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Technology Affecting Interpersonal Communication Essay

Melissa Nilles
Arts & Entertainment Editor

Photo by Andrea Rodriguez

I had a terrible nightmare the other night. Instead of meeting for a quick cup of coffee, my friend and I spent 30 minutes texting back and forth about our day. After that, instead of going in to talk to my professor during his office hours, I emailed him from home with my question. Because of this, he never got to know who I was, even though he would have been a great source for a letter of recommendation if he had. I ignored a cute guy at the bus stop asking me the time because I was busy responding to a text. And I spent far too much time on Facebook trying to catch up with my 1000+ “friends,” most of whom I rarely see, and whose meaning sadly seems to dispel even more as the sheer number of “connections” I’ve made grows.

Oh wait, that wasn’t a dream. This technological detachment is becoming today’s reality.

Little by little, Internet and mobile technology seems to be subtly destroying the meaningfulness of interactions we have with others, disconnecting us from the world around us, and leading to an imminent sense of isolation in today’s society. Instead of spending time in person with friends, we just call, text or instant message them. It may seem simpler, but we ultimately end up seeing our friends face to face a lot less. Ten texts can’t even begin to equal an hour spent chatting with a friend over lunch. And a smiley-face emoticon is cute, but it could never replace the ear-splitting grin and smiling eyes of one of your best friends. Face time is important, people. We need to see each other.

This doesn’t just apply to our friends; it applies to the world around us. It should come as no surprise that face-to-face interaction is proven by studies to comfort us and provide us with some important sense of well-being, whether it’s with friends or friendly cashiers in the checkout line of Albertson’s. That’s actually the motivation behind Albertson’s decision last year to take all of the self-checkout lanes out of its stores: an eerie lack of human contact.

There’s something intangibly real and valuable about talking with someone face to face. This is significant for friends, partners, potential employers, and other recurring people that make up your everyday world. That person becomes an important existing human connection, not just someone whose disembodied text voice pops up on your cell phone, iPad or computer screen.

It seems we have more extended connections than ever in this digital world, which can be great for networking, if it’s used right. The sad fact of the matter is that most of us don’t. It’s too hard to keep up with 1000 friends, let alone 200. At that point, do we even remember their names? We need to start prizing the meaning of quality in our connections, not sheer quantity.

One of my best friends from my hometown has 2,241 Facebook friends. Sure, her posts get a ton of feedback, but when I asked her about the quality of those relationships, she said to me that she really has few friends that she can trust and spend time with happily. Using a strange conundrum like this as a constructive example, we should consider pruning our rampant online connections at the very least.

Past evolutionary psychology research by British anthropologist and psychologist Robin Dunbar has revealed that people are actually limited to a certain number of stable, supportive connections with others in their social network: roughly 150. Furthermore, recent follow-up research by Cornell University’s Bruno Goncalves used Twitter data to show that despite the current ability to connect with vast amounts of people via the Internet, a person can still only truly maintain a friendship with a maximum of 100 to 200 real friends in their social network.

While technology has allowed us some means of social connection that would have never been possible before, and has allowed us to maintain long-distance friendships that would have otherwise probably fallen by the wayside, the fact remains that it is causing ourselves to spread ourselves too thin, as well as slowly ruining the quality of social interaction that we all need as human beings.

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So what are we doing with 3000 friends on the Internet? Why are we texting all the time? Seems like a big waste of time to me. Let’s spend more time together with our friends. Let’s make the relationships that count last, and not rely on technology to do the job for us.

An Overview of the Overall Impact of Technology on Communication

The impact of technology has both positive and negative sides. However, logically thinking, technology has bettered the communication process and has done some harm. We discuss the overall impact of technology on communication.
The development of technology has considerably improved our lifestyle. It has made its impact felt on each and every aspect of life, including communication techniques. The development of communication has seen huge progress; from symbols to the latest swanky mobiles! Each century has seen a new addition to the ever-growing list of means of communication. The invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in the year 1875 was the first technological invention that impacted communication in humans to a massive extent. Other subsequent inventions like that of the Internet, cell phone, etc., further eased and changed the world of communication.
Effects of Technology on Communication
Everything has a positive and negative impact, and the impact of technology on the communication process also comes as a mixed bag. In this article, we will discuss the impact of popular technological elements like emails, telephones, cell phones, etc. Mobiles and the Internet are literally basic necessities these days. A majority of us would feel something missing in life, if there were no mobiles or Internet (Agree?).

Take the daily routine of a person in this tech-savvy world. The day begins with a "good morning message" on a mobile app and ends with a "goodnight" on the same app. The social networking apps/sites are, like a virtual world! The incessant use of mobiles and the Internet for communication, use modes like online chats, emails, teleconferencing, video conferencing, networking sites, etc., among other tools. Mobiles, emails, and social networking sites are the most popular means of communication among the current generation.
Technology has transformed the once big and far world into a tiny global village. Thanks to technology, we now have the power to communicate with anybody anywhere in the world. The points below summarize these benefits.
No Communication Barriers
With technology, communication is easy; even in cases when you want to convey something urgently to someone, mobiles and emails come in handy. Technology has made it easy to keep in touch with old contacts, and has strengthened relationships. Finding a date was never so easy, thanks to the dating and chatting websites! Technology is behind the success of long-distance relationships. Video chats and social networking sites have played a big role in keeping people in touch.
Better Development Solutions
Technology has brought the world closer and promoted exchange of thoughts to find better solutions to any problem. Advancements in the modes of communication have promoted faster decision-making, and led to the development and progress of the world. Most businesses depend on technology for communication. For example, video-conferencing has made it possible to give the best education to students via expert faculty on the web.
The most prominent negative effect of technology - the charm of the good old world is missing. The letters, and lengthy face-to-face conversations have gone away, and have been replaced by texting or chatting.
Negative Impact of Technology on Interpersonal Communication
The current generation lacks essential interpersonal skills (the ability to express the ideas and thoughts to others, face-to-face). A major reason for this is the increased frequency of communication through texting and chatting on websites. This has an effect on nonverbal communication as well. Technological means have also affected nonverbal communication. Lack of face-to-face interaction has reduced the nonverbal grasping power of individuals.
Technology Weakens Family Relations
Many teenagers are always hooked to the social networking sites. They are closer to online friends, but the gap between parents and kids has increased considerably. Communication is lacking, as parents are not techno-savvy to the communication styles of the kids, increasing the generation gap. Consider socializing among people. Life has changed a lot; very few social meetings and get-togethers are held these days. People are more bothered about their online life, than their real social life.
Unlawful Use and Addiction to Technology
Modern communication technology has led to many problems. People have become addicted to the Internet and cell phones, and this has led to many anxiety disorders. People addicted to the Internet feel lonely and isolated. Many people abuse social networking sites and communicate with unsuspecting victims pretending to be someone else. This tendency has done more harm than good.
As you can see technological communication is a double-edged sword. It all depends on how we use these means; use the technological means of communication for sane purposes, and don't abuse them for malicious motives.

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