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October 29, 2012

Is Social Media Improving Social Skills? A Look at Communication Today

Everyone is connected, or so it seems. After all, there are more mobile devices (4.8 billion) than toothbrushes (4.2 billion) on the planet, according to Mindjumpers.

Social media occupies a central place in today’s communication. Yet, is it a tool that creates connectedness – or superficiality?

Tools of the Baby Boomers

A quick review of yesterday’s tools reveals many that seem outdated today: greeting and handwritten cards, landline phones (even phone booths), and a larger focus on in-person communications.

Some of these tools and previous focuses have been undeniably altered by today’s tools. Items like handwritten cards have been abandoned, at least in the mainstream. Technology has altered all of these items.

Even with the baby boomer generation, there has been a development that has greatly affected communication and socialization in society.

The Emergence of the Cell Phone

While cellphones first appeared in the 1940s, it is safe to say the devices gained widespread appeal in the ’80s and ’90s. Their development in the following decades increased convenience and usability, along with “today’s” technologies, the most notable being text messaging.

Even in their early stages, cellphones gave users a taste of the convenience of enhanced connectedness. The emergence of the cellphone was a precursor to more modern methods of communication.

While early cellphones can be classified as tools of yesterday, clearly the devices have since been paired with more modern communication methods such as text messaging and Internet connectivity. They have been taken much further today, with the availability of free cell phones and impressive, eye-opening features.

Today’s Tools

The tools of today – Smartphones and feature phones, tablets, laptops and netbooks, blogs, and apps – are powerful, varied and suitable for just about any platform you can imagine. From personal to business use, the drastic increase in connectivity has altered today’s communication methods greatly.

The International Telecommunications Union reports that a mobile operator in Estonia created the world’s first mobile identification service. Citizens were able to cast a vote in parliamentary elections in 2011 on a mobile phone, illustrating yet another use for today’s technology.

On a more basic level, many people rely heavily on these methods of communication. Social media, text messaging, and e-mail, most notably, have greatly changed society. It’s easier to stay in touch – but is that a good thing?

Is Social Media Superior?

Social media drives today’s society. It’s difficult to find a website or any mobile device without this type of integration. Businesses are even using it internally, as one case study provides impressive results of its integration. Of course, the focus of social media is on “social” use in today’s culture.

It is possible – even easy – for social media to be a crutch. As with any tool, though, social media must be used in the right away to avoid superficiality and over reliance.

Social media has the ability to improve social skills and connectedness. However, users must be careful not to forget the tools of yesterday that still maintain certain advantages – aside from the phone booths, of course.

Shaun Chatman is a freelance writer by night and a gym trainer in the day. Happily married and a father of two gregarious kids, Shaun lives in Dunedin, FL, and spends his free time playing with his kids or watching or playing sports. You can connect with him here.