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Has social networking ruined our social skills?

June 17, 2012
By CRAIG HOWELL , Weirton Daily Times

When I was growing up, there were pretty much only three ways to communicate with someone. You either called them on the telephone, wrote them a letter or spoke with them in person.

I didn't have my own email address until college. That's right kids, we didn't have instant access to the Internet and free online communication opportunities in those days.

Then again, we also didn't have a small phone always within reach to text, take photos or shoot video anytime we wanted.

In helping to plan my upcoming high school reunion, our committee decided to use Facebook to get in touch with as many of our classmates as we could. More than half of our class was on the social networking site, so we figured we could cut down some of our costs by sending them the information that way. For those not using the system, we found addresses for many of them and sent invitations the "old-fashioned" way.

But in doing so, another question was brought up. Someone posed the idea that things like Facebook and other social networking utilities had ruined the whole purpose of having a reunion in the first place.

The whole point of a reunion, after all, is for people who have a shared experience (in this case four years at Brooke High School) coming together after an extended absence and reconnecting.

After all, if you can log in to an online site and see what everyone is up to in their lives, is there really any need to get together for a dinner every five years? I can see the point, but I still think it's better to be able to talk to people face-to-face instead of just posting a few comments here or there.

So many of us have just become accustomed to having those resources to sit at a desk or grab your phone and communicate with pretty much anyone you want. Just punch in a few buttons and the message is sent to them almost automatically. And, don't even worry about spelling things incorrectly. Because of text messaging and things like Twitter, you only have so much space so you come up with new ways to abbreviate your wording and still get the message across.

Web cameras and video conferencing just add right to the mix. At least that way, you're actually talking to the person and seeing their face.

It just seems as if we rely so much on these devices and we no longer know how to truly socialize with each other.

I suppose it has just become easier. It's easier to type in a few words and hit send than it is to dial a number and wait for the other person to pick up their phone.

It's easier than getting out a sheet of paper and pen and writing down your thoughts to send through the mail.

It's easier than getting into your car and driving to a restaurant, park or other location and spending time with the other individual.

I've fallen into it myself over the last several years.

I used to detest texting. I never saw the need and didn't bother with it. If I had your number I would call you. I did start using email in college, but that was primarily for people who lived farther away.

I don't think I had texted anyone until a vacation in 2009, using a cell phone I had owned for at least four or five years at the time. It took forever to type in a few words.

Since then, it's become second nature for us to use the technology and websites to communicate.

I'm on Facebook or Twitter pretty much every day. I get text messages from staff members and family, letting me know of assignments or things going on at home.

It was easier to text someone or message them on these sites than to call and talk about our lives.

But through the social networking, I get to learn all about the lives of people I don't see a lot.

I see pictures of their vacations, hear about the big events of their lives, maybe even occasionally comment on some of their thoughts.

We don't even have to be at a computer to do it anymore. With various applications, we can easily comment, follow, like or whatever else from the palm of our hands.

How many of us, though, use those devices to make phone calls like they originally were intended?

There are people who sit in the same room and text, Tweet or whatever with each other. Why not just turn your head and talk?

I'm concerned we will get to a point, in the not too distant future, where people won't be able to communicate with each other unless they are looking at some type of electronic screen.

Future generations may not be able to look each other in the eye and speak to each other.

Societies can only function if people can communicate. Technology is nice to help us out, but it's also not the answer to help us get through everything in our daily lives.

(Howell, a resident of Colliers, is managing editor of The Weirton Daily Times, and can be contacted at or followed on Twitter @CHowellWDT)

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