Is the increased use of social media causing us to become socially isolated? Is it changing the way we interact, resulting in our youth not learning how to communicate face to face? My answer is that I don’t know. There are arguments and studies that argue for both sides. There have been studies that show that social media does cause isolation. People use Facebook and twitter to stay distant. You no longer use the phone to actually have conversations. People can read what others are doing and never actually post or interact. Twitter is 140 characters. Limited interaction. You also see people who are using social media while with other people. I often see kids walking down the street together but at the same time they are using their phones to communicate at the same time. They are together, but they are not together at the same time.
At the same time, social media allows you to stay in touch with people you might lose track of over the years. You continue a relationship that might otherwise have ended. This does not look like it isolates people, in fact quite the opposite. Social media allows people to find others who share interests and have conversations with like-minded individuals who share interests and opinions. This also demonstrates that social media can be seen as a way to broaden our circle of friends and acquaintances which is a far cry from being the cause of social isolation.
It is a hard question to answer. I really don’t know. I see my children as they are growing up in an age that is completely different to when I grew up. They are constantly connected, well the 14 year old is. The 10 year old does not have a phone, so her access is much more limited. However, she wants a phone and wants to be connected. My daughter has a wide network of people she communicates with. But it is not similar to the hours I spent on the phone at 14. She talks to many people at a time, jumping from texting to Facebook to Snapchat to twitter. She Facetimes and so she does have real conversations with some of her friends. She seems to have a lot of contact and friends, however, she goes out less than I did. She talks to all her friends via her electronics instead of going out and meeting at the park. She can talk to them all at once and so they do not need to meet in person. Is this a form of social isolation? Maybe. But bottom line is that she is talking to people and has friends.
I think that it will be interesting to see how this generation evolves and it can be measured in long term studies to see how social media really does affect the way we interact. For now, I think it has changed things, but I am not sure if it is causing negative effects, or we just need to accept that things change, including the way in which we reach out and communicate.