Social Networking and the Degradation of Social Skills

Social Networking as an idea and study has been in existence for several decades, but only in more recent times has this been actively participated in by hundreds of millions of users in every country. Facebook, MySpace, , Friendster, LinkedIn, Flickr, Orkut and Twitter all boast huge numbers of members from multiple countries. Facebook is now a general purpose social networking site that started as a specialized site for university and college students and instructors. LinkedIn caters more towards business professionals looking for opportunities to expand their professional social circles. However, while their number of friends has increased and the amount of messages, tweets, pokes, adds and other forms of online networking gestures grow, some believe that certain real-world social skills are being dropped in favor of more technologically friendly methods. Social networking has both increased and decreased real social interaction.

So Many Friends!

Never before have so many people had so many friends. It is hard to deny that the ability to find people with similar interests, tastes and beliefs is amazing. One can join countless groups, fan clubs and discussion boards on each of the social networking websites and spend all day chatting and messaging users with similar interests. And many people do just this. Suddenly, one’s voice can be heard regardless of if he speaks the loudest in a group discussion.

Does having 2,647 friends make one feel more loved or supported? For many it apparently does, as membership in social networking giant Facebook, has reached more than a third of a billion users. If one chose to, they could talk to someone in nearly every country in the world in one day.

You Look Familiar

It is becoming more and more common that people find out about their friends through updates on social networking websites. On the occasion that they actually meet face to face, internet friends often catch up with each other by referring to things they have read on these websites. The ability to successfully communicate face to face has declined. While most do not wish to return to olden days where one’s ability to talk eloquently was an essential social skill, being able to engage in interesting conversation has decreased with the emergence of social networking websites.

While social networking has brought the world to the discussion table, many feel that social skills have in turn degraded. Perhaps it is best when people use these sites to initiate real friendships which they can maintain with occasional face to face meetings.

Risk Aversion

Many analysts of social networking websites have noted that the main difference between face to face discussion and internet based communication is the amount of risk involved in both. When you physically meet someone, there are several things going on. Verbal communication and nonverbal communication such as body language and tone of voice are all involved and it is a delicate process. One risks rejection or ridicule when presenting his ideas in front of people. In contrast, those who use social networking sites as their main communication platform greatly lower their risk of being rejected or scrutinized. They can more directly create an image for themselves than they can when physically meeting others.

One may want to utilize the benefits of being able to meet a large number of people with similar interests. However, it is important to maintain one’s ability to actually speak and communicate effectively in the company of humans.

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