Technology: Friend or Foe in Communication?

By Jacel Egan

In the new age of media communication, younger generations have become so technologically savvy that the preferred method of keeping in contact with friends is through the Internet as opposed to face to face contact.

Although this may seem like a step forward (and in an era where instantaneous communication is vital, it can be) in breaking the distance barrier, I feel as though the personal side of interaction is getting lost in the midst of “OMGs” and “ROFLs.”

Social networking sites have become a main way of communication for college-aged students. Photo from www.socialmediamarketingwatch.com.

Social networking sites have become a main way of communication for college-aged students. Photo from http://www.socialmediamarketingwatch.com.

According to a Fuser study in 2007, “84 percent of college-aged users spend seven or more hours per week on the Internet managing their personal communications.”  Also, 92 percent of college-aged users 18-21 years old also have two or more e-mail accounts while also maintaining at least one social networking account, such as Facebook.

This is a hefty amount of online chatting and interaction. Online communication, in my opinion, sacrifices authenticity and personality for convenience. It’s easy to chat online with several friends at once or with people that are far away, but more often than not, messages are misunderstood or misread, causing unnecessary drama.

Instant messages can easily be taken seriously even though they were meant to be sarcastic, or something entirely differently can be interpreted than what the original message had intended. From personal experience, I have fallen victim to sending the wrong message to someone that wasn’t supposed to see such content. I can reassure you that trying to fix online mix-ups is definitely not the most fun thing to do.

It's easy to send a message to the wrong person on AIM. Photo from www.wackyb.co.nz.

It's easy to send a message to the wrong person on AIM. Photo from http://www.wackyb.co.nz.

Online interaction also lacks the personal touch of communicating with someone face to face. The nonverbal cues are absent on Facebook chat and AIM (though this problem is irrelevant to Skype). Real-life conversations with others also allow for time to gather thoughts more sufficiently and choose words more wisely than chatting online.

Again, I nominate myself the worst online talker because I am that person that types whatever thought comes to mind, good or bad. My housemates are now my IM and text “editors” to keep me in check. Sometimes what someone would normally say to another in person and online can be completely different. The Internet, due to its instantaneous nature, can remove the filter for what someone would usually keep to himself or herself.

Online communication can be either a wonderful way to keep in touch with family and friends that are hundreds of miles away, yet can also be detrimental to relationships if messages are interpreted incorrectly. So just remember, think before you type.

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