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Social Media and Its Effects on Interpersonal Communication

Macayla Botelho
Dr. DiManno
Senior Seminar
May 11, 2016

Table of Contents

I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
VII.

Introduction
Highlights/Findings from the Literature Review
Methodology
Findings
Conclusion
References
Annotated Bibliography

I. Introduction
This research paper discussed social media and its affects on
interpersonal communication. This research paper includes the effects

of social media, why it is affecting our social skills and how it may be
destroying our social skills. In todays world, digital technology has
taken over our lives (Fowlkes, 2012, 1). Given that communication
plays a central role in personal relationships and that relationships are
assessed by the communication skills of others it can potentially
impact family relationships, socialization, school performance, and
employment (Drussell, 2012). The immediate access people have to
digital technology, especially cell phones and computers, has an effect
and this topic was worthy of research because face-to-face
communication is important and necessary in peoples daily lives. With
out the ability to use face-to-face communication, our social skills may
be destroyed. This research topic was also worthy of being studied
because social media and its affects on interpersonal communication
has already been brought up as a possible communication crisis and
people should know how it affects their social skills, why it will affect
their social skills, and how it will affect their social skills in the future.
Through research, this study aimed to find out how social media
is affecting kids, students, and adults already and why it is affecting
their interpersonal communication skills, and how it will affect them or
their children in the future. There may also be communication barriers
created because of social media and this research paper discusses the
topics about social media and digital technology and its affects on

interpersonal communication. This research study gathered


information and facts about the effects social media has on face-toface communication and how it affects social skills with people,
especially in this generation.

II. Literature Review


The accessibility of cell phones and social media have greatly
impacted peoples communication skills, more specifically, face-to-face
communication. Social media affects our lives in many ways, face-toface communication being one of the main effects. An article in USA
Today, stated that, Facebook, tweeting, and texting are not only the
prevalent but also the preferred forms of communication for many
college students and young adults today (Fowlkes, 2012, 1). Through
the tools of technology, Society has moved from engaging in face-toface interacting while performing these activities to endeavors that do
not require in-person interacting with others. (Drussell, 2012, 11).
Social media has created different platforms for people to
communicate online and people have developed their own means of
communication between individuals through social media so why would
they want to talk face-to-face? Social media and digital technology are
allowing people to practice communication online rather than face-toface. (Drussell, 2012)

Cellphones filter all areas of our lives. Since people have adapted
to their cell phones and social media and digital technology as a way of
life and a way of communicating, people shield themselves from
external communication with others interpersonally.(Auter, 2007,
141). This affects the way they communicate face-to-face because
people would rather pull out their phone and not say anything at all.
Awkward silence happens but people are okay with it because their cell
phones create that barrier to stop the awkward silence. People take
out their cell phones to shield away that awkward silence and to
distract themselves from actually communicating with others. A
research study by Philip J. Auter from the University of Louisiana at
Lafayette, talked about how social media allows people morality,
efficiency, productivity, and ultimately independence. When people
have their cell phones and a connection to social media at all times, it
gives them the freedom to connect themselves in a different way
rather than connecting face-to-face with other people. Social media
keeps a person busy through a digital device through a screen. This
article also stated, Mobile phone phenomenon is not only changing
how society communicated but even affecting our societal framework
regarding how we define what is acceptable in social spaces (Auter,
2007, 147). There are different situations where people feel compelled
to use their cell phones. Some of the situations may be at a party that

someones friend dragged them to, a time where someone is


surrounded by a lot of people, alone at the lunch table waiting for a
friend, or even just on the morning train ride to work. People feel the
need to pull out their cell phones and check their social media pages
instead of talking face-to-face.
In a magazine article from Social Work Today, Maura Keller wrote
about social media and interpersonal communication and she started
off her article by stating, Glance around a restaurant and youll be
hard-pressed to find people who dont have their heads down using
their cell phones to text, tweet, or update their Facebook statuses-all
while sharing a meal with others at their table (Keller, 2013, 1). Social
media and digital technology is everywhere and this goes to show that
access of social media is easy and accessible to almost everyone,
everywhere. Social medias effect on our ability to interact and
communicate is visible throughout all areas of society. Keller (2013)
quoted Professor, Paul Booth, from DePaul University in Chicago who
stated; social media certainly affects how we engage with one
another across all venues and ages. Keller (2013) also quoted Booth
who stated, There has been a shift in the way we communicate;
rather than face-to-face-interaction, were tending to prefer mediated
communicationwed rather e-mail than meet; wed rather text than
talk on the phone (Keller, 2013, 1). This is not only true because

people are used to using their cell-phones for everything but because
of the fact that its easier and people arent use to face-to-face
communication being a necessity and a social norm now.

