Observe the Saturday morning ritual of millions of teens across the world: Wake up, grab the cell to check for texts, plop in front of the computer, and begin scrolling through Facebook. Like all generations of teens, we are driven by our connections to our peers, and digital technology is what makes this possible today. The accessibility and options that Facebook and its other digital counterparts provide make these mediums just as good as face-to-face.
Friendships grow easily when two people can hold a conversation regardless of their locations, even when they're in the same town. One of my friends and I update each other on our days as they go by instead of waiting for later to hear, "Guess what happened!" My friend can text me while she is out shopping about a sale of my favorite designer that she has discovered. I may even be able to go check it out that day, demonstrating how the digital world leads to real-world activities and enables an opportunity that otherwise would have been lost.
In-person communication is nice but not always available. Not only does the digital world have the power to build friendships, but it helps maintain them as well. In the past, when students left home for university, they lost a lot of their high school friends. With Facebook, it is now easy to stay and feel connected. People post a miniature rundown of their lives on their Facebook pages. By looking at your friendsâ?? pictures and comments, you are constantly updated about how their lives are changing. And you never have to worry about being too busy to contact someone. Texting, wall posts, e-mail, and instant messaging are all at our disposal and convenience, and you can always use at least one without having to drop everything for 30 minutes while you make a long-distance phone call. You can even "hang out" in a sense with the multiple game and chat systems available on Facebook.
The digital world is the world as the tech generation knows it. On Facebook you can find groups that share your interests, which some teens in small towns before found impossible. The fact that these interactions happen over a computer screen makes no difference to a group of people who have grown up learning how to effectively communicate using this resource.
The relationships of the digital generation of today are not lesser, they're just different. The art of conversation is not the same. But does the generation before us worry about losing such social nuances as standing when ladies enter or introducing the younger to the elder person first? Social development simply develops, and with the loss of old traditions comes the new.
Face-to-face is not obsolete, of course, but all the options available via Facebook and other digital sources allow human relationships to stay strong even when in-person interaction is not possible.
Tiffany Cassidy recently graduated from high school in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada, and is now in her first year of prejournalism studies at the University of Regina. Her favorite sources of digital communication include Facebook and her blog at tiffanycassidy.wordpress.com.
It is impossible to play a game of Ultimate Frisbee with a group of close friends on a warm summer night without getting out of the house. Shopping online cannot compare to raiding thrift stores and flying about fitting rooms in outrageous outfits. And, while you're sitting in front of a computer screen, you are only putting off the first awkward moments with that dream guy or girl.
Being social involves connection, yet people cannot truly connect in cyberspace. Sociability—the ability to connect and relate with others—is measured in a person's response when addressed face to face. A shift to text-based communication and multimedia social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, may have a detrimental effect on social development, and social growth can be stagnant or even reversed unless a child, teenager, or adult socializes face to face.
It is easier to type in lies than to lie to a face. You cannot read tone or facial expressions in a few short lines or a handful of acronyms. Online social networking may encourage dishonesty, especially in younger users, who often lie about their ages to use sites like Facebook or MySpace. And 90% of online daters believe that other daters lie on Internet dating sites, whereas 20% admit to lying themselves, according to a survey conducted by Boston University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The text-based interaction that occurs between the text-based versions of people that they present online does not always reflect the legitimacy of a relationship. When you meet someone through a website, it is often only a filtered version of a stranger or friend. The data show that even people who are comfortable using the Internet to socialize are reluctant to fully trust what they see.
Along with trust, the value of friend-ships or relationships decreases in cyberspace. Although people with healthy relationships in the real world can use networking sites to stay in touch, more often than not, true closeness is lost or nonexistent. If someone with more than 1,000 Facebook "friends" wants to talk to all of them in a day, he or she could spend less than a minute with each. The communication, respect, and trust that a meaningful relationship necessitates can be maintained with only a few close friends at a time.
And for social skills to grow and develop in a friendship or relationship, people need to get out and see each other, hear each other, and actually roll on the floor laughing instead of typing ROFL or JK into an instant messenger. The letters ILY flashing on a screen do not mean the same as the words "I love you" spoken aloud face to face, eye to eye.
The end result is that social networking sites can be isolating. Electronic media may undercut social skills and the ability to recognize
nonverbal cues if people are spending that much time online—time
that could be spent having meaningful experiences sitting next to real flesh-and-blood people.
Jovel Queirolo is a senior at Convent of the Sacred Heart High School in San Francisco. She has a passion for storytelling through a variety of mediums, including articles for her school paper, poetry, short stories, and music.
Check out the ongoing discussion on this topic on L&L's group page on the ISTE Community Ning.
Add your opinion to the mix at www.iste-community.org/group/landl.