Social Media is Anti-Social
In a previous post, and in How the Brain Learns, 4th ed., I discuss how the distractions that accompany technology can have a negative impact on the brain while executing complex tasks. I think it is also important to highlight the concept that social media is actually an anti-social interaction.
Only 30% of face-to-face communication consists of the actual words people speak. That leaves 70% of in person conversation that is non-verbal. A person’s body language, the tone of their voice, how words are pronounced, and how they emphasize words or inflections all communicate much more than words alone ever could. This leads to a much greater understanding of the message that is being conveyed than can be achieved in a written message alone, even when emoticons are being used.
There is also more accountability when conversing in person because the feedback is immediate. Not only does the person speaking use body language to convey a message, so does the listener. This causes people to be much more cautious in the interaction than they would if they did not have all those non-verbal cues. The speaker is more cognizant of the message they are sending when they are being observed by their audience. That is why people end up saying things online that they would never say to a person’s face.
The very meaning of the word “social” is to bring people in, but social media has become an outlet for kids to ostracize other kids. There have been many cases in the news recently where social media sites have been used to bully and pick on other kids. A major reason for this is that kids are not seeing the ramifications of their words immediately. There is not a strong connection between what they are saying and the affect it has on their target.
A truly social world brings people closer. A perfect example of how not using social media strengthens relationships was just published in a number of news outlets. I came across Jake Reilly’s ‘Amish Project:’ 90 Days Without a Cell Phone, Email, and Social Media on Yahoo News. I find this article interesting for many reasons, such as how Jake Reilly talks about how he lost touch with many people that he typically interacted with on a daily basis, but strengthened relationships with people that were more important in his life, even reconnecting with an ex-girlfriend.
I realize that social media is not going anywhere and is here to stay, which makes me believe that it is more important than ever for parents and educators to explicitly teach appropriate communication skills that are applicable for both online and in person interactions. Parents need to be as involved in their children’s online development as they are in other areas of their lives. They need to teach their kids what is appropriate and what isn’t. Parents need to take the time to see what is going on when their child is online. For more resources on how to do that, please see the references listed below. As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. I would also like to hear how you parent or teach your children how to behave responsibly online. So feel free to leave a comment.