How Is Social Media Changing Communication?

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Omg wut iz da hwk 4 tmoz?! 

Do you know what this phrase means? 30 years ago anyone writing this phrase would probably be advised to read several books about spelling and grammar and take extra English classes. Today, it is merely a student asking about the homework due in for the next day. 

The way we communicate is constantly changing and evolving. The rapid development of technology has accelerated this in its own way, introducing emojis, abbreviations, text speak and urgency into our communicative tendencies. 

So, how is social media changing communication?

We communicate constantly

Social media allows us to overcome geographical separation when it comes to communication. We can communicate with anyone that we want at any time that we want, with likelihood that they will respond promptly. We are constantly communicating with multiple individuals across multiple social media platforms, even if we are spending time with others. 

We are communicating more than ever, with more people than ever before. 

We have become less social

How many times have you heard older individuals tell you to ‘put the phone down and talk to each other’?

Social media has created a sense of fear of missing out (FOMO), causing us to constantly check our phones for updates, even when we are with our friends. This can deprive us of true connection and communication with those who are sitting in front of us. 

We have become more concise

Character restrictions on social media platforms such as Twitter have made us more conscious of summarising in a concise way. 

Twitter currently allows 280 characters, in the past only 140 were allowed. We all searched for ways to shorten our message, sometimes resorting to the omission of grammatical words and the deletion of particular letters. This also led to the increasing use of abbreviations.

Abbreviations have also been appearing in our spoken language.

Abbreviations

TTYL, omg, rofl, lol, smh… the list of abbreviations is endless. They first came about when phones were introduced, as letters were three to a button and typing time was extremely high. To shorten typing time, people would abbreviate. Their usage slowly decreased once smartphones became popular, resurfacing later on due to character restrictions. 

Whilst there is no right and wrong way of communicating, using abbreviations (particularly in speech) can be viewed as lazy and is highly stigmatized. 

This use of abbreviations can also be linked with our need to be concise and communicate as quickly as possible, a tendency introduced by social media. 

Decline in grammar skills and literacy

As mentioned, abbreviations have begun to appear in our spoken language. Studies show that they are also appearing in our formal written language, with students becoming less able to distinguish between the language suitable for use on social media and the formal Standard English needed for school essays and homework. 

The writing style of adolescents has become increasingly conversational, with phrases such as ‘well, I thought’ appearing in academic writing. So, social media does not only change the way that we speak and interact. It can also affect our writing skills. 

Miscommunication

Conversations on social media do not convey tone, pace, intent or facial expressions. This means that statements can be misinterpreted very easily. To improve this, emojis were created. These little faces gave us slightly more insight into the emotions behind the message. 

However, a great deal of miscommunication still occurs, which affects our relationships with each other and the way that we communicate. 

Urgency to Share

Social media platforms allow us to update our friends and followers of every minute detail or event that occurs in our life, without even moving from the comfortable embrace of our blanket and sofa. They are designed for sharing and engaging. Those who do not post much frequently are unfriended or unfollowed due to inactivity. 

This has created a sense of urgency when it comes to sharing information. We merely cannot resist talking about the latest gossip or the events occuring in our lives. 

Particular Interactions Have Become Easier

Apologies, cancellations, declaring that we are late, in person? Terrifying. On social media? Easy. 

We can hide behind our phones when it comes to these interactions as an easy way out. We have time to craft the message and the other person cannot analyse our true feelings behind the interaction. Sounds perfect.

Social media offers us a barrier to hide behind when it comes to expressing ourselves and carrying out particular interactions, allowing us to bypass feelings of guilt and become more indirect.

This could also be the reason that work presentations and interviews are so terrifying, as we always take the easy way out of direct communication where possible. 

However,

Social media isn’t all bad. It allows us to advocate for change, grow our businesses, discover global events, communicate with those in different time zones and geographical spaces and support those around us. 

We can regain control and communicate more effectively

How can we regain control and consequently communicate more effectively?

Have a Social Media or Technology Detox Day

Dedicate one day to being completely phone free. Visit a park, go for a walk, visit a museum or art gallery, by yourself or with your friends. Immerse yourself in the interaction and technology free lifestyle, just for a day. 

If you enjoyed it, you can increase the amount of detox days in your calendar.

Call your Friends Rather than Messaging them

Use phones for their initial purpose. Talk to your friends and family. Listen to their tone of voice, intent and conviction behind what they are saying. 

Switch off your Phone when with Others 

Take any opportunity that you can to speak to others. Remain truly interested in what your friends have to say and do not be tempted to check your phone while you are with them. If you can’t resist, consider leaving your phone elsewhere. 

So, yes, social media is changing how we interact with each other in ways that we may not even realise. 

We are spending more time on our phones and less time with our friends, however, we are more connected on a day to day basis than ever. Want to check on your cousin in Australia? You can. Avoid checking your phone whilst having lunch with your mother? Not so much.

Social media has changed our priorities when it comes to communication, shifting our focus onto speed, quantity and frequency of information.

So you have a choice. Embrace the inevitable changes, or take measures to overcome the drawbacks.

If you are ready to join the social media revolution to stop data sharing and selling, sign up and support Fourview.

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