|Are social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc ...) an evolving form of communication and allow us to be more connected to those around us, or do they decrease communication skills, and distance us from "real" connections?
This is a topic that I am very interested in, actually focused on it in my masters program and even spent time working in the field. So I definitely have an opinion.
The prompt gives us an "either or" choice and I do not think the options are mutually exclusive. Clearly stated, I believe social media allows us to be more connected however I also believe that many of our communication skills are decreasing lulling us into a false sense of connection that could be distancing us from traditionally defined connections. I view social media as the impetus and vehicle for redefining communication and connections.
I am a fan of most types of social media, believing that this technology has increased our ability to connect to more people, more frequently. However this type of communication creates a different level of connection. Similar to varying strengths of friendships, connections can be defined in degrees. Through Facebook, Zuckerberg redefined the word "friend". Because of social media, my "friends" include the recruit I interviewed for a job, the exchange student my son hosted, the owner of my gym, the forgotten girl who sat next to me in freshman History, and on and on. These "friends" or followers have the ability to see what I am presenting in terms of image, video, update or opinion without the need for geographical proximity or the responsibility of reciprocity. Hell they do not even need to really know me. Therefore social media is making me more connected but again at what level of connection?
As for communication skills, I do believe those skills (traditionally defined) are decreasing. To me the essence of communication is an exchange where both parties are involved. To many, social media becomes more of a platform for exhibitionists and voyeurs. Many people forgot how visible they are and share beyond normal limits. Others watch and read and rarely respond. It's almost Communication Lite; you post a bunch of photos to whoever wants to see them, tweet a random thought or you wish a "friend" Happy Birthday. There is no real depth and limited effort. In my mind, a real connection takes effort and is more personal than a group post to my closest 500 friends/followers. However, non traditional communication skills such as uploading photos, statusing on minut life details and blasting opinions take some ability and those are helped by this mode of communication.
To improve or better your communication skills, you have to use them. Are our written skills getting better by abbreviating everything? IDK. Social media at this technology level, basically ignores verbal skills. Facial expressions and body language cannot be duplicated with emoticons. Most disturbing is the complete lack of opportunity to develop situational awareness.
By itself, social media is just not enough. However, as a supplement or vehicle for our social interactions I would say it is the best use of the internet since mapping.
I could go on and on with this topic as I did not even hit the dangers, legal issues or permanence, but I feel I may lose my audience.