Friday, October 10, 2008

Has Social Media Caused People to Be Less Social in Person?

Posted by: Amanda Walsh

I came across a great post the other day on PRNewsOnline by Courtney Barnes, Editor of PR News. She posed a thoughtful question to those in the blogosphere: "Have social media sites made people less friendly in person and friendlier online?" Ms. Barnes described a recent experience at a religious function where the audience was encouraged to break the ice by introducing themselves for two minutes. The results varied. Some people seemed very uncomfortable, as if wishing the two minutes would be over soon, while others couldn't stop talking! Perhaps the fa├žade of a computer and keyboard helps shy people "come out of their shells" while outgoing, friendly people may not participate as much in online conversations?

I have recognized, especially with peers or those of Generation Y, a problem of common misspellings and an overall lack of effective writing skills. Perhaps this is caused by texting and or using shorthand online language. However, I had not considered the implications of social media on face-to-face communication.

For me, social media is an easy outlet of expression, but I don't think it makes me any less friendly in person. My situation is a bit unique however; I am blogging from Madrid, Spain where I am a novice at the Spanish language and a foreigner displaced from my country and culture. Naturally, I enjoy blogging and joining in verbal conversation in my native language. Although I like to consider myself an intelligent communicator in English, my Spanish skills are still a work in progress. When conversing in Spanish, I rely heavily on nonverbal signals, like using my hands or making facial expressions to explain my words. Online and/or written text at times can lose its meaning without the cues such as tone of voice or facial expressions.

On the other hand, my time in Spain has made me realize the importance of effective verbal communication and the social errors that come with uttering the wrong word in person. An insightful comment from Kristie Vento at Marketing That Performs, reacting to Ms. Barnes’ post, touches on the idea that people do not utilize their 'delete' buttons as effectively as they should. At times, that may be a reason for less friendly person-to-person communications.

Social media plays a big role in my life and I will continue to use many sites such as Facebook and Twitter to keep in touch with friends and family as well as to stay abreast of news.

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