Alone in a Social World: Relationships in the Age of Digital Media
September 11, 2019
Quick – how many times a day do you check your phone? Twenty? Fifty? Would you believe 150 times? That’s how often studies find the average mobile user checks emails and text messages a day. Is that killing “face-to-face” social interaction? Maybe not.
“Social media is often seen as a safe way to filter or screen potential candidates for in-person interaction,” says Mark Weilage, PhD, CHI Health Clinic psychologist. “There is also research indicating communication over social media has sped up the intimacy process. People are more likely to disclose personal information on social networking sites than they would in face-to-face communication because they have a higher perceived level of control and safety.”
But social media can come up short when you can’t make eye contact with a person, hear tone of voice or check out body language.
Dr. Weilage’s advice to avoid misunderstandings: “Don’t text if you’re trying to relay something important or emotion-laden. Face to face is best in those situations and Facetime or a voice call is a good second choice. It is far too easy to misinterpret text messages and as a result things can spiral without the extra cues and immediate feedback.”
Lack of face-to-face communication also can lead to unkind, dehumanizing communication, he warns. “In youth we see a rise in cyber-bullying – demeaning and cruel conversation behind a screen – that would perhaps not happen if there was eye contact and immediate feedback of discomfort on the other person’s face.”
- Ask yourself if your online social media relationships are healthy and balanced, and ask the same thing about your in-person relationships.
- To better understand and work toward that balance, check out the Smart Gen Society at www.smartgensociety.org.