Again,

people feel the need to pull out their cell phones when they feel they
may need to interact with someone face-to-face. USA Today wrote an
article on social media and its affects on face-to-face-communication
and wrote about how social media interaction now dominates both
online and offline conversations. With a cell-phone, anyone can make
themselves available to social media to resist the interaction face-toface. Not having face-to-face communication as often as we should
has a negative effect on our social and verbal skills. Our interactions
on social media tend to be weak ties-that is, we dont feel as
personally connected to the people at the other end of the
communication as we do when were face-to-face (Keller, 2013, 1).
Even though one may be communicating more on social media, it does
not mean the relationship is stronger.
When people use social media, they are able to hide behind a
screen. Interaction is different and misinterpretation is implied. Online
communication is different than face-to-face communication and social
media has had an affect on that in many ways. Keller (2013) talked
about Booth and how he stated that there are three key issues
surfacing regarding the role social media now plays in peoples

communication styles. When people are talking on social media, not


only are they hiding behind a screen, but when we communicate
through social media, we tend to trust the people on the other end of
the communication, so our messages tend to be more open (Keller
2013, 1). People may be willing to say more online than in person
because they are able to hide behind a screen and cant see the body
language or facial expressions of the other person. It is easier.
Keller (2013) quoted Booth again and Booth stated that another
issue with social media and its affects on our interpersonal
communication is that our social connections are not strengthened as
much through social media as they are face-to-face, so we dont tend
to deepen our relationships-they tend to exist in the status quo.
(Keller, 2013, 1) In person, face-to-face communication allows a
different type of connectedness. When people communicate face-toface, they can feel the emotion of the person as well as see their facial
expressions and body language. When people send a text, it can be
easily misinterpreted because the factors of facial expression,
emotions expressed and body language are not visible.
A communication theory that fits within this topic of
misinterpretation is the Hypodermic Needle Theory or the Magic Bullet
Theory. This theory suggests that the mass media could influence a
very large group of people directly and uniformly by shooting or

injecting them with appropriate messages designed to trigger a


desired response. (Katz & Lazarsfeld, 1955, 1). In other words, when
communication is sent through social media and technology, no faceto-face communication is experienced. The message a person is
sending to another person via social media can get misinterpreted.
Someone could send a text message, Facebook message, or tweet and
have it mean one thing but the person receiving the message might
interpret it completely different.
Keller (2013) also quoted Booth about how he mentioned that
people tend to follow and interact with people who agree with our
points of view, so we arent getting the same diversity of viewpoints as
weve gotten in the past. On social media, people are able to
communicate with strangers and friends who share the same interests
as one another. They are capable of clicking and exploring their own
interests rather than using face-to-face communication as a way to get
connected on a different but personal level with other people and
people that he or she doesnt know.
Social media is great and people love it but it has affected the
way people communicate face-to-face. Being able to hide behind a
screen can do some damage. Social media has given people the ability
to hurt others. Cyberbullying has become an issue with social media in
the online world because it allows the bully to say what they want on

social media and hide behind a screen. When something is posted on


the Internet, it is almost permanent. Everyone on that social media
network has the ability to see what someone posts. Keller also
mentions Nicholas David Bowman, PhD, Professor of Communication
Studies at Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West Virginia
University. Keller (2012) quoted Bowman who stated, Cyberbullying
has largely the same antecedents and behavioral, emotional, and
affective consequences as does [noncyber] bullyingyet social media
allows for more contact, more communication, and in a more public
manner. If a bully decided to bully someone face-to-face, the person
being bullied can remove himself or herself from the environment, at
least temporarily (Keller, 2013, 1). When online, the bully gets to hide
behind a screen and continuously bully that person. The bullying is
also able to follow the person home when the bullying is online. It will
never go away as long as social media is up and running. What
Bowman is stating is that If we consider that bullyings effects on an
individual can build over time, then there is a real concern that
increasing contact between bullies and their targets in persistent and
digital interactions might exacerbate the problem (Keller, 2013, 1).
The Internet is the biggest community and it can be dangerous.
In an article in Forbes, Susan Tardanico wrote, Awash in
technology, anyone can hide behind the text, the e-mail, the Facebook

