Is Antisocial Social Media Changing the Way We Interact?

Categories: Silicon Beach
teen text.jpg
photo by Adam T. Bailey, via flickr
We text. We BBM. We instant-message. We Facebook-chat. Welcome to the antisocial social-media generation, where communicating with others is just a click away, and avoiding face-to-face confrontation is the wave of the future.

When I was in school, I communicated with friends and classmates via note-passing. Now an archaic means of communication, teens and adults alike are turning to tech to get their message across, in many instances texting while they are sitting right across from each other in the same room.

Walk into any high school dance or assembly and you'll see the masses socializing in text. But are we losing our grip on reality, relying solely on new technology to reach out to each other and missing out on much-needed face-to-face interactions?
"I feel like these ways of communication make me feel more antisocial, because you're tempted to talk to people online more than face-to-face," says Alexander J. Ohye, a sophomore at South Dade Senior High. "It also makes me feel more shy, because you get used to talking to people over the computer or phone."

But some people will argue that social media is actually improving their social skills. "I don't think this new technology has made me more antisocial/shy. If anything, it has made me more outgoing/social," says Sydney Smith, a sophomore at G. Holmes Braddock Senior High. "I have always been known as that shy girl in school, but I've been talking a lot more with friends in person now." 

Many are resigned to the new reality. "I feel like it's just the way life has become, always depending on technology and social networks," says Nicholas Cisko, a freshman student at Full Sail University.

The Norton Online Family Report, a study conducted with more than 7,000 adults and 2,800 children ages 8 to 17 in 14 countries, seems to think so. The study shows that teens spend around 11.4 hours a week online, an increase of 10 percent from 2009.

According to global data, talking to friends accounts for 67 percent of what teens are doing online -- and most of this is through different forms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, FourSquare, and Formspring, and online chatting such as instant messenger. With sites like Formspring, anyone can ask you an anonymous question without risking rejection or repercussions.

"Interestingly enough, we are living in a time when the way we communicate is changing," says Sabrina A. Mendez, associate administrator/clinical therapist at a South Florida outpatient mental-health agency. "As humans, we evolve and adapt to our surroundings.

"If adolescents are going to communicate, they will utilize what's around them to do so, and that just so happens to be an extensive resource of communication in the form of social media, text messaging, BBM, etc. Adolescents are merely adapting to their surroundings to do what they are developmentally inclined to do: communicate."

But with sincere apologies replaced by a texted "I'm SRY," relationships ending with the click of a Facebook status, and disassociations by a simple friend removal, technology -- with all of its amazing advancements -- might actually be taking us two steps backward.

"With more ways of communicating yourself technologically, people are losing their people skills, basically," says Odalis Garcia, a sophomore at G. Holmes Braddock Senior High. "It's easy to just send a text or an IM, but it's hard to deal with someone when you're face-to-face. I feel like the more technology, the more people shirk away from actually speaking to one another."

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