Few things have revolutionized society in recent years than social media. The information age with the development of the internet led to the creation of a robust, dynamic, accessible, and relatively cheap communication medium that took the world by storm. Social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Tiktok, and Snapchat among others boast billions of users and dominance of the globe’s communication. Researchers, however, have been keen on the effects that social media use which has proliferated in the last two decades is having on society. While social media is still a relatively new invention its effects on society and its facets have been profound. While others argue that social media is a force of good, others argue that it poses significant dangers to society. Social media negatively influences social skills as it adversely affects in-person interaction skills, inhibits people’s capacity for empathy, promotes antisocial behavior, and endangers users’ emotional and mental well-being.
Social media negatively affects an individual’s social skills as it inhibits their ability to develop various in-person interaction skills, particularly the use of non-verbal cues. Social media is designed to promote distant communication and this has significantly revolutionized how people communicate. In the past, in-person interactions were the common way of communicating and they had their benefits. The advent and proliferation of social media sites have diminished the need for in-person interactions as people prefer the comfort and ubiquity of social media communication. But how has this preference for social media sites affected the important skills that defined competent in-person interactions? Research for instance has indicated that several skills that defined competent in-person communication have significantly eroded among chronic social media users. Chronic social media users have been shown to have poor eye contact skills. Eye contact is one of the most important non-verbal communication tools and is essential in the establishment and development of human communications. When an individual stares at a screen for extended periods of time, their ability to effectively use eye contact when communicating diminishes hence adversely affecting their social competence. Other than social media use erosive effect on people’s eye contact skills, the habit further erodes other inter-personal communication skills such as the ability to properly use posture and gestures to communicate effectively. This is because social media encourages other modes of communication and hence the individual does not get enough time to practice inter-personal communication leading to the erosion of these vital skills (Twenge). When an individual finds themselves in a setting that demands in-person communication, they are likely to struggle and this could even affect their self-esteem and confidence. Excessive social media use deprives individuals of the in-person communication experience leading to the erosion of significant communication skills that ultimately affects the individual’s social capabilities.
Social media also adversely affects individuals’ social skills as it can lead to the loss of empathy which is a vital social capability for any human being to possess. Excessive social media use means that other forms of socialization are stifled. When an individual spends too much time on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, they barely have time to socialize in person with other people such as friends, family, or schoolmates. This in-person interaction is critical in developing one’s empathy. In-person interaction allows one to connect with others’ feelings by reading their non-verbal cues such as facial expressions, interpreting the tone of their voice, and gauging their level of eye contact. Human emotions often manifest through these non-verbal expressions and the ability to read and empathize with these emotions is an important social skill. The ability to read and empathize with these emotions forms the basis of the establishment of positive relationships with others as empathy fosters trust between people. Empathy is also crucial for the overall well-being of society. Social media use, particularly unhealthy social media use diminishes opportunities for in-person human interaction. It also encourages narcissistic tendencies and inculcates self-promotion among its users. “The continuous bombarding of messages through handheld devices leaves no time for reflection and analysis” (Subramanian 74). Consequently, the thoughts and feelings of others become secondary to the overt social media user’s narcissistic concerns making it impossible for the overt user to forge meaningful relationships with others. Overt social media thus renders the individual socially handicapped because it erodes their empathy and consequently their ability to forge meaningful relationships with others.
Social media also negatively affects an individual’s social skills as it leads to the development of negative social tendencies such as aloofness, deception, and performative presentation. The proliferation of social media to become the premier means of interaction has led to the emergence of novel forms of social capital. One of the trends that have emerged with proliferated social media is the prioritization of optics and individuality over cohesiveness and substance. While it is true that even before social media, there were individuals who scaled the social ladder through the unrepentant pursuit of individuality and relying on optics instead of substance, it is apparent that social media has exacerbated this tendency and even young people are being influenced either directly and indirectly to adopt such behaviors. Because social media promotes individualism, many social media users have brushed aside significant social connections such as family and friends and invested all their social energy in their social media communities. Consequently, they begin to develop aloof behavior since the idea of having in-person friends is no longer entertained as it has become bypassed by online communities. While online communities can be positive, it is vitally important for every individual to have a physical community and enjoy the emotional and social support and collaboration that comes from having people that one can count on in their proximity. Furthermore, social media use has led to increased tendencies of deception. Social media itself does not deceive the user, but the existence of other duplicitous individuals on social media platforms who have no qualms about employing deception to realize their goals to advance their influence poses a significant threat to other social media users. The naïve teenager who is not privy to the machinations and dynamics of social media influence can easily decide to employ similar forms of deception to advance their influence (O’Keeffe et al). Indeed, one look at social media platforms such as Instagram will reveal the pervasion of performative presentations on these social media platforms. People on these platforms only reveal parts of their selves that they believe would be appealing to the social standards established on these platforms and these platforms aid this by offering filters and other tools of obfuscation and manipulation of posts. Those who are influenced can easily adopt this behavior in real life because they have witnessed its success on social media platforms. Consequently, they are left without the ability of honesty which is a crucial social skill.