post or the tweet, projecting any image they want and creating an
illusion of their choosing (Tardanico, 2012, 1). This doesnt allow
others to receive nonverbal cues and with all the powerful social
technologies at our fingertips, we are more connected-and potentially
more disconnected-than ever before (Tardanico, 2012, 1).
Through research studies and personal experiences, social media
has provided a new set of communication barriers affecting
interpersonal communication. Social media has allowed us to be able
to interact with people 24/7, seven days a week, at our fingertips, with
the worlds largest community, the Internet. As stated, by Susan
Tardanico, in her article, social media has the potential to make us less
social. In todays society, social media and digital technology has taken
over our lives. People know this because social media and digital
technology are everywhere.
In the workspace, adults are around digital technology and social
media all day, which has an impact on their day-to-day communication
and face-to-face communication when they are in and out of work. A
Forbes article talks about how in the workplace the use of electronic
communication has taken over face-to-face and voice-to-voice
communication. Since the workplace consists of electronic
communication there is a lack of comfort with traditional interpersonal
communication among a growing segment of our employee

population (Tardanico, 2012, 1). Workers are constantly


communicating electronically making it hard to communicate face-toface. A New York Times article stated, In todays workplace, young
people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job
wearing earphones (Turkle, 2012, 1). Again, people in todays society
are so use to social media being a distraction to communicating faceto-face and it doesnt go unnoticed. When people show up to the job
wearing headphones, it is a sign of distraction from communicating
face-to-face with someone.
The Forbes article also mentioned that studies show that, These
generations-which will comprise more than 50% of the workforce by
2020- would prefer to use instant messaging or other social media
than stop by an office and talk with someone (Tardanico, 2012, 1).
Social media is easy and instant and it is something people in todays
society are used to as a social norm.
A New York Times article talks about how we live in a
technological universe in which we are always communicating and yet
we have sacrificed conversation. Since almost everyone has a cell
phone or a laptop people at home still feel the need to be on social
media when they are around their families. The New York Times article
states, at home, families sit together, texting and reading email, at
work executives text during board meetingswe text during classes

and when were on dates (Turkle, 2012, 1). Sherry Turkle, the author
of this New York Times Article, studied technologies of mobile
connection and talked to hundreds of people of different ages and
learned that cell phones, that supply us with access to hundreds of
different social media networks, are so powerful that they change our
habits about what we do and who we are.
Turkle wrote that one of her 16-year-old students, who relies on
texting for almost everything, said to her Someday, someday, but
certainly not now, Id like to learn how to have a conversation (Turkle,
2012, 1). Children in this generation are growing up with cell phones
and digital technology that forces them to communicate electronically.
That is why interpersonal communication is lacking when it comes to
being so invested in social media. Social networking relies on
technology and is conducted over specific devices with no presence of
face-to-face interaction, which results in an inability to access
interpersonal behavior and signals to facilitate communication
(Drussel, 2012, 11). Overall, social media and digital technology have
had a huge impact on interpersonal communication and how people of
this generation communicate. Email, Twitter, Facebook, all of these
have their places- in politics, commerce, romance, and friendship but
no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation
(Turkle, 2012, 1). Though social media might be a fun way to connect

with people, face-to-face communication is important and so much


more valuable because of the connection a person has with another
person.

