AccuConferenceAccuConference

Sep
22
2011
Communication Relationship: How Social Media Can Affect Our Skills Maranda Gibson

And What We Can Do To Get Back to the Basics.

Something horrible happened this weekend. I was downtown with a friend having a great time and when she said something funny, I responded by saying, “L-O-L!” My hand clapped over my mouth in shame. What was this? I’m a communications professional and I write about presenting in front of large audiences and now, here I am, busting out “chat speak” in the middle of my conversations. This is an unacceptable influence that texting and social media are having on my communication skills.

I’m almost certain this same influence is bleeding over into my written communication as well. Email correspondence and written letters (yes – I still send things that way) have been effected not only by the dominance of Twitter, SMS messaging, and Facebook in my life, but also in general by my proximity to the computer and smart phone. Things like spelling and punctuation are suddenly less of a concern because something with an artificial brain will now think for me.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln studied a similar phenomenon in regards to the use of calculators in the classroom. A teacher working on their MAT noticed that assessment scores were low for sections on the tests that did not allow the use of calculators and decided to test the theory that technology was taking the students too far from the “basics”. In the end, the teacher found that there was an increase in non-calculator related sections of tests. (It should be noted that her findings were small and didn’t move her to abdicate removal of calculators from the classroom).

Now, I don’t care about math because I’ve never been very good at it, with or without the calculator, but I do care that technology can have detrimental effects on both communication and social skills. And while I support and love the growth of social media – the fact remains that when you find a “new” way of doing things, you forget the “old” ways. (Do you think a five year old would know what to do with a record or an 8-track?) So while you’re Tweeting and texting, take a few moments to keep your communication skills fresh.

  • Write something on paper. Step away from the keyboard. Sometimes, I just can’t help but go old school and write things out on paper. I feel like it helps me to get a better flow when I’m writing and I can always go back and type it later.
  • Make a phone call. If you are at the point where the same question has been asked twice, it’s time to pick up the phone and give your friend a call. There’s a pretty good chance that the person on the other end of the conversation is now inferring your responses with emotions and confusion. It’s time to let your voice take over the communication – a little bit of inflection goes a long way in clearing up the confusion.
  • Read a book. Personally, I prefer the bound with glue and paper kind to unwind and step away from technology, but if you’re going to use an e-reader, make sure it’s a dedicated device (we like the Kindle from Amazon). The reason for this is because you don’t want anything to disrupt you while you’re reading. Using a device like the iPad keeps you exposed to email, Words with Friends updates, and Facebook notifications.

Do you think your communication has been affected by technology? Are you trying to get back to having those basic skills of writing and speaking to others without the technology buffer zone? What kind of tips do you have?

Image Credit to scubasteveo on Flickr.

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