in communication styles.”

Far-Reaching Effects
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 life—only the modality has changed. “For example, cyberbullying has largely the same antecedents and behavioral, emotional, and affective consequences as does [noncyber] bullying,” Bowman says. “Yet the difference is the ‘more’—that is, social media allows for more contact, more communication, and in a more public manner.”

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. “However, cyberbullying is marked by its persistence,” Bowman says. “The bullying messages don’t stay in a particular space, such as a playground, but can follow the child home. If we consider that bullying’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.”

Information Overload
One big concern surrounding social media’s impact is communication overload—learning how to handle and make sense of this “more” information we now have.

As Bowman explains, we’re getting more information about more people than ever before, and we feel a need to process and perhaps even respond to it all. “In fact, there has been some very early recent data suggesting that teens are perhaps pulling away from Facebook because it’s just too much for them to handle,” 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. “It 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,” Bowman says. “For 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.”

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