The Effects of Modern Technology on Social Interaction

Written by eric feigenbaum
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The Effects of Modern Technology on Social Interaction
Cell phones and PDAs have made communication highly accessible. (Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Technological advancements have dramatically changed the way people communicate. People have more modes of communications than ever before, many of which operate at high speeds and even facilitate instantaneous multiparty communication. The choices, accessibility and affordability of communication technology have naturally changed social habits and styles. Many worry that although the amount of communication has increased, the quality may be decreasing.

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Frequency

Mobile phones, smart phones, PDAs, desktop computers, laptop computers, netbooks, tablet devices, video game systems, land line telephones, voice over IP (VoIP), e-mail and instant messaging are all common forms of communication --- several of which are free to use. Easy and broad access to these technologies means people are communicating more frequently than ever, from texting in the supermarket checkout line to making phone calls from the bathroom. A 2008 Nielsen Company study found Americans were sending 2.5 billion text messages per day. They averaged 357 per phone user each month. And teens 13 to 17 averaged 1,742 messages per month.

Written Communication

In some settings, technology has led people to write more and talk less. The ubiquitous and cheap nature of e-mail has made it the backbone of business communication. E-mails have the advantage of being able to transmit information instantly to numerous recipients. With the increasing use of e-mail-enabled phones and devices, people no longer have to be at their desks to communicate. Although not all businesses subscribe to the use of instant messaging in the workplace, some like technology giant Cisco encourage it. The net result is that between these common forms of written electronic communication, people in the same building or even the same office have begun communicating in writing instead of by phone or face to face.

Play

When kids play after school, they aren't always in the same place together. Advances in video game systems and computer games allow game players to play against one another via the Internet. Players can don headsets to have multiparty conversations while they play, creating a virtual group experience while in reality each players is alone.

Social Networking

The advent of social networking sites and platforms such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Linked In changed not only interpersonal communications, but also marketing and business strategies. Through social networks, stay connected to family and everyday friends and often reunite with long-lost friends from childhood, high school and college. Social networking also allows people to share their daily lives and thoughts with one another through outbound messages and walls that signal all of their connections. Although some use social networking sites for limited communication, others spend large periods of their day communicating with contacts though both computer and mobile social networking interfaces. Several political demonstrations and uprisings in 2011 --- including those in Iran, Egypt, Libya and Bahrain --- have used social networking as a means of organisation.

Social Skills

Some educators, scholars and scientists have expressed concerns about the effects of communication technologies. Students and professors of the Janus Project --- a collaboration of the theology programs of Yale, Cornell, Brown, Fordham and Georgetown universities --- wrote a series of essays in 2009 highlighting the social, moral and ethical impacts of modern communication changes. They worry that heavy use of electronic communications such as e-mail, social networking, texting, instant messaging and networked video games has diminished kids' and adults' social skills. Critics believe that written communications and interaction via devices will erode people's ability to interact comfortably and thoughtfully in each other's presence.

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