Tim Bryce: The Effect of Social Networking

Tim Bryce: Two studies reinforce our suspicions

As most of you know, I have been monitoring the effects of technology on people for quite some time and blame it for a lot of our problems, particularly the decline of social skills and the rise of violent behavior.  I have read many studies on the subject, the latest of which comes from the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan American think tank and polling organization located in Washington, D.C.

Two of their studies recently caught my attention, “Teens, Technology and Friendships” (Aug 6, 2015), and “Social Media Usage:  2005-2015”(Oct 8th, 2015).  Both studies were concerned with the effect of Internet social networking tools, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, and many others.  Frankly, there is nothing startling in the studies, but they reinforce what we have suspected for a long time, namely our growing addiction to technology.

Although the studies considered all age groups, they found significant changes in teenagers (ages 13-17).  According to the “Friendship” study, “Fully 57% of teens ages 13 to 17 have made a new friend online, with 29% of teens indicating that they have made more than five new friends in online venues.”  They also pointed out boys are more likely to make friends on-line than girls, thanks in large part to Internet based games.

Prior to the advent of personal technology, children made friends in person, either on the playground or ball fields, or in the school yard or classroom.  According to the survey, this has changed radically, “Just 25% of teens spend time with friends in person (outside of school) on a daily basis.”  I would like to believe this is caused by study habits, but I know personal technology is the culprit here.

Although 65% of American adults use social media, 90% of young adults do so regularly.  Further revealing is the fact that higher income households lead the way in using social media as opposed to people in rural areas.

The lesson derived from the two studies should be obvious; we either cannot function without personal technology or prefer communicating through machines as opposed to human contact.  Either way, it means our addiction is growing and our socialization skills are diminishing.  Like I said, we shouldn’t be surprised by all this, but we should remain vigilant particularly as it applies to our children and grandchildren.  Perhaps it is time to devise rules and conditions for the use of technology.  For example, years ago it wasn’t uncommon in a household for parents to set rules for watching television, such as after homework or chores were completed.  Now I think it is time for something stricter.

Keep the Faith!