As the generation that has grown up alongside enormous technological advances, is it any surprise that we have more confidence in speaking through an electronic device, rather than face-to-face?
Conversations that we would have had face-to-face ten years ago, we can now have hidden behind a screen. It could be argued that technology now plays an important part of our everyday lives. If there’s a situation we’re wary about dealing with personally, we can now resort to an email, text or even writing it on a social networking site.
Relying on electronic communication makes it easier to avoid awkward situations, but this constant hiding can have a lasting effect. While it might be easier to not deal with our emotions in person, it can have repercussions on your ability to deal with social interaction.
Psychologist, Deborah Smith says: “The effect [of technology] on everyday life is that there is less face to face interaction or chatting on the phone which is more personal than on a site. The overuse of these sites can affect people’s social skills and ability to relate when in direct contact with people – [for example] they may have less awareness of non-verbal cues.”
In days before technology was such a priority in our lives, people would meet up and spend hours catching up with the good, the bad and the funny sides of recent events. This still occurs, but it’s not unusual for people to tell a story, only to be interrupted by a friend saying that they have already seen it on Twitter or Facebook.
Official Facebook statistics say that there are over 800 million active users, with 50% of these people logging onto their account everyday. This is a lot of people who rely on social networking as a part of their daily routine.
While online communication has big benefits, like being able to share photos, connect with friends who have lost contact, and keep up to date with news, it is still a good idea to go out and speak to people in person. Knowing that you can say whatever you want hidden behind technology makes real life situations such as job interviews harder to deal with.
Being able to confront someone electronically and not see their reaction makes it easier for you to say what you really want, whereas in person the likelihood is that you’d probably avoid the situation. However, when it comes to a time when you have to deal with an awkward moment face-to-face, it is likely that your confidence skills will be considerably lower.
When speaking to someone through writing you can think more rationally about what you want to say, but then any attempts at humour or sarcasm can be missed when written in plain black and white. Where is the fun in a conversation when you have to work so hard to understand everything?
Former hairdresser, Tracy Sandford has seen first-hand the differences that technology has had on her daughter, Hannah, 18:
“Hannah always has to be watching her phone 24/7. If someone doesn’t text her back immediately she thinks that they have fallen out with her. Social media gives people the need to know exactly what everyone else is doing, and if you’re not a part of it you feel left out.
“If Hannah wants pocket money, or to ask if she can go out with her friends she will send me a text, even if we are both in the house – the same room even. I’m her mother, not a stranger but she is losing the confidence to do things in person if there is a chance of rejection because it’s easier to be embarrassed behind a screen.”
“It seems that it has become so easy to correspond with another person by tapping on a keyboard or keypad that facing someone and having even the simplest of conversations with them has become daunting. Hannah gets horrified at the thought of ringing a family friend to thank them for a birthday present, but if she could tap out a few letters and press send she wouldn’t see the issue.”
Tracy has noticed that there is a trend in people creating a different persona when they don’t have to deal with confrontation:
“I’ve found it’s not just Hannah, but people in general embellish the truth when they don’t have to deal with the consequences face-to-face. People like to seem more interesting, even to people they have never met. To me it seems that some people may be using these technologies to hide behind and give them false confidence. It’s very easy to say things this way that you wouldn’t say to someone’s face. “
An emotional intelligence coach and blogger at Future Mind Training, Paul Ryder, has been looking at the effect technology has on our confidence and relationships: “7% of what we communicate is words, 37% is roughly tone of voice, and then the rest is body language. So obviously through the internet and text you can’t see what their body language is saying. I think it’s quite damaging, personally.”
Paul predicts trouble in the future if we continue to rely on technology:
“When it comes down to the internet I think it’s a way that we can hide, but eventually life will throw us something we have to deal with. But if were not trained for it we’re in a lot of trouble. The internet is like a drug now. I went into an office the other day and they all scurry around dressed in black, head down, hiding on their phones. So they can’t look at everyone else.
“I think the world we live in now the majority of people hide away in the internet. I think what I would do is actually go to their level of the internet and text. My goal is to create a website, a portal that people can go to and educate them where to go now.”
It is important that we still find time to maintain relationships on a face-to-face basis. If there’s a situation that could be dealt with in person then we need to make an effort and build our confidence. If we carry on relying on an electronic device to speak for us we could find ourselves with reduced confidence skills, resulting in lower prospects from years of allowing technology to take a hold of our lives.