Social media profoundly changed the way we communicate.
Today, talking to someone, regardless of location, is just a click away.
But are the effects purely positive?
We asked 8 experts, how does social media affect communication skills?
Below are their top insights.
Colette Lopane-Capella, M.A., LMHC, LPC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Founder and Director, New Day Vitality Mental Health Counseling PLLC
It affects the ways individuals react to emotions, social cues or nonverbal cues
Social media has some damaging effects on communication skills and unfortunately lasting damaging effects when social media is used in excess or obsessively.
One, it affects the ways individuals react to emotions, social cues or nonverbal cues, as it erases this important aspect of the basis of communication.
Related: The 10 Best Books on Body Language
Secondly, it often elicits this normalized lessen social activity face to face interactions, as individuals will associate social media communication as effective communication and then in hand lessen the likelihood to have face to face interactions.
Lastly, self-esteem and self-confidence are negatively affected often through social media, unrealistic expectations that are viewed, this in hand effects communication skills leaving individuals with negative feelings about themselves and hindering there communicating with others, as internally are struggling and not feeling adequate.
I am a true advocate for being actively conscious of time spent on social media and how it affects you, emotionally, physically and mentally. I also have a recent blog on the effects of social media on mental health.
Be cautious, be aware and for your mental health, ensure you’re having active face-to-face communications. Meaningful interactions.
Body Language Expert | Speaker | Coach, The Body Language Boss
Our face-to-face relationships may suffer
Humans are social creatures. Our brains are hard-wired to seek out and strengthen relationships with members of our tribe. We communicate using multiple channels – outer appearance, voice tone, body language, and finally word choice.
With social media, the vast majority of communicating happens via text and occasional still images. This form of communication is barren compared to the rich signals and complex messaging that occurs in a face-to-face conversation.
Social media is a huge step forward for humanity.
What a blessing it is! But it represents an ever-widening rift between the oldest and youngest professionals in the workforce today.
Many of today’s grandparents and great-grandparents are still living and communicating exactly as they did before the internet revolution – by letter and phone.
But for today’s youngest members of the workforce, there was nothing before the internet – only dinosaurs. For them, social media and text are THE ways to communicate, and they are ill-equipped for the in-depth and complex social rituals that occur in face-to-face interactions.
While social media is brilliant for staying alert and connected to news and networks all across the globe, in my work as a body language expert, I’ve noticed that the more people are invested in their online relationships, the more their face-to-face relationships suffer.
Today’s children have spent far more time looking down at their screens than they have spent in an engaged, face-to-face conversation.
When I speak to a group of 60-80-year old professionals, they know about 80% of what I teach – it’s no big deal. But when I speak to a group of high school students or young millennial professionals, they are shocked by how much information they have been unknowingly sending via body language, and are astounded by how much new information they can begin to interpret, now that they know it’s there.
This new way of seeing the world rumbles through their lives, affecting how they show up to their teachers, job interviewers, parents, friends, and romantic relationships.
It’s all brand new to them because they’re used to social media communication and haven’t been trained in the face-to-face communication skills that they truly need to survive in our world.
You see the exact difference when you walk into the room – the elderly professionals will stand up, make eye contact, smile, and walk over to meet you with a firm handshake and a kind word.
The teenager, on the other hand, will ignore you as long as they can. And when they’re finally forced to notice you, they will stare at the floor, avoid eye contact, and mumble a greeting.
What a huge difference!
Social media is a great tool when it’s paired with solid in-person communication skills.
But for millennials, social media is used instead of solid in-person communication skills, and that puts them at a huge disadvantage in the workplace (and in their romantic relationships).
I encourage you to take stock of your communication skills and compare how they factor online and in the real world. If you have a wealth of online relationships and followers but are friendless and lonely when you put down your phone – you need to strengthen your communication skills and expand your real-life social network.
But, if you have no idea what Snapchat is or how to update your Facebook timeline, then you should probably sit down with your grandkids or the young new intern at work and get this social media thing figured out.
People – especially young people – struggle with in-person communication because they lack practice, and they don’t know the rules.
This makes them anxious, avoidant, and afraid – and it seriously sabotages their social success. Body language training and practicing new conversations will go a long way to resolving this problem and helping young professionals feel confident, charismatic, and comfortable in talking to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
It comes down to this: If you have social media skills without real-life communication skills, then you will struggle in a job interview, struggle in a romantic relationship, and struggle to find friends.
Your online life will always look better and be more satisfying than the life you are actually living. Your life is an empty selfie, with no substance.
But, by developing communication skills and real-life friendships, you will have a thrilling and fulfilling life that will not only give you meaning and purpose but will also make your social media game that much better.
On the other hand, if you have real-life communication skills but no social media skills, then your social network is restricted to the people who are physically living in your area, and you are a dinosaur, slowly marching on towards extinction.
Instead of dying out like the T Rex, you could kindle beautiful and fulfilling new friendships by reconnecting online and developing your social media skills.
