Piece by Kwazi Dlamini – FabMags Intern
You are in a restaurant when you look around everyone has their heads bowed, fingers quickly typing on their cell phone while waiting for an order… not paying attention to their companions.
This is how social media has affected our ability to interact and communicate with other folks. People now spend more time updating on Facebook, tweeting or sending text messages than mingling with people personally. People choose to send WhatsApp messages rather than call or choose emails over a personal meeting. Granted, social media has made it easy in terms of communication: you can talk to someone who is thousands of kilometres away in a matter of seconds at lower costs, but has this replaced physical interaction?
Social networks have paved the way for people to express their feelings without fear of being judged or belittled. Paul Booth, holding a PhD, is an assistant professor of media and cinema studies in the College of Communication at DePaul University in Chicago. He believes that social media certainly affects how we engage with one another across all venues and ages. “There has been a shift in the way we communicate; rather than face-to-face interaction, we’re tending to prefer mediated communication, we’d rather e-mail than meet; we’d rather text than talk on the phone,” he says.
According to Booth relationships based on social media tend to be weak because people do not get personally connected to the person at the other end of that communication source, as we would when communicating face-to-face. “We may rely on the weak connections we’re making on social media more than on the strong connections we might have when we’re meeting face-to-face,” Booth says.
When we communicate through social media we have the habit of trusting the people on the other end of the communication line, so our messages tend to be more open. Our social connections are not strengthened as much through social media as they are not face-to-face, so we are less likely to deepen our relationships. We tend to follow and interact with people who agree with our points of view, so we aren’t getting the same diversity of viewpoints as we’ve gotten in the past.
But whether we like it or not social media is here to stay and I doubt there’s anyone who wants it gone. Methods of communication have changed over the last decade and will become a norm in human life, as we are already seeing.
I guess, when it comes down to it, it is up to us to strike a balance between social interaction and social media interaction.