Is social media killing our social skills?

Photo: Getty

As I review the course material and our definitions of social media from our first discussion forum posts, there’s no denying the benefits social media provides. With 2.8 billion people now using social media, we are connected with friends and strangers in communities sharing news, ideas and opinions like never before. We have the choice of what we want to be connected to and social platforms’ constantly evolving algorithms use our data to get to know us better to continually offer a more personalised experience.

The marketer versus the mom in me

As a marketer, I can appreciate that the business potential with social media is huge. Our ability to engage in communities with our customers, listening to and learning more about our audiences to better meet their needs ultimately helps drive the bottom line. But as a mom, while I watch our two teenagers constantly attached to their phones and social networks, and, by default, detached from the people in the room with them, I have to question if this is a good thing. And with our nine year old itching to get a phone of her own so she can get on Snapchat like her brothers, I’m even more concerned.

And it’s not just kids today

I have to acknowledge that this isn’t just a trend with “kids today”. I recently had lunch with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while to catch up. Her phone was on the table for the entire meal, her eyes diverting to it each time an alert popped on the screen. She knew which friend’s house her kids were going to, what projects needed her approval at work, and when the next sale was happening at Nordstrom. All good stuff, but nothing that needed her immediate attention.

Fear of missing out

In reflecting on this, I wondered about the negative impact social media has on our social skills. A quick look on Google turned up reams of articles on the topic. This CNBC article references a recent survey that found 54 percent of millennials experience fear of missing out (FOMO) when not checking social media, with 76 percent of women and 54 percent of men admitting to checking at least 10 times when out with friends. The article also cites a Virginia Tech University report which found that the extent to which our phones divert us from face-to-face interactions actually undermines “the character and depth of these connections.”

All hope is not lost

As I sifted through more links, I was encouraged to find several articles pointing to the many benefits of a social media vacation – a self-imposed hiatus for a specified period of time. Hopefully this is a trend that will catch on.

Have you found yourself in the situation of competing with the phone of a friend, colleague or family member? Share your views on social media making us less social.

 Is social media making us less social? #FOMO

 Can social media actually do more harm than good to your social interactions? Find out why and how you can avoid it.

8 thoughts on “Is social media killing our social skills?

  1. Hi Susan,

    Thank you for your post! A Social Media Holiday! That is very difficult for me to think of doing because I am also one of those people who’s constantly staring at their screen, wanting to check my latest Snapchats, or latest iMessage from my boyfriend, but after reading the article you posted, it’s given me time to reflect a bit. I’m 35 years old and often find that I suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). But with me doing two part-time school courses and working full-time, I already feel like I need a vacation from EVERYTHING! Especially from my Whatsapp and Facebook messenger. It’s constantly going off with work problems, and when I read them, I get anxiety cause I’m not there to fix the problem right away. It’s silly, but I had to do a google search to see if I can mute certain conversations. Your article made me think about setting boundaries for myself when I’m out for social interactions. Next time I go out to eat at a restaurant, I’m going to try to make a conscious effort not to leave my phone on the table, and enjoy some human face to face conversation.

    • Thanks for your feedback. It’s incredible how many of us struggle with disconnecting. Hopefully the more we share strategies to do this, the easier it will become!

  2. Absolutely incredible post and so well written. I completely agree with your stance about how technology removes us from being completely present. I was raised in a household where there was a ‘no phones at the dinner table’ rule and stand by your view of how mentally distracting even the presence of a phone can be when placed in a setting with others. I think that by tolerating the use of phones while in the presence of others, it will just continue to reinforce and normalize the phenomenon that being distracted and not fully present is okay.

  3. Hi Susan. Excellent read! I’m of a very similar mindset as you, as to having different feelings about it. Professionally, having a background with digital marketing myself, you understand how important these things are for business plans and branding, and you see the potential positive side they bring, but from a personal perspective you worry about the amount of time being spent on these platforms and what the overall effect of spending so much time is doing to people. I had been considering a very similar post for a future topic on here, and while searching found this great read at Psychology Today regarding smartphones and social media usage being linked to an increase in depression:

  4. Hi Susan, Thank you for your post. It really articulated many of the same concerns that I share. As a mom to a toddler, I’m very conscious of the amount of time that she sees me on my phone. I want to make sure that she learns that it’s important to be engaged in the moment with the people around you, not just with the community that you’ve built online. We make every effort to leave our phones away from us when she’s around to really reinforce that lesson.

    And to echo your point, to me there’s nothing more frustrating than being out with somebody for dinner or something else, only to see them constantly checking their phone. I do think that a lot of people do this subconsciously, and it has become so natural to have your phone in hand. I tend to think that people need to learn to break this habit, and realize that sometimes it’s ok to miss out on things for a little while and re-engage with those around you.

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