Social media use can also adversely affect the emotional and psychological well-being of users hence impeding their ability to socialize effectively. One can rarely function socially if their emotional and psychological states are in jeopardy and since social media has been revealed to adversely affect the emotional and psychological wellbeing of individuals it follows that it has adverse effects on individuals’ social skills. Research has indicated that social media use can lead to addiction. As the individual uses social media, the reward system of the brain that releases dopamine when stimulated is activated. Thus, for excessive social media users who feel stimulated when their posts receive many likes or other forms of social media engagement, they are likely to become addicted. Social media addiction just like other addictions is dangerous to the social skills of the individual. Social media addiction incapacitates the social skills of individuals because the individual has time for nothing else except social media. This leads to the destruction of relationships and can even lead to escalated and dangerous social media with the goal of getting stimulated. Other than addiction, social media has also been associated with psychological issues such as depression and anxiety. Studies have shown that “the intensity of the online world is thought to be a factor that may trigger depression in some adolescents” (O’Keeffe et al. 802). The intensity of the online world is because of the perceptions of not fitting in leading to the development of a negative body image. There is also the issue of cyberbullying where users are targeted by trolls with abuses and other forms of harassment and this can dent an individual’s self-esteem. Because the internet is an integral part of contemporary society, failure to succeed on these platforms can have a devastating effect on the psychological and emotional well-being of users, particularly those who are in their formative ages such as teens and young adults. Several studies have shown that overt social media use is correlated with increased suicide deaths and other risky behaviors among teenagers caused by the negative effect that social media has on the minds of its users. When one’s self-esteem, body image, and psychological state are so adversely affected, it is likely that their social skills will be diminished and their ability to succeed socially will be significantly curtailed. Social media has a negative influence on the psychological and emotional; well-being of some users and since these two aspects of an individual are essential to their social skills, social media has an adverse effect on people’s social skills.
Despite these negative effects of social media on individuals’ social skills, others argue that social media can improve a person’s social competence hence on balance it has a positive impact on people’s social skills. Social media has a positive impact on social skills since it offers individuals multiple channels of interaction that they can leverage to improve their social skills. There are many reasons why social media platforms are popular and one of them is that they offer means of human interaction that satisfy most human beings’ communication needs. The reason why social media has overtaken in-person interaction is that it allows people to communicate with other people on a grand scale. Individuals, despite their characters, political inclinations, and philosophical ideologies can always find other people to talk to on social media (Twenge). More than 1 billion different backgrounds can be found on social media at the tap of a button or upon the swiping of a screen. People can therefore connect with people of similar interests from across the world. Social media platforms also offer various means of communicating that surpass the capabilities of other forms of communication such as in-person interaction. For example, Instagram allows people to share photos and videos, host live events, send text messages, and other forms of communication. This allows for more dynamic modes of communication where one has to modify their communication style to suit whoever it is they are interacting with. Consequently, social media users become more adept and various forms of communication, and the process of developing this adeptness comes with an improvement in one’s social skills.
Social media has also led to the eradication of barriers to many social discourses hence creating outlets through which people used to practice their social skills in diverse communication contexts. Before social media, information exchange was mostly limited because of the absence of effective information sharing systems and a gatekeeping culture that prevented outsiders’ access to various social contexts. The advent of social media led to the demolition of this gatekeeping culture. Social media users now had the opportunity to access people and communication contexts of various kinds from sports, politics, and academia among others. Social media also opened inroads to other cultures hence allowing open interaction across the world. This has a positive impact on users since it allows users to be widely informed which is a critical social skill (Bhowmick and Madhu). Furthermore, the elimination of some gatekeepers in the information and communication chain has allowed for greater access to novel communication contexts. Talking to other people in these diverse communication contexts develops the dynamism of one’s social skills. An individual is able to modify their social skills to suit the different communication contexts, hence promoting critical and dialectical thinking which are valuable social skills. The opening up of different cultures also promotes cultural competence among social media users. Social media has led to the creation of diverse communication culture and this allows users to be better informed, and promotes dynamism in communication which requires critical thinking and cultural competence which are all positive additions to an individual’s social skills.
