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If you can, I’d like you to do me a favor. Although this is article is directed mostly to pre-teens, teens, and young adults, anyone can try this exercise. I want you to think about all the friends you have. Every single one. Then I want you to think about how often you communicate with those friends.

I want you to think about it really hard. What do you normally do when you come home from school? How do you contact people? If you’re an active person, you probably go out every night, every other night, or at least every weekend. If that’s the case, then how do you get a hold of your friends or peers? What’s the primary method you use for basic communication? I know this sounds stupid, but really think about it.

I bet that most of you reading this article use the telephone, AIM, text messaging, or MySpace to communicate with your peers. I bet that you have about 25 to 50 numbers programmed into your cell phone and a plan that allows unlimited text messages. I bet that you have a “buddy list” on AIM that appears to be almost endless. And I also bet that you have a “tricked-out” MySpace profile with at least 50 to 200 other profiles on your friend’s list.

No, I don’t expect everyone reading this article to have embraced all of those technologies. Some of you have. Some of you only have embraced a few. But I know that there are very few of you (if none), that haven’t embraced any.

And I know that most of you now are thinking; “So what? What’s wrong with that?”

Well, there could be many things wrong with that. I do not mean to bash anyone or any specific technology in this article. I just mean to raise an awareness to something that may be hidden to many people.

Have you ever heard someone tell you that non-verbal communication is far more important then verbal communication? Well, whoever told you that was right. When you’re speaking to someone in person, that person will be able to get a much better idea of who you are by your hairstyle, clothing, cosmetics, fragrance, posture, body movement, facial expressions, gestures, tone, rate, pitch, pauses, silence, spatial cues, and much more. Only a very small percentage of what comes out of your mouth matters.

Now, thinking about that, let’s move down the line. Probably the next form of communication that is the closest to actually being in front of the person is the telephone. While talking on the telephone, you can still pay attention to tone, rate, pitch, pauses, and silences. However, everything else (your hairstyle, clothing, cosmetics, fragrance, posture, body movement, facial expressions, gestures, and spatial cues) is lost through this form of communication.

Next would probably be electronic conversations by using AIM or text messaging. Here, with this form of communication, the only thing that matters is what you type. The other person cannot know your tone, body movement, or appearance. There are about a million different ways to say “hi” in person. However, through AIM or through a text message, every “hi” sounds exactly the same.

Then we move to MySpace (or other social networking sites such as FaceBook). Here, we have people posting images of themselves, blogs, comments, friends’ lists, etc. Although these social networking sites could be a great thing, most people post provocative or altered pictures of themselves, they lie about their age, they write false information about who they are.

You can see where this is going.

Think about it this way: Instead of playing football, you play a football videogame such as Madden. It’s not real football it’s a representation of football. Instead of having a conversation with someone, you use AIM. It’s not a real conversation, it’s a representation of a conversation. Instead of actually going out, meeting new people, and getting to know them in the real world, you use MySpace or FaceBook. It’s not real social networking, it’s just a representation of social networking.

All of these technologies are weakening our social and communication skills as human beings. Wait, let me rephrase that: it’s not the technologies, it’s our laziness that’s allowing these skills to weaken. What are your thoughts?

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