Posted by: Anne | October 11, 2014

drop the mask: don’t hide behind the screen

Is Social Media Sabotaging Real Communication?

On a crisp Friday afternoon, [a mom] exchanged text messages with her daughter who was in college. They ‘chatted’ back and forth, mom asking how things were going and daughter answering with positive statements followed by emoticons showing smiles, b-i-g smiles and hearts. Happiness.

Later that night, her daughter attempted suicide.

In the days that followed, it came to light that she’d been holed up in her dorm room, crying and showing signs of depression — a completely different reality from the one that she conveyed in texts, Facebook posts and tweets.

As human beings, our only real method of connection is through authentic communication. Studies show that only 7% of communication is based on the written or verbal word. A whopping 93% is based on nonverbal body language. Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when “I’m fine” doesn’t mean they’re fine at all…

This is where social media gets dicey.

Awash in technology, anyone can hide behind the text, the e-mail, the Facebook post or the tweet, projecting any image they want and creating an illusion of their choosing. And without the ability to receive nonverbal cues, their audiences are none the wiser.

This presents an unprecedented paradox. With all the powerful social technologies at our fingertips, we are more connected – and potentially more disconnected – than ever before.

[W]e are interacting at breakneck speed and frequency through social media. But are we really communicating? With 93% of our communication context stripped away, we are now attempting to forge relationships and make decisions based on phrases. Abbreviations. Snippets. Emoticons. Which may or may not be accurate representations of the truth.

Signs That You’re Hiding Behind Social Media

* When You Have a Really Bad Day, You Log On First Rather Than Call a Friend. If your go-to move is logging on to a website for comfort, you’ll be misled into believing that the level of support you receive there (in the form of notes or likes) is real. What “real” means here is that it is genuine and from a friend who will then take that note you’ve left online and do something with it: pray about you, send a snail mail letter to cheer, take you out for a cup of coffee, or call you to see how you’re doing.

What happens more often is a friend will hit “like” when you’re grousing, or even make a comment about how sorry they are for your bad day, but then go about their business and forget about it. It’s human nature. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that social media sets us up for an illusion that we are nurturing our friendships just by logging on. And we aren’t.

* You’re Lonely But Afraid to Admit It. There is a stigma that exists with loneliness these days that we need to extinguish. The stigma is that if you’re lonely, there must be something wrong with you. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is, loneliness can hit anyone for different reasons, and you should not be embarrassed to admit it.

A New Set of Communication Barriers

[B]ecause most business communication is now done via e-mails, texts, instant messaging, intranets, blogs, websites and other technology-enabled media – sans body language – the potential for misinterpretation is growing. Rushed and stressed, people often do not take the time to consider the nuances of their writing. Conflicts explode over a tone of an e-mail. When someone writes a text in all capital letters, does it mean they’re yelling? Are one- or two-word responses a sign that the person doesn’t want to engage? On the flip side, does a smiley face or an acknowledgement of agreement really mean they’re bought in and aligned? Conclusions are drawn on frighteningly little information.

Social technologies have broken the barriers of space and time, enabling us to interact 24/7 with more people than ever before. But like any revolutionary concept, it has spawned a set of new barriers and threats. Is the focus now on communication quantity versus quality? Superficiality versus authenticity? In an ironic twist, social media has the potential to make us less social; a surrogate for the real thing. For it to be a truly effective communication vehicle, all parties bear a responsibility to be genuine, accurate, and not allow it to replace human contact altogether.

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