The Effect of Social Media on Communication

David Collins, Editor-In-Chief

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Communication should be at an all-time high. Amid the ongoing unforeseeably metamorphic development in technology, there is no reason why human interaction should be any less than the best it’s ever been. It requires merely seconds for sentiment to be imparted with and information to be shared. And with the rise of technology has correlatively surfaced the prominence of various social media platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat- the list goes on- have all become substantial components and focuses of millions of lives. An unprecedented connectedness is erected by said platforms that should evince a swifter and more efficacious process of conveyance. From a teenage perspective, though, it is apparent that social media in reality is injuring communication and inhibiting understanding.

Research shows that 93% of the interpersonal face-to-face communication process is nonverbal- in body language, facial expression, eye contact, tone of voice, et cetera. This leaves only 7% concerned with the actual words that one speaks to her counterpart. The effect that a conversation leaves on a person is dependent upon how words are said far more than what words are said. This is contrasted with communication over a devise, whether that be through text messages, direct messages, instant messages, what have you. Here is the exact opposite. Words are all the recipient has to base her response off of.

Texting counterparts are admitted exclusively words, a mere seven percent of the very process that facilitates understanding. Scarcely can words exchanged in text requisitely elucidate that which one endeavors to portray in the capacity of communication that understanding entails. Consequently, much is left to the recipient’s imagination, fostering a painstaking and oft-unavailing venture to read between the lines and fill in the blanks, shaping our perception of a person in a completely arbitrary and circumstantial routine that is ineffectual and frankly foolish.

Especially with teenagers, every message is susceptible to scrutiny and can be contorted as to mean so many things, unintended by the message’s employer. Only the employer can know what she means when a text is sent. And attempts to combat the disparity between the giver and receiver through such measures as emojis are just jejune and unspecific and generally inadequate. Social media’s adverse effect on communication is evident further in more specific platforms as well, namely Instagram and Snapchat.

With teenagers, Instagram is an undertaking to exude some paradigm of an individual. It is a mere solicitation of affirmation from others, this through likes or through followers. Instagram is so vastly driven by comparison, and photographs, those which capture a transitory fraction of a second are the perfect facilitator of this transaction.

Separately, photographs are gradually monopolizing experience. Sure, pictures are a fine means of documentation and organization and commemoration; however, we have reached a point where we render something unreal unless it is photographed or until it is tangibly indexed. With this, we run the risk of valuing commemorating a moment over enjoying that moment- overlooking the less photographable moments or the unquantifiable irreplicable emotions that can not quite be indexed but must rather be absorbed and embraced.

Snapchat might be the epitome of vanity. Selfies might be the heighth of arrogance. And yet here we are, collectively sending over One Billion snaps each day. One billion of these pointless, transient images, inaccessible after seconds, every day. The fleeting nature of this operation serves as a solid representation of what this really is- futile, temporary, and inconsequential. The logic behind Snapchat is rather, well, logical. It is an excuse to interact with people each day in an ongoing conversation that does not have to be weird or unnatural because it coincides with expectation. It is a fine idea, but a game nonetheless, and one that inevitably subordinates relations and authenticity to a lesser and compromised cause.

Modern technology- social media included- can be a stellar means of keeping up with those whom we may not see or interact with otherwise. Not all use of such media is necessarily bad, but it is really just a wasted opportunity to be more together, in this world more connected than ever thought possible. An unfortunate part of this is that I think most people can see how ridiculous it is that we ascribe so much heft to this enterprise.

But to quit or forego said enterprise is to put yourself at an ineluctable social disadvantage. Our community in communication demands capitulation and participation. There is no cure for the fiasco that is social media. There is no antidote for the pressures that teenagers are faced with. And so I leave with a mere word of advice: Try to let the person you are in real life shine through on social media, and try to use social media to foster communication understanding with and of your peers and yourself, not inhibit it.

Students from VNN take a photo for a social media break during a recent broadcast.