Are Facebook, Twitter and Other Social Networks Ruining Millennials?

In an age where your Facebook page is where to find “you” and your Twitter feed represents your thoughts, feelings, interests, and even your best news source, how can millennials even rationalize sending a letter or having a private face-to-face conversation?

Even when people are physically in the same room as one another, they are updating their status, following someone on twitter, texting, sexting, checking their email, googling something someone just said, looking up a video on YouTube, posting a picture they just took – all in between sentences. There is never a moment we are not entertained. We are texting when we should be having one-on-one conversations. Relationships are formed in the social media world without ever physically meeting. Can these distractions ever be effectively muted so as to allow for reflection, reading, or even learning? This multimedia overload is completely redefining human interaction. Replacing in-person conversations with text, email, and social media may completely change the way we interact and understand one another. This constant multitasking and informational overload may also have serious implications on education, including verbal and writing skills in the coming generations.

Over 250 million Americans are currently on Facebook. A study in the journal New Media & Society looks at how young people use social networking to define themselves and their interactions. The “older” millennials tend to have social networking pages that are somewhat mild and centered on their connections with other people, authentic relationships they have made in the “real” world. In contrast, young teenagers seem to be using these sites to create dramatic, creative, and sometimes fantastical identities; and both groups, seem to have no sense of privacy or shame when it comes to their internet identities, almost relishing in whatever activity contains “shock value.” The cyber bullying phenomenon as well as YouTube videos made famous by millions of “dislikes” gives rise to some serious questions. Questions such as the negative impact of relationships and communications, as well as identities, created through these mediums. The social media user feels somewhat “removed,” and thus freer to engage in risky and negative behavior. The increasing communication through technology mediums rather than face-to-face conversations is also reflected in the young adults “texting” obsession.

According to the Pew Internet Project 18-24 year olds are exchanging an average of 55 texts per day and over half of them say they prefer to communicate via text than by voice call. Now considering body language and “nonverbal cues” make up about two-thirds of communication between two speakers, what are the implications here? So much is being lost by this increasing communication through a phone. So much authenticity and emotion is completely removed from these “text” interactions. The ability to perceive, understand and empathize with one another is quickly being phased out and replaced by these cold and impersonal, albeit immediate and dynamic technological messages.

In addition, how will people even relate to literature and education that took place in a time without such basic technology? The wisdom collected on human nature and human folly may become undeletable or perhaps even obsolete, as this technological advancement becomes a societal movement. It may change human interaction and human intimacy, even self expression as we know it. These distractions may also have an effect on education and the absorption of information. As students are sending and receiving hundreds of messages, browsing pages of information and images, simultaneously while “learning” the important information is not sticking with them. Actual learning is being mitigated. The educational information, while supposedly more important, is falling through the cracks amongst such vivid and enticing distractions.

Human relationships seemed to be strained more than ever as the divorce rates go up, reality television is commonly mistaken for reality and college graduates are consistently found to be lacking in the verbal and writing skills necessary for hire. These modern day problems may be the result of the “techno-personalities” of today. Kids are towing their lunch boxes and iPhones to elementary school and “relationships” are legitimized by Facebook statuses. As wonderful as the internet has been in revolutionizing the exchange of ideas, obtaining information, and unifying the world through a medium of communication, it has also brought with it its catch: emotional disconnection among those unified, whether a across the ocean or across the table from one another. It is to be questioned whether this exchange is a worthwhile one. The new generation will have to find ways to maintain their humanity as they are immersed in this technological world.

Photo Credit: kengo