EL PASO, Texas — Facebook is the fastest and easiest way to keep in touch with friends and family but it could also potentially affect social skills development in the younger generations.
“Young adults can have a thousand friends on Facebook and yet they have trouble holding a face-to-face conversation,” said Carolyn Mitchell a Communication professor at the University of Texas at El Paso.
Users have become so accustomed to this type of communication that they’ve forgotten what is like to talk face to face over a cup of coffee. Even during important events such as graduations or funerals, they would rather send their regards through Facebook.
“There’s a disconnect. Sending free e-cards comes as second nature to them because they didn’t grow up knowing the value of sympathy cards or face-to-face interaction,” Mitchell said.
To today’s younger generations, Facebook is a friend, mentor and the social norm. “Younger adults are growing with Facebook. They don’t get to choose because they don’t know. Older adults like me use Facebook as a tool, but younger people don’t have a back-up plan. They are not aware of other ways of doing things,” Mitchell added.
Today, Facebook knows people’s birthdays, interests and important events. Now even Girl Scouts are changing their door-to-door cookie sales to online marketing.
“I think there’s a danger because although I love the immediacy with social networks, you lose the tactical elements in the process,” she said.
Experts are still speculating on whether the full effect of social media is positive or negative. There is still plenty of disagreement.
“Even if they conduct everything online and through their virtual self, the interaction is still social in essence,” said Dr. Kenneth Yang a Communications professor at UTEP focusing on consumer adoption of new information-communications technologies.
“The same arguments have been used by people who said using television will affect… using telephone will lead to… Most of these arguments ignore the facts that users are the one who use media and they will use media to fit their lifestyle and their beliefs what proper social behavior should be,” said Yang.
Still new and growing, Facebook’s possibilities appear to be endless.