Digital Communication Ruins Interpersonal Conversation

By SARAH DARIAN
On November 19, 2014

Photo courtesy of Johan Larsson, Flickr Creative Commons

Connecting via Facebook, emails, texting and instant messages can fit very conveniently into the fast-paced lives of millions of Americans, but experts say this convenience may come at the cost of closeness in many relationships.

It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of Americans own smartphones and according to engadget.com, “the shift toward mobile is affecting how people spend their time.”

Today, there seems to be a dependency on technology that we are seemingly unaware of, but that inhibits young people from forming physical, intimate relationships with others. New technology has become a standard in our lives that we cannot see ourselves without—and when we do, we experience frustration or withdrawal.

The harsh truth is that your relationships, whether with your significant other, your friends or even your boss, are affected by a constant use of technology and virtual connections should never be a substitute for physical togetherness.

I went on a date with my boyfriend to a hibachi resturant the other night, and one of our relationship rules is that we do not use our cellphones at the table. I think some people forget what quality time actually is—I realized this while observing the people around me on their cellphones, whether to take pictures of their food or check social media.

I am guilty of this myself, but it is alarming that this is becoming all too common. We rely heavily on our smartphone devices, and are too busy recording the memories to post on social media that we forget to experience the moment.

There was a recent YouTube video by Gary Turk that went viral titled “Look Up.” In this poem he speaks about social media participation and how we miss out on life experiences because of the preoccupation we have with our phones or digital devices. 

My favorite line in his poem is: “so look up from your phone, shut down the display, take in your surroundings, make the most of today. Just one real connection is all it can take, to show you the difference that being there can make.”

We seem to forget that the virtual world is not reality, and it begins to slowly ruin our social interaction skills. Text message communication has become the most common way to spark a conversation, regardless of it being the most impersonal and detached form of communication.

We have such a strong reliance hiding in virtual worlds that some of us actually feel awkward when faced with interpersonal communication.

An article on mediabistro.com states: “by focusing so much of our time and psychic energy on these less meaningful relationships, our most important connections will weaken.”

We focus too much of our time on digitized forms of communication that we forget how to interact with others in meaningful ways.

Gary Turk concludes his poem with, “this digital world, we are heard but not seen, where we type as we talk, and read as we chat, where we spend hours together without making eye-contact. So don’t give into a life where you follow the hype, give people your love, don’t give them your ‘like,’ disconnect from the need to be heard and defined, go out into the world, leave distractions behind.”

Take a moment to reflect on your daily interactions and ask yourself if they are based solely on technology. Are they meaningful ways of communicating? It is not too late to put down your phone or tablet and go experience the world.   

sdarian@ramapo.edu

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