Tuesday, June 03, 2014

How new forms of communication may affect youth

What texting has done for youth culture is complex. But early studies are showing that unlike 20 years ago when young people would go out and meet friends at the mall, high school dances, bowling alley, greasy spoons and the like, now they're staying home. The reason of course is that kids don't need to go out to interact with others anymore. They can communicate via texting, Facebook, Snapchat, Skype, etc.

This brings a whole new dynamic to social interaction because you get to stay in the comfort of your own home. You don't have to dress up to go out, you don't have to worry about being bothered or being seen by people you don't like or who intimidate you. Unlike communication with others 'out loud' and 'in the open', where conversations can be scrutinized and overheard, electronic communication is for the most part private and covert. This leads to much more open and uninhibited conversations than would be possible in public. And let's face it, we often find it easier to say things electronically that we might never say face to face. It also means we can say some pretty stupid shit and there's only one other person (per conversation) that can call it out.

This does create a new issue in that youth are becoming accustomed to sheltering themselves from unwanted physical social situations. This makes eventually dealing with face to face meetings quite difficult. It might also created awkwardness when you finally have to physically interact with someone you're attracted to because you've had this non-physical (but still possibly sexual) relationship with someone and now you have to deal with real physical presence with no preparation or practise whatsoever.

Consider the very likely possibility that young people might become used to long-term intimate relationships with others over electronic means, only to be disappointed with the physical reality of the other person once they meet in real life. If this type of situation happens a lot over the course of a young person's early adult life, they might be inclined to forego physical relationships altogether.

[update] My friend Bernie and I were discussing this and he mentioned that youth today have a distinct advantage in how they manage their communications. They could be physically interacting with a group of friends face to face while at the same time clandestinely texting one another with covert subtext, the kind never possible without technology.

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