Social media also positively influences social skills since it has developed a niche where every individual can have a voice. Traditional communication methods tended to be restrictive since not all people could access them or use them effectively. Social media platforms on the other hand are easily accessible and easy to use. Every individual can have a voice through social media. One of the groups that are increasingly finding its voice is young people. Keating and Mellis write that “social media may be providing a new outlet for some young adults” in fields such as politics and social justice where previously their voices tended to be stifled by external forces (Keating and Mellis, 877). Social media platforms offer many capabilities that allow each individual to communicate their unique message. There are various communities on social media where one can find that their voice is valued and this boosts their self-esteem and willingness to communicate. Furthermore, the dynamics of social media unlike in-person interaction can allow an individual to measure their words before communicating and hence present the best image of themselves. In this way, social media offers an avenue for people who have difficulties in other communication contexts to express themselves hence allowing them to improve their social skills.
Social media also promotes creativity which is an important social skill. Social media platforms are designed to encourage creativity from their users. Social media platforms typically have many users of different identities. Such an environment is a fertile ground for creativity to thrive. Kylie Peppler and Maria Solomou write that “creativity is a cultural endeavor, shaped and persisted through the actions and values of many people” (Peppler and Solomou 11). Social media offers just this melting pot where different cultures are shared between numerous people. Furthermore, social media features have significantly innovated and innovated, introducing novel functionalities such as those on the TikTok platform which encourage creativity. Users both young and old have to flex their creative muscles to attract and entertain an audience and those who demonstrate their creative talents become market influencers and other social media figures with significant power on the Internet. Social media influencers for instance have to curate their creative content to ensure their individual success and indicate personal responsibility while still playing within the rules of the political economy of social media platforms (Khamis et al 1) Social media platforms thus demand creativity and social media users have no choice but to exercise their creative capacities which overall leads to the improvement of their social skills.
Social media has a negative overall effect on social skills since it erodes in-person skills, and people’s empathy, can lead to the development of adverse social behaviors and it has adverse effects on the emotional and psychological wellbeing of some users. Excessive social media use diminishes in-person communication skills such as eye contact and other nonverbal forms of communication which dents the individual’s social skills. Furthermore, social media can impede an individual’s capacity for empathy since social media does not afford enough chances for genuine emotional connection and this affects a person’s ability to develop healthy relationships with others. Social media can also lead to the development of antisocial behavior such as aloofness and deception among irresponsible users. It also has been associated with emotional and psychological afflictions such as addiction and depression which handicap an individual’s social skills. Despite these adverse effects, social media can also positively affect social skills. It has led to increased socialization through its dynamism, robustness, and accessibility. Social media has also opened up the communication space and its users can use it to develop critical thinking skills and cultural competence which are both positive social skills. Social media has also created opportunities for each individual to find their voice4 and exercise their creativity which allows for the development of social skills. Nevertheless, the harmful effects of social media on social skills threaten the very fabric of society hence overall, social media has an adverse effect on social skills and efforts need to be made to address this reality.
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Keating, Avril, and Gabriella Melis. “Social media and youth political engagement: Preaching to the converted or providing a new voice for youth?.” The British Journal of Politics and International Relations 19.4 (2017): 877-894.
Khamis, Susie, Lawrence Ang, and Raymond Welling. “Self-branding,‘micro-celebrity’and the rise of social media influencers.” Celebrity studies 8.2 (2017): 191-208.
O’Keeffe, Gwenn Schurgin, and Kathleen Clarke-Pearson. “The impact of social media on children, adolescents, and families.” Pediatrics 127.4 (2011): 800-804
Peppler, Kylie A., and Maria Solomou. “Building creativity: Collaborative learning and creativity in social media environments.” On the Horizon (2011)..
Subramanian, Kalpathy Ramaiyer. “Influence of social media in interpersonal communication.” International Journal of Scientific Progress and Research 38.2 (2017): 70-75.
Twenge, Jean M. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic, 19 Mar. 2018, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/.