How technology benefits our social skills

Introduction:

What are friends? Friends, along with family, are the people that we interact with everyday. While we cannot choose what family we wish to born in or who these members are, we have a choice for making friends. Friends are usually those people who share common interest and develop interesting conversation. We all have different definitions of fun in our mind; friends are those who understand and agree the fun is indeed, fun. With the innovation of technology, we are given the opportunity to meet a wide range of people across the globe without any physical boundaries, and we can still keep perfectly in touch with our old friends. We can express ourselves more freely. We don’t need to worry about how terrible we may look physically as we use social media to form conversation. There is no need to waste time putting on make-up or thinking about what clothes to put on. With these social technologies, we talk and chat anytime and anywhere. Technology and other social tools widen our network circles and improve our abilities to interact with the other human beings.

Phones:

Smart phones these days allow us to connect with the contacts more easily. With the development of 3G and wireless networks, we can call or text them any time. For example, a person can call his/her friends to join for a cup of coffee while feeling too lonely studying for exams. Beside the fact that the convenience of getting in touch with the others, imagine the case the following case:

You are sitting at the back side of the bus. The seats arrangement is designed that you are facing directly at the people on the opposite side. To avoid the uncomfortable eye   contact   with strangers, you took out the phone the pocket and started messaging or         performed      other activities that you can do with your phone. Just then, you heard a voice over the    shoulder saying: “Hey, is that the new Blackberry Z10?”

This is speaking from a personal experience and this is most likely considered to be a rare case. Normally, if a person ignores the other, that other usually ignores it back. The scenario presented is just demonstrating that if people have the desire to talk to another, they will find every little interesting topic about the thing you do regardless of the activity. In this sense, cell phone technology not only allows us to connect with the ones already in our contacts without the bound of time and place, but it also provided us another common interest to perform interactions with strangers.

Internet: Equality

Many social tools on the Great Internet only acquire account information and no require field for personal information (such as photos, heights, or race). This means that everyone can speak equally and chat with no discrimination. Because there is no worry regarding the physical appearance, the people can express their feelings and minds more openly. With services like facebook or line, people can share their feelings or emotions to all their friends and start conversations, or send private messages to particular individual. They can choose the audience that they wish to present. Similar idea applies with most of the online multiplayer role playing games. The gamers are allowed to customize their characters in their dream and portray the actions that they justified as heroic in the virtual gaming world. To be able to create a new character is actually the first step to help the user build up their confidence. This encourages the users to interact with other characters in the game more freely and equally. Without giving away the physical identity of what a person look like, he/she is able to express their innermost feelings and be their real self.

Internet: Privacy

Because most of the social networking tools allow users to hide their identity and value the users’ privacy, organizations actually use it to help and solve issues that some people have encountered. For instance, Nancy Lublin, a CEO member, described in her video [1] that because texting is quiet and private and teenagers are just that familiar and comfortable using the device, they are more willing to ask for assistance with the personal matter by sending text messages to the organization. Not only does technology improves the interactions with the other people, but it also resolve many private problems that humans do not normally feel comfortable meeting an counselor, talking face-to-face to seek for help.

Technology and New Friends

For more people who would like to meet real world friends, there are many tools that help the users of this form too. Badoo, for example, is a social dating online service that makes sure that the account created isn’t a fraud. It needs confirmation from a text message and facebook account. Then it requires a real photo of what you look like to avoid fakers before giving the permission to start conversation with the other users. The program determines the user’s approximate location and recommends friends mainly base on that for people to meet up. Like other messaging tools, users can fill their interests so that they can find people of their kind more easily. Although it defines itself as a dating site, users can also choose to make new friends instead of flirting. Services like Badoo protects the users by making a “no fraud zone”, breaks the ice by having the user interact through messages, and meet up if they wish to.

Inefficient communications

Comparing the speed of texting with two fingers and talking to another person directly, we are losing a significant time as forming conversation in the real-time. In order to get the messages across more efficiently, people reply with only the important words and losing the accuracy in grammar and spelling more critically. This leads to a new revolution of the language. According to [3], text messaging brings a negative impact on adolescent’s grammar skills. And, of course, spelling errors is a more critical case as the smart phones nowadays have auto-correct or word-guessing features for the users to save time from typing. But, the ability to spell correctly might not be as necessary skill to have in the future. There is no need for human beings to memorize exactly how a word is spell because software applications can just autocorrect the errors for us. Documents and papers in the modern world are in printed format instead of in handwritten form. Even when having a face-to-face conversation with another person, there is no problem with the spelling either. Although not quite mature yet, there are voice recognition programs that compute all the words for humans. Thus, spelling is not a practical skill for the future generations.

As in business, companies in the modern society must have use these communication tools. Firstly, most middle or larger businesses have at least an email or phone contact for the customer services. Companies have different sorts of contact information released to the public. Secondly, on a global scale, communication for meetings between countries is possible through video chatting.

Emotions and Text

Not only we are losing accuracies in the original language, people believe that texts do not show the emotions. It is difficult to tell how we feel about a subject when we cannot see the others’ facial expressions. It is possible to get through with emoji and emoticons, but the icons are limited and when people sent these small pictures, the receiver often think that the sender is in a good mood. This should actually be an advantage with using texting or messaging tools because people can hide their “ugly” side. For example, Tina sent a message to Tom saying that she and Jimmy are going out. Tom loves Tina, but she saw him nothing more than a childhood friend. With the expressionless texts, Tom can be crying or cursing, but wish her for the happy in reply at the same time. By utilitarianism, it might be a good end since Tina and Jimmy are happy, and Tom can probably still keep his friendship with Tina. Because we all prefer people to see our brighter side and dislike being seen when feeling down, having conversation without revealing the true feelings is rather more desirable.

The safety concern with meeting new people online has raised the attentions. There are all kinds of stories from the local or global news such that people are murdered, being fooled with money, etc. when meeting online friends in real life.

Another problem that people believe in chatting with technology tools is that we are losing the ability to solve problem face-to-face. People are not making proper eye contact and get nervous easily when having conversations without the protection of screens. While it might be true that proper eye contact and uneasiness with direct conversations, we are not losing the ability to solve problems. Messaging tools is a slow yet refine process. Because our typing speed is not as fast as speaking out the words, we are giving more time to think about what the problem is and what would be the best reply.

Conclusion

The purpose of developing technology is to better humans’ lives. Social networking tools allow people to meet a variety of new friends while keeping in touch with the olds. The networking websites provide the features that allow people to find the others with common interests more easily. Although holding conversation over screens or devices can result language discrepancy and problems when dealing face-to-face problems, it might not be as critical because we are not likely to deal with these problems in the future. There is no need to solve problems face to face when we can have done it in a more thoughtful, efficient way such as talking over the phone or messaging. Technology helps managing people’s relationship which is what benefits our social life.

References

[1] N. Lublin. (2012, Feb.). Nancy Lablin: Texting that saves lives. [Online] Available:

http://www.ted.com/talks/nancy_lublin_texting_that_saves_lives.html

[2] L. Suval. (2012, May. 2). Does Texting Hinder Social Skills? [Online] Available:

http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2012/05/02/does-texting-hinder-social-skills/

[3] D. P. Cingel and S. S. Sundar. (2012). Texting, techspeak, and tween: The relationship between text messaging and English grammar skills. [Online] Available:   http://nms.sagepub.com/content/14/8/1304