Culture

Is the Social Media Culture Eroding Face-To-Face Social Interactions?

By Ogbonnaya Agom-Eze, Editor-In-Chief

“Social media is an amazing tool, but it’s really the face-to-face interaction that makes a long-term impact.” — Felicia Day

“Social media is changing the way we communicate and the way we are perceived, both positively and negatively. Every time you post a photo or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and personal brand.” — Amy Jo Martin

“Shallow emotions. An incapacity to feel genuine love. A need for stimulation. Frequent verbal outbursts. Poor behavioral controls. These are just some of the things that social media are encouraging in all of us. They’re also a pretty comprehensive diagnostic checklist for sociopathy—in fact, that’s where I got the list.” — Milo Yiannopoulos

Is the social media culture eroding face-to-face Social Interactions? The subject that this article delves into is a million-dollar question that keeps popping up in social conversations, interactions, and symposiums. Many people eagerly seek to know the connection between social media culture and the steady decline in face-to-face social interactions. Many others are undecided on the existence of such link at all in the first place. Also, many more do not think there is a decline at all in face-to-face social interactions. This query has proven to be a very relevant question in our digitized generation, especially with the consistent increase in social media platforms and users (NB. By the way, the social media platforms out there are endless—I will not bore you with a list at this time).

Before delving into the business of attempting to give our own opinion of this crucial question, cast your mind back to the days before social media became a thing. Recall how important it was to meet with people and sit with them to discuss important issues over coffee, lunch, brunch, dinner, etc.? Remember how it used to be much more comfortable at some point to pick out introverts from extroverts when meeting people face-to-face? Now, put that side-by-side this current era of social media when people can type messages from miles away across the globe and sound bold without being bold. People are now able to put up fake facades, masking their true identities as they parade themselves virtually on various social media platforms.

It is safe to that say social media has generally helped in improving so many things concerning social interaction and communication. For instance, sending messages is a lot easier—a fact which is now almost cliché—meeting new people and staying in touch is now a lot more possible. We are now a click away from people across borders. Gone are the days of snail-mail socializing and communication. The days that we wrote letters by hand and took a journey to the post office to get the message on its way have long gone. The days that we that we then spent a week or two twiddling our thumbs to receive a reply is now history for the most part. All that is history now, we are socializing at the speed of light. The new age of social media is one of the chief contrivances that has made the world a lot smaller—a global village so to say. Despite the many pros of social media, the fact remains that this new development has its cons and adverse effects when it comes to hampering face-to-face physical interaction.

The new age of social media is causing a socializing and relationship quantum-shift to our current reality. Nowadays, people would be comfortable to ask a girl they’ve only just seen her profile online out on a date without first trying to meet her in person. Before the advent and deluge of social media, social interactions were more prevalent and real. People wanted to get to know other people they anticipate being involved with on a romantic level more personally via face-to-face interactions. They did so via a series of dates and outings—a romantic candle-light dinner, a trip to the movies, a road trip, just to mention a few. Decisions were made on a face-to-face basis, not merely by a virtual snapshot of who they portray to be. Today, there is this feeling that a person’s social media profile is enough information to decide whether the individual would be a good fit for a romantic relationship or not. Now, more people are fluent in conversing on social media but fail woefully at face-to-face interactions.

With the increase in attention placed on the need to build virtual connections through online media platforms, there is a rising need to re-educate ourselves on the need to develop physical interaction skills, which are even more critical than social media interactions. Because of the informality of specific social media interaction platforms, many things have lost their relevance; such as the common courtesy which is expected from people who do not know you before now. Also, the language of social media has started to creep into regular in-person conversations and formal means of communication. For instance, we see people knowing or unknowingly adopting and using social media lingo in formal business communications (e.g., using LOL or Laugh-Out-Loud; OMG or Oh my gosh; l8r or Later, etc.)—this is highly unprofessional. It is just a further reminder that many people are becoming too ingrained in the social media virtual reality to the point that it is affecting every other aspect of their lives. Social media and real-world reactions are fast becoming more hybridized—a mixed blessing of pros and cons so to say.

