With the rise of the Internet and smartphones, breaking news has become most accessible through a small device you slip into your pocket or a laptop that you carry around in a book bag. With a single click, students can be filled in on their weekend plans, results from elections and their class schedule for the day.
“I watch it every day. Students come out of classrooms and don’t talk to each other anymore,” Rupert Nacoste, professor of psychology, said. “They are looking down at a phone and literally will walk up the hall without looking at anybody.”
With that kind of access to digital information, it is no surprise that smartphones, laptops and social networking prompt such compulsive use. The question remains if this is just a convenience or if technology in the digital age has taken away the ability of young teens and adults to communicate with people face to face.
According to a study by the Pew Research Center, the number of those using social networking sites nearly doubled from 2008 to 2011. With the surge of popularity and trends being set in social media, it became difficult for researchers to keep up with interactions and changes over the Internet.
With Facebook being one of the most popular social networking sites currently available to students and adults, the rise in communicating through this site and meeting new people online has caused social interactions to change.
“A lot of research indicates that we can’t continue to think about online-offline divisions anymore,” Elizabeth Craig, assistant professor of communication, said. “We have generations where technology has been readily available to people at a young age. Mobile technologies have been integrated into everyday living. There is no longer a divide for who you are online and who you are offline.”
Nacoste believes that in the digital age teens and young adults are growing up in, communication and interaction has decreased in quality.
“The interdependence theory that I follow says that the essence of any interpersonal relationship is face-to-face interaction,” Nacoste said. “Anything that is not face-to-face has less impact on the people trying to develop a relationship or maintain a relationship. Socializing over technology loosens the ties as opposed to bringing people together.”
Contrary to Nacoste’s beliefs that technology is hindering interactions between people, Craig believes technology has become part of how people interact.
“The technology is embedded in how we are maintaining our relationships and there is no real separation between face-to-face interaction and technology,” Craig said. “I would argue against the idea that there are no deep-level relationships formed through technology. We have a lot of relationships supplemented through the use of technology and are creating deeper relationships for us.”
Craig believes that the problem with communicating in the digital age is the ramifications and consequences that can come out of communication gone wrong over the Internet.
With the Snapchat app, you can send a picture to someone for up to 10 seconds and then it is supposedly deleted forever. Craig is distressed by the fact that people believe they are sending pictures under the guise of privacy.
“Even though the photos are deleted, screenshots can be taken or if the photo isn’t opened, you can hook your phone up to your computer and download the unopened photos,” Craig said. “Social media is not quite as private as many users may believe. Psychological or personal harm can result from people turning private communication through texting, such as sexting, into a public thing on popular social media sites.”
For college students, it is becoming essential to remain up-to-date with the latest apps and technology. Whether the argument is for or against the use of social media and technology to interact with others, there is no denying its growth in popularity.
“The most basic fundamental thing that we do in life is interact with other people, so we want that to be authentic, don’t we?” Nacoste said. “If you don’t learn how to do that at the [college] age, you will be crippled in life.”