Are effective communication skills set to die off in the near future? Depends on whom you listen to. Recent studies have concluded â€œnoâ€…except when they say â€œyes.â€ How’s that for clearly articulating a position. At issue is the question of whether electronic methods of human interaction like e-mail, texting, and social media are causing our face-to-face communication skills to deteriorate.
The first answer, from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, is a resounding â€œnoâ€ and quoted below:
“Rather than conflicting with people’s community ties, we find that the Internet fits seamlessly with in-person and phone encounters. With the help of the Internet, people are able to maintain active contact with sizable social networks, even though many of the people in those networks do not live nearby. More, there is media multiplexity: The more that people see each other in person and talk on the phone, the more they use the internet.â€
But on the other hand, the work of Norman Nie and Lutz Ebring (Internet and Society: A Preliminary Report) cautioned that modern media did interfere with effective communication skills. They had the following to say:
“The more time people spend using the Internet, the more they lose contact with their social environment . . .As Internet use grows, Americans report they spend less time with family and friends, shopping in stores or watching television, and more time working for their employers at home – without cutting back their hours in the office. A key find of the study is that the more hours people use the Internet, the less time they spend with real human beings.”
But psychologist Daniel Goleman offers the following insight into what he perceives as an inherent design flaw between our brain circuits and the online world:
“In face-to-face interaction, the brain reads a continual cascade of emotional signs and social cues, instantaneously using them to guide our next move so that the encounter goes well. Much of this social guidance occurs in circuitry centered in the orbitofrontal cortex, a center for empathy. This cortex uses that social scan to help make sure that what we do next will keep the interaction on track . . .But the cortex needs social information – in change in tone of voice,say – to know how to select and channel our impulses. And in e-mail there are no channels for voice, facial expression or other cues from the person who will receive what we say.”
So which is it? Who knows? The argument certainly won’t be resolved here. Sometimes the whole point is simply in raising the question. Is the Internet Age killing your effective communication skills? Hmmm, what do you think?
The Speaking of Wealth Team
Flickr / polandeze