How we speak, how we write, how we present ourselves influences what other people think of us. This is not only in the professional and academic arenas; but also within our social and peer group relationships. Our communication skills can take different paths.
We can choose to use the symbols and abbreviations that are constantly changing. We can use social media as a platform to share our passions, causes, joys, and pains.
It is exciting to have the awesome ability to create content that will be shared, shared, and shared again. While this is exhilarating, be cautious with your social media content.
Each small, seemingly insignificant, piece of our being makes up the sum total of who we are — including how we communicate in the real world and in the virtual realms of social media.
Both places are opportunities to make connections and network. In some cases, we are “meeting” a person the first time on social media. We move to cultivate and develop a relationship with those we admire, respect, or those with whom we have commonalities.
But how are these people going to respond to us? They most likely will review who we are on social media before accepting that all-important friend request to make sure, at the very least, that we are indeed “real” and are who we say we are.
In that very brief perusal of your page, hundreds, maybe even thousands, of decisions are made about you: judgments. Right or wrong, your content is being judged.
Use your communication skills to put your best foot forward. This may be the only opportunity you have to be “accepted” or “declined” on social media.
What makes you want to “know, like and trust” a stranger on social media? Is it their ability to present content, spelled correctly, and in proper sentence form? Or is it their use of the latest, greatest in for a minute messaging?
My grandmother told me, “water seeks its own level.” What do you want? Shallow, quick, glib communication? Or deep, thoughtful, prose?
How do you want to influence others? Only you can decide how deep your well (or wealth) of knowledge will be.
Health and Wellness Expert, Maple Holistics
Social media has caused a complete 180 in how we communicate with each other.
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter allow people to broadcast their thoughts, feelings, and milestones to their friends and the general public instantaneously. Sometimes this is a good thing- other times, not so much.
Nowadays, instead of getting a personal text that your friend got engaged, you’re likely to find out from seeing a post of the happy couple. A friend had a baby? You’re probably going to learn all about the child’s weight, name, etc. from a Facebook post.
But social media doesn’t only make things impersonal.
Sometimes it helps people who wouldn’t typically stay in touch feel that they are close. Through the ability to react to posts or like them, send private messages, share political thoughts, mark yourself safe during a disaster, and even just wish each other a happy birthday, social media platforms provide a connection for normal people to be in touch with dozens or even hundreds of people they would have normally lost contact with.
As a middle school teacher, I started to notice a lot of lols and emojis creeping into student communication, online and off.
Additionally, the abbreviated language of social media is becoming the norm for verbal communication too.
When you stop to think about this, it’s really no surprise. After all, today’s youth spend more time online than they do in school or with their families and, often, they have not been taught the proper etiquette to communicate in the spaces where they spend so much time.
This is a topic we address in a middle school program called ‘Cyber Civics.’ Within a unit called ‘Ethical Thinking,’ lessons on proper online and offline communication address how to communicate in all the platforms we use today—texting, social media, email, even ‘real’ life.
By teaching students how to communicate in each space, we can help them avoid the mistakes that sometimes happen—a misinterpreted text message or a face-to-face conversation lacks empathy.
We owe it to our kids to teach them how to communicate properly, online and off.
Health and Wellness Expert, Glacier Wellness
It has a profound impact on how we value ourselves
One of the biggest pitfalls of the Social Media Era is its profound impact on how we value ourselves. Unfortunately, many people seek external approval and validation through arbitrary likes and followers. In practice, it’s no wonder why someone can suffer an existential crisis when these numbers fluctuate.
Ideally, validation has to come from within.
Nobody has the right or ability to determine your value as a person except yourself. As a result, many people put on a facade in social situations, essentially hiding their real selves. They are so afraid of being judged that they feel the need to act as if they are on trial all the time.
Moreover, it’s become nearly impossible to determine how genuine someone is now that social media has become so universal.
I believe that social media has negatively impacted our communications skills in the following ways:
- We have forgotten how to listen to others. Social media outlets are all about us – our successes, achievements, and experiences. We may read our “friends” or “connections” posts, but at the end of the day, it’s all about “me.”
- We have forgotten how to be humble. Rarely do I see posts about negative events or mistakes we’ve made. Since we’re hiding behind a screen and a keyboard, we can inflate our egos without being judged – and can pass judgment others more easily, too.
- We have forgotten how to make eye-to-eye contact. I have noticed how uncomfortable most people become – and also a look of alarm – when I make direct eye contact.
Valerie R. Carter
App Developer, GraceSigns
It has helped us to build a community
As the executive director of a nonprofit organization, GraceSigns, we find that social media has had a tremendous effect on our audience and its ability to communicate.
We create sign language apps with a focus on inclusion.
By having the ability to visually portray signing AND the diverse individuals signing in a very engaging way, opens up our reach and expands the opportunity for people with speech, hearing, physical and intellectual disabilities to express themselves, to be seen, and to be accepted. It has helped us to build a community.