Oh boy, it’s been a long week. I know it’s only Monday, but I feel like my week began and ended today. I had a rough draft of my final research proposal for my communication research methods class due tonight. It was basically the culmination of the entire semester’s worth of learning, and I wasn’t as organized as I thought I was going in to writing it. Although I have been ruminating all semester on what I would like to research–the idea that a lot of online socializing may adversely impact a person’s ability to develop social skills necessary for appropriate face-to-face interactions. I’ve been noticing in the last few years that a lot of students I see on campus seem to have awkward social skills, namely they seem unsure of HOW to interact. They stand too close or too far away; they don’t answer questions posed to them, or answer in a voice so low it’s hard to hear; they don’t know when a conversation is over, so they often just hover around as if waiting to be dismissed. I asked my kids what they thought and they both agreed. Even in their peer groups, they see issues. Bree said some of her friends don’t make eye contact when they talk; they’re unsure of how to end conversations and they’re hesitant on how to even start them. She said sometimes people don’t even turn to look at each other. Emma said she’s pretty sure most of her friends would admit that they lack social skills, but they’re not even sure how to fix it. Of course, as a communications major, I’m fascinated by this. And as I watch just about everyone around me (myself included) constantly checking social networking sites, I can’t help but think that our fascination with communicating via technology is partly to blame. After all, most of what we post online with sites such as Facebook or Twitter are mere snippets of information, often carefully planned ahead of time to sound clever or amusing. Snapchat, Tumblr, and Instagram don’t even require words to communicate, just a good picture and maybe a caption if we’re not too lazy. And even texting or chatting online is abbreviated conversation; oftentimes, words themselves are abbreviated, and if we don’t like the conversation, we can delete it or ignore it without having to excuse ourselves or look someone in the eye. None of this translates well to face to face interaction. And we have whole generations of folks who have grown up or will grow up communicating this way. One of the biggest areas I can see the decline in social skills really impacting people is on the job. Unless we enter a future where all work is done electronically, we’re going to meet up with people offline. And somehow need to work together. Soft skills competence is something a lot of managers look for when hiring because they know its harder to teach than technical aspects of the job. They’d much rather hire someone who is already competent.
I could go on–for at least ten pages, which is how long my paper ended up today (18 if you count the reference pages and appendix, ugh). Although that was about 4 pages shy of what I need for my final draft that is due in a couple of weeks. And while I know I have a bit more work to do, I’m super thankful I got done what I did. I can’t wait for the feedback. I love writing, but sometimes, it’s darn hard.