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Are Our Face To Face Social Skills Being Crippled By Social Media?

14/02/2017 12:26

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Image purchased from iStock

Having written my first book in a series, I decided that I wanted to immerse myself once again into this topic of socialising.

I meet people on a regular basis who are very different when socialising online and face to face. So what is it that creates this gap in the ability to socialise within the two contexts?

I think it's a combination of many factors, and I have collated research data to back up my opinions and observations. Why? Because I think this kind of a topic has the potential of getting backs up if people are reading it and assuming I'm talking about them. Yes I have had the odd rant sent to me where people have taken things personally, not a problem, glad to have been of service, they got it off their chests and that's important.


So let's take a look at what's going on with socialising.

The difference between online and face to face socialising has been studied by many psychologists overs the years.

A study carried out by Sanfey et al (2003) analysed the brain processes behind recipients' responses to unfair offers (in which the divider offers 30% or less). It was found that unfair offers made face to face were rejected at a significantly higher rate than offers made by a human via a computer. This reaction suggests that participants had a stronger emotional reaction to unfair offers from humans (face to face) than to the same offers via a computer. Neuroimaging results showed a magnitude of activation in regions of the brain that are known to be involved in negative emotional states, pain and distress was significantly greater for unfair offers made face to face, compared with unfair offers via computer counterparts. Source

Basically, what that shows is that there is less of an emotional buy-in when we are talking to people from behind a screen, it could explain some of the things that are said and shared online and how they come across to the reader.

I do have to add from experience, that as human beings, when we are reading from a screen, how it comes across, i.e. how we interpret it, is dependent on many factors , for example how your day has been, how you are feeling that day (upbeat or rubbish), whether you had an argument or good news...

Other research has found those with higher tendency to socialise online, can become nervous or inapt at socialising face to face. It has also been proven that face to face socialising has better impact and is still the best way to communicate if you are in business.

The Telegraph reported that 1 in 4 of us socialises more online than face to face, the average Brit spends 4.6 hours per week socialising online compared to just 6 hours spent socialising face to face; that's quite a staggering statistic in my opinion. It explains why so many adults claim they are lonely. We as human beings actually need to interact face to face, we need the social contact that comes from going and meeting your mates; yet fewer and fewer people are actually getting it. Source

A study carried out on teens aged 13 to 17 found that the majority of their interactions were online. When they explored whether it affected their ability to socialise face to face this is what the psychologist Carothers found: "... frequent virtual interactions through social media lack emotion, and when coming face-to-face with a person, frequent users of social media may "miss some social cues... quality of [the] relationships may not be as great" as those that are based in face-to-face socialising. A problem that arises from this is that youths may become "confused (about) what an actual friendship is,"
This report does point out some positives to online socialising such as breaking down cultural barriers, keeping in touch with those who you cannot visit frequently (friends and family abroad). Source

Increasingly, you see people at social events with their eyes glued to a smart phone screen, or using their device to film everything that's going on rather than just being in the moment and really experiencing it. It seems it is more important to publicise everything they do, and to look as if they are enjoying themselves rather than really enjoying themselves... this includes a large percentage of adults. Could the skill of 'real' face to face socialising be fading out? I certainly hope not although it is noted in many research documents that people find it difficult and some do not have the skills to confidently socialise face to face.

If you feel that way or you just want to keep face to face socialising alive, read my guide to savvy socialising and start mingling the non-techy way.

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