The statistics on how people are utilizing social media websites are staggering. The impact of social media on the younger generation growing up is severe. In a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report, the following facts were presented that “22% of teenagers log on to their favorite social media site more than 10 times a day, and more than half of adolescents log on to a social media site more than once a day. 75% of teenagers now own cell phones, and 25% use them for social media, 54% use them for texting, and 24% use them for instant messaging. Thus, a large part of this generation’s social and emotional development is occurring while on the Internet and on cell phones.” [1] The metrics above are staggering as they are disturbing. If our younger generation is spending the bulk of their time virtually, that means the art of face-to-face social interactive development is left to the back burner and suffering. Suggesting that as the younger generations grow up, they will unquestionably lack the adequate social skills of communicating on a face-to-face basis.

We can herewith say that a large portion of youths, adolescents, and even adults use text messages in their daily lives more than they use any other form of communication, including face-to-face interaction. This is particularly troubling to say the very least. For the most part, this generation is receiving social and emotional training from social media and no longer from educational institutions, religious organizations, or their nuclear families. This is an alarming socio-tectonic-rift-and-shift of how our current day society is interacting with themselves. So, while social media is a quick way to learn and communicate, it has many downsides to it, the most prominent cons being the deception for which social media is known for. People can portray a false persona on social media. We have seen cases where people have represented themselves falsely, met up with the people they were supposedly socializing with and committed heinous crimes in the process ranging from theft, predatorial sexual crimes, kidnap, and even homicides, just to mention but a few.

Also worthy of mention is the negative impact of social media on people through cyberbullying, “Facebook depression,” sexting, and exposure to inappropriate content, and the lavish faux lifestyles. [1] It is pertinent to mention these variations in other to ensure that parents of adolescents are aware of what their wards are going through. Furthermore, on social media, we see a lot of glitter, glamor, and the portrayal of fake lifestyles that are far from reality. People portray themselves as perfect and flawless. For instance, scrolling through Instagram pages, you will see a cartload of people who present themselves as impeccable, were in the actual sense of things, they are not that flawless physically and sometimes in character. Some individuals looking at these fake people may begin to feel intimidated and inferior with themselves. This inferiority complex eventually affects their perception of themselves, especially when these persons are within their age range. As we mentioned earlier, there are positive and negative impacts of social media. The question we must now answer is, “What’s your social media impact?”

Is the social media culture eroding face-to-face social interactions? We are inclined to assert that social media is fast facilitating the erosion of face-to-face interactions. The impact of the advent and advancement of global information technology on society, as it pertains to social media, is unmistakably visible with is attendant pros and cons as we have considered in the preceding paragraphs. People are spending more time with their virtual-reality selves, and their real lives are fast being relegated to the back burner. What you feed will grow, what you neglect and starve will diminish. Social media is feeding the frenzy of the public to pursue virtual reality, which is leading to the neglect of the real substance of interpersonal connectivity and in-person social awareness. How sustainable will this trend be in molding the psyche of the future generation? Will people become utterly numb to social-reality?

The fact remains that social media is the new and future fad of socialization and it is here to stay, and its future will unquestionably become more and more sophisticated as digital technology advances. New advancements will be seen in the social media macrocosm. Who knows—we may even see and experience socialization via holographic projections in the advanced future of social media interactivity with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI). We are sure that the future of social media will be replete with a Herculean load of surprises to say the very least. However, we need to re-evaluate how much we use social media. As the future of social media speeds towards us faster than we can say, “Jack Robinson,” we need to begin re-educating our younger generation on the importance of the social skills of face-to-face interaction. Doing this will help improve their psycho-social skills when it comes to social interactions with the rest of the human element. More face-to-face interaction will help reduce the falsities that exist in the virtual reality continuum. People need more face-to-face reality interactions and not too much of virtual reality interactions. The earlier we begin this re-education, the better we would be able to remedy the psycho-social future of the human element. A stitch, they say, saves nine. Let us, therefore, start the stitching while we still could do so. A word is enough for the wise. Let us, hence, redeem our psycho-social future.

References

[1]. O’Keeffe, G.S., Clarke-Pearson, K., & Council on Communications and Media. (2011). The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families. American Academy of Pediatrics Clinical Report, 127(4), 800-804. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-0054.

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