Social media affects social norms

It is 2017 and technology use is at an all-time high. A new Nielsen Company audience report reveals that adults in the United States devoted about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day in front of a technology device screen in 2016. The devices include smart phones, video games, TV, radios and personal computers. To put this hours per day technology use into perspective, most Americans can’t even manage to get eight hours of sleep a day. This suggests that technology has a huge impact on people’s lives, especially in the realm of communication.

The Department of Communication at the University of Colorado Springs conducted a study to determine the communication competence of college students in a technology-rich 21st century. The study focused on 223 first-year college students ranging from ages 18-25, all born after 1990. The questions used in the study not only determined social skills and communication competence, but also the self-perceived communication skills of the students.

Study researchers determined that smart phones and social networking sites were the most commonly used technology platform by the college students. Although students in the study reported they prefer face-to-face communication with their peers, results proved that is not the reality.

When it came to personal conversations and situations with friends, the results showed that texting was used more often than face-to-face communication. Students reported feeling more efficient when communicating using technology because it allows them to feel more in control as well as more productive than face-to-face conversations.

62-70 percent of the 223 first year college students said they are never nervous talking to people but 55-70 percent admitted they are nervous about public speaking. Study theories using social networking to communicate gives a false sense of connection with people and in turn makes people feel social isolation.

Marie Arcidiacono, a communications professor at Los Medanos College, said that technology has done more good for this generation than bad, but sometimes there are unintended consequences. Although she has seen an increase in communication majors over her 9 years as teacher, she said she’s noticed behavioral differences with students.

“Face to face conversations are on the decline,” said Arcidiacono. She highlighted how student behavior has changed with the advancements in technology.

“There was a time earlier in my career, and even when I was a student, where before the teacher came in we would have conversations with each other and be roaming around the classroom,” she said. “Now more often than not when I peek into my classroom all I see is the tops of student’s heads as they stare down at their phones and no one is interacting with one another.”

Despite that, she said it is hard to generalize that technology is affecting social skills in a bad way when phones and social networking sites also help people maintain relationships as well. She added that it can be helpful to talk online but people should try to make sure it’s not the only way they communicate or express themselves. “Social media gives us the option to isolate ourselves while still feeling connected,” she said.

First year LMC student Danielle Mendoza, who was born after 1999, said that because her generation grew up with smart phones and technology being the norm, it creates a world tough for them not to be dependent on such things when communicating.

“I use social media at least four to five hours a day between Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter,” said Mendoza. “I got my first phone when I was 11 years old, so having technology with me everywhere I go is what I’m used to.”

Although social networking and texting is convenient, she still prefers to talk to her friends face-to-face. While agreeing that speaking is an important interpersonal skill, Mendoza believes people understand the challenge her generation faces.

“I feel that most people don’t judge if you aren’t anymore but being a good speaker is something we should all strive to be,” she said.

A study done by reported that manager’s rate on a scale of 1 to 5 interpersonal skills as a 4.37, just below the ability to work well in groups at 4.49.

“I don’t like public speaking but understand it’s needed in the real world and try to put myself in uncomfortable situations so my social skills can grow,” she stated.

Returning LMC student Sterling Seymour was born in 1986 and says he does his best to distance himself from social networking sites and technology dependence.

“I am one of the few people out there that has probably never had a Facebook account,” he said. “Facebook relationships aren’t as genuine.” He describes his decision to distance himself from those types of sites because they don’t mean anything to him.

“Social media isn’t real communicating, if you want me to know all about how bad of a day you had or that you just got a new girlfriend, give me a call and we can talk about that stuff face-to-face,” he said, adding how important he thinks people skills are.

He is pursuing a career as a firefighter medic, and public speaking and social skills is the name of the game in that field. He described being too dependent on technology as dangerous and said it could breed social anxiety when your adults and thrown into real world situations.

“I take pride in my people skills and body language,” he said.

Although the students in the study and here at LMC all instinctively know face-to-face is the most beneficial form of communicating, technology in the 21st century is steering us away from that path.