Has social media robbed us of interpersonal communication? This is a question I often ask when I reflect over time spent conversing via Internet-based social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and even iTune’s Ping. As the Communications Director for my employer, a large part of my day is spent interacting online and identifying strategies to obtain and engage our friends and followers.
At work, when colleagues and clients ask what is the best way to reach me either by phone or in-person, my first response is e-mail. With electronic dialogue, we can control the conversation, when it starts, when it ends and multi-task without appearing offensive.
Personal interaction is important I was raised in an age where personal interaction was key and I eagerly embraced the opportunity to engage others at school, throughout my career and social activities. At an early age I was introduced to people and learned the importance of effective communication and interaction. However; what I observe now, is that many adults are no longer educating young people on how to interact with others. They’re putting cell phones and laptops in the hands of their children and leaving them to their own devices. Seventeen million teens between the ages of 12-17 are on the Internet. This number represents about 75% of young people in the United States. Many of these youngsters are engrossed in Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and other social networks. The world and its technological developments are constantly evolving and it is great to live in a world where new developments arise at almost every stage of life.
Are we creating narcissists? My question; though is, are we teaching young people to become narcissistic. Facebook has more than 500 million users, Twiiter has more than 175 million users and as of February 2010, YouTube reported 48.2 million users and over 120 million videos on its site. It is safe to say there is a steady growth of Internet communication and those who’ve yet to embrace it, need to do so.
My point is we need to have balance. Let’s not lose sight of interpersonal relationships, and networking in public places. I love meeting new people, as well as learning about their achievements and how they got there. I’m a student of life and I absolutely love to learn. But, I also notice that as much as I love to learn, there are people who absolutely love to talk about themselves, their accomplishments, what they do, how they do it, etc. Facebook is my favorite opportunity to show “my” friends, who really aren’t my friends, all of my pictures of me, my cat, my friends, and anything else related to “me.” Just notice how many times I’ve used “I” in this post alone.
A February 2010 post in Social Media Today, “Does Twitter Breed Narcissim” mentions a research study published by professors at Rutgers University indicating the majority of updates in sites like Twitter and Facebook are “self-centered.”
Are we really addicted to social media? How many times have you been out on business, personal, etc., and after just five minutes, have a strong desire to “check your Facebook page” to see if someone commented on “your” post or status update? Our addiction to social media has undoubtedly affected the way we interact with others. When we’re out with friends and colleagues, nine out of ten people will find a reason to pull out their phone to check e-mail, send a text or a tweet letting their “followers” and “friends” know exactly where they are at that very moment. Narcissism at work once again.
I’m not necessarily seeking an answer, this is just an observation and something to ponder. Does this mean I’m going to deactivate my Facebook and Twitter accounts? Absolutely not! I will; however, make every effort to educate young people and adults to maintain balance in all aspects of communication.