Digital media won’t ruin our social skills, but we must not use it exclusively

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November 4, 2013

11:33 PM

Over the past two decades, communication has changed drastically as people rely more on digital media to stay in touch with others. As people become reliant on digital communication, it is important to remember that it should not be treated as a substitute for communicating in person. Recently, Katie Davis, a digital media scholar at the University of Washington, wrote a book titled “The App Generation,” in which she described a change in social behavior and in identity formation of teenagers in today’s digital age. Davis argues that growing up using digital media and apps forces kids to solidify their identity early on in life.

While digital media may influence the identity of young kids, however, social isolation is a much more relevant and concerning issue today.

Digital media is an undoubtedly beneficial tool for most people, but it can often decrease the face-to-face interactions of the people using it. It is those face-to-face conversations that create empathy and vulnerability in conversations and that help people develop an intimacy that cannot be formed through a phone or computer screen. This is because speaking in person fosters an unspoken dialogue through eye contact and body language, which are just as important as spoken dialogue. Interacting with other humans — not just a screen — is important for any relationship among friends, peers and couples.

Apps and social media do have their benefits, however. They are incredibly convenient for contacting people, for relaying information and for bringing people together. Using social media can even help develop relationships and a personal identity if used correctly. It is a great tool used to stay in touch with others and to express personalities and interests. The important thing is to balance out the use of social media with face-to-face experiences. As college students, we have a priceless opportunity to take advantage of all of the technology at our disposal; we also have the opportunity to see and interact with the people we know almost daily. The College of William and Mary community provides us with an amazing opportunity to discover our identities as adults and express them in person and through digital media. Unfortunately, our time here will not last forever. When we leave, we must remember to continue talking to people in person, and we must not restrict ourselves to the use of digital communication. The intimacies of a conversation simply cannot be portrayed through a phone or a computer screen. While the onset of the digital age is probably not detrimental to our social health, do not let it replace the opportunity to meet others in person or diminish the time you spend with the people to whom you are close.

Email Michael Testa at [email protected]

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