There was once a time when guys had to man up and find the gall to ask out a girl they’ve been eying at the local diner. And yes, the girls would giggle with their group of friends and respectfully decline, or admire the courage of the fellow and accept.
Times have certainly changed.
Facebook, texting, iPads, Twitter and all of these new mediums have changed the way society communicates with each other.
Now when a guy asks out that cute girl he saw in the diner it’s become a matter of finding her on Facebook, adding her, hoping she wants to increase her friend count and trying his best to get to know her virtual self.
Dr. Bennie Green, professor of sociology, is an older man from a lost generation who has observed how students have changed over the years–acknowledging their gradual disconnection with their surroundings.
“There is a lack of interpersonal communication,” Green said. “The span of communication has enhanced, but the depth of communication is lost.”
“I like the old fashion way: talking and discussing,” he added gently. “With face to face communication, someone can become more enlightened. I can see their eyes, their expressions and their gestures.”
According to Green, we have to take into account what we lose with these technological advancements rather than what we gain.
“I can fly a plane from here to New York in about four hours,” Green said, smiling as though he was recalling lost times. “But I missed the smell of nature, the scenery from the road, the pretty blue sky filled with birds soaring overhead–instead I’ll just get clouds.”
It’s true, our digital enhancements have made life much easier. Things go by much faster, we communicate on a much broader scale, but when does this become too much?
Cyndi Walker-Ewert, professor of psychology, explained that the constant advances in technology could actually be harmful to us.
“I think it’s difficult for all of us to adjust every few months to the new way of handling information, friendships, relationships or expectations within a classroom,” she said. “Those who are ‘converters’ want to be the ‘first on the block’ in having the latest version of whatever and they never are completely satisfied because even they realize that something newer will be coming out in a couple of months.”
Walker-Ewert feels that by observing children, society can see how constantly being connected or entertained might hinder a person’s ability to effectively communicate if it is not handled properly.
“Giving them (children) access to games on the internet or other current technology is simply reinforcing the idea of instant gratification and it’s not teaching self-discipline, social skills, moral reasoning, or critical thinking–parents’ jobs.”
“I think it’s important to weight the consequences of so much dependency on technology,” she added. “We’re becoming more accepting of intimacy at a distance and not real intimacy.”
This interactive world, however, is not just full of despair–not everyone abuses it’s power according to Dr. Christine Reiser, professor of anthropology.
“It’s interesting how older generations are getting on Facebook and social media and the way they use it differently, along with technology, than the younger generations do,” she said. “People in their late 40s, 50s, 60s and even 70s are using it to find old friends, and reconnect with people that they lost touch with.”
According to Reiser, many of the younger generation tends to use it as a means of networking or fulfilling some sort of social interaction.
“They (older generation) focus it on reforging connections with people they knew well once,” she explained. “They don’t use it for networking so much, but rebuilding connections that already existed.”
“It’s almost like a perpetual high school class reunion,” she added.
Tina Pomeroy, sociology student of Texas State, admits she’s guilty of overindulging in the internet and social media, but she feels some people take it too far.
“When distant friends ‘like’ stuff or I comment on their stuff, that’s pretty much the extent of our friendship,” she said. “I probably wouldn’t talk to them at all if I saw them around school or whatever.”
Even someone as young as Pomeroy feels Facebook gets in the way of social gatherings with everyone more focused on what is taking place in their virtual worlds.
“I’ve been out with friends who are more worried about tagging themselves so that friends at home know where they’re at,” she said. “They’re even taking pictures and posting them up, so much so that they’re not even really enjoying what we’re doing.”
“When it gets to the point where you forget who you went places with or you rely on social networking to keep in contact with a ‘good’ friend, that’s where people need to back up,” Pomeroy added.