By Anjali Gupta:
How does social media affect interaction in our society? Will face-to-face communication ultimately degrade because of these new social technologies? These questions are ones that many researchers have found extremely intriguing since the advent and popularization of social media in the last decade. Within this ambit, social competency is an important idea that most people strive towards, but there is evidence to support the claims that social media is actually harming people’s ability to interact competently in an offline environment.
Various surveys on the social competency of youths who spend much of their time on social media networks are sometimes very conflicting. For example, a study executed by the National Institute of Health found that youths with strong, positive face-to-face relationships may be those most frequently using social media as an additional venue to interact with their peers. I find myself wanting to use social media as an extra outlet to interact with my friends, whether it is through a random funny post, or posting pictures of our adventures. Although I personally agree with this study’s findings, I also believe that social media can be an excellent avenue for introverted people to find a comfortable setting to interact.
From my own experience, I see many of my friends who aren’t as comfortable with face-to-face interactions thriving in an online environment. However, on a case-to-case basis, there can be dramatic differences. Despite the seriousness of such cases, I think that survey really focuses on the extremes of a certain situation and not the norm of people’s interactions on social networks. The other problem with this particular survey is that the connection between this type of antisocial behaviour and excessive Internet use has not been set in stone by comprehensive research. There is only a correlation, and it is not clear which behaviour is causing the other. This discrepancy especially leads me to believe that social media is mostly positive for young people in my generation.
Despite my opinion that social media is positive, I definitely believe that face-to-face interaction must continue to be our main source of communication. According to Forbes magazine, only 7% of communication is based on the verbal word. That means that over 90% of communication is based on nonverbal cues such as body language, eye contact, and tone of voice. Technology’s rampant popularization over the past decade in terms of social media has meant that texting, Facebook, and Twitter have inevitably taken over as the most efficient ways of communicating with each other. There needs to be a constant reminder that face-to-face interaction must remain a staple in our society because it is of a much higher quality and has the ability to satisfy so many more of our inherent social needs.
Social media of all kinds has become such an important part of our society that looking at it in a negative way will only set us back. We as a society must push forward and continue to incorporate social media in more positive ways. Social networking sites have been categorized as both beneficial and consequential to offline contact. Although I believe that it can be mostly positive, in some cases, both sides can be true; however, the effect that social media has on each person in this world is always different and can only be looked at on a case-by-case basis. The future of social media is also uncertain. According to each company’s respective reports, in March 2013, Facebook reported having 1.11 billion active users, Instagram reported having 100 million users, and Twitter had 200 million active users. These numbers have experienced immense growth even in the past year alone. This just proves the fact that social networking is a rapidly changing field, and even if we solve the question of how current social media affects interaction, more questions will continue to arise. So now the question remains: Is our society really ready to harness these new social media technologies to our advantage?
The author is a Post Graduate in Computer Science & Engineering and is working as an assistant professor in the CSE Dept. of MIET, Meerut.