In the age of social networking, young Americans are spending less time developing interpersonal communication skills and instead are burying themselves in technology. In spite of living in a time period where it is easier than ever to communicate, it seems as if today’s youth is depending too much on the technology that is supposed to unite them.
According to a study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 63 percent of today’s college graduates “lack the essential skills to succeed in today’s global economy.”
The advent of Facebook has helped keep college students in contact with each other, despite being spread across the nation and the world. Each Facebook account provides the user with updated information about recent information, pictures and even the current moods of one’s friends. Facebook inundates users with opportunities to message distant friends and stay in touch, but eliminates the necessity for face-to-face interaction. For example, instead of meeting friends to talk about what is new in their lives, one can simply examine the Facebook “walls” of these people to get an up-to-date synopsis of their lives. Many young college students spend hours each day combing the site instead of actually socializing.
Cell phones have also become commonplace – even necessary – in today’s society. They allow us to contact anyone at anytime and have certainly improved communications within our society. However, the recent emergence of text-messaging has replaced the need to actually talk to people and has reduced many cell phone users to firing short, encoded lines of text to each other. In place of intonation, there is poorly used punctuation. In place of emotion, there are cute facial icons to symbolize the sender’s intended mood.
A study by the Mobile Marketing Association reported that more than 80 percent of Americans between the ages of 13 and 24 frequently use text-messaging. This is yet another example of how too much technology has provided convenient barriers to actual conversation.
Text-messaging’s older cousin, instant messaging, has been occupying the lives of teenagers for the past 10 years. Much like “texting,” instant messaging allows Internet surfers to send real-time messages to one another. The same type of emotional icons and shorthand is used to simulate unseen human responses, such as laughing out loud (“lol”) or indicating amazement (“wtf”). Again, these modes of communication leave out the human element of speaking directly.
Since elementary school, we have been taught that 95 percent of information we receive from people is nonverbal. This is perhaps the main reason why substituting the aforementioned modes of communication has turned the current generation of undergraduates into socially awkward individuals. When did we become too busy to stop and talk? When did having a real conversation with somebody become a quaint idea? Communication technology will keep advancing, but it is our responsibility to reconnect with each other.