III Methodology: For this research paper, research about social media
and interpersonal communication was searched for in scholarly articles
and journals. During the research process, previous research studies
about social media and interpersonal communication were referenced
and that information was used to support this research paper. In those
research studies, both quantitative and qualitative data were collected
by surveys and those surveys will be used to support this research
paper. An interview will also be conducted to a college student about
how social media affects his or her life on a daily basis. The interview
includes questions about how social media affects her on a daily basis,
how often he or she is on social media, if he or she would rather use
face-to-face communication or social media to communicate. In
addition, an original survey was created specifically for this study.
Using scholarly articles, scholarly journals, previous research studies
with surveys and interviews are the best approaches for this topic
because the information provided through scholarly journals are
accurate facts and facts that have been surveyed from real people. The
methodology used for this research paper was the best approach

because it provided support to the thesis about how social media is


affecting face-to-face communication.

IV. Findings
A research study was conducted by John Drussell at the
University of St. Thomas with a sample of college freshman ages 1819 who were the target population for the research study. The goal of
the study was to accurately represent social networking involvement
and experiences with interpersonal communication in young adults. A
survey was distributed to students 18 and 19 years old and remained
anonymous. A total of 22 students took the survey. One of the first
questions asked was if they own of have access to a cell phone with
texting capability and a computer with the ability to connect to the
Internet. All 22 respondents had cell phones, access to Internet, and
had a Facebook account. (Drussell, 2012, 22).
Next, the survey asked to report on minutes spent each day on
different social networking sites and texting. Texting ranged from 20
minute to three hours with an average of 77.5 minutes. (Drussell,
2012) The survey also showed that the average time spent on
Facebook ranged from zero minutes to four hours. For face-to-face
communication, the range was from zero minutes to two hours. Of
those 22 students surveyed, they spend more time on social media

than face-to-face communication. Another part of the survey


concluded that 36% of people stated that they rely too much on
Facebook to stay in touch with people and that 45% of people carry
on conversations on Facebook rather than talking to someone
(Drussell, 2012, 23). This survey concluded that because of social
media, interpersonal communication is affected. College students
would rather be on Facebook and other social media sites to
communicate rather than use face-to-face communication.

The last part of the survey concluded that some of the participants
agreed that people who rely on social networking are loosing the
ability to talk with others. Also, many people strongly agreed that it is
easy to take things the wrong way over social networking. (Drussell,
2012, 25). This is true because communication over social media
doesnt have the same effects as someone speaking to someone faceto-face. When people are speaking face-to-face they can feel the

emotions and see facial expressions and body language. There is a


more connectedness.
There was another survey conducted by Velga Vevere about the
impact of social media on interpersonal communication patterns. One
of the questions she asked in her survey was Do you think that social
media influences the way we speak and write in our every day lives?
and out of 200 participants, 176 people said yes. The students
surveyed admitted that their online behavior affects their everyday
communication (Vevere, 2014, 135).
When an original survey was conducted, ten students were
asked if they would rather start a conversation with someone they
dont know at a party or go on their phone and 80% said they would
rather go on their phone. Another question that was asked was how
many times do you check your social media accounts such as
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and 90% of the participants said
they check their social media accounts more than 6 times each in an
hour. The need to always feel connected on these social media
networks affects the way people connect face-to-face. Another
question that was asked was if they felt more comfortable contacting
someone via social media or in person and 9 out of the 10 people who
took the survey said they feel more comfortable contacting someone
via social media. The only explanation for this is because all of the

participants are college students who grew up in the generation of


digital technology and social media and thats all they know.
An interview was also conducted to a senior college student and
one of the questions asked was how does social media affect you on a
daily basis? S. Fallon stated, First off, I cant live without my phone. If
I dont have my phone on me I feel lost. Its almost like I am addicted
to social media. I always feel the need to check my social media
accounts to keep up with friends and news (Personal communication,
April 17, 2016). She said that she checks her phone all the time and
randomly out of habit. Even though she could talk face-to-face with
her friends she still feels the need to go online and talk to them. She
also said that when she finds a funny video online or something that
her friends can relate to, she tags them in the video or post instead of
showing them in person. Its easier to just tag my friends in a post
instead of actually showing them. (Personal communication, April 17,
2016). If she showed her friends a video or post in person, she would
experience connectedness with her friends and would be able to see
their reaction. Since todays society consists of social media and digital
technology, it is easier to just tag someone but it definitely affects her
interpersonal communication. Through the surveys and the personal
interview, it has shown that social media does have an effect on
peoples interpersonal communication in different ways.

V. Conclusion
From the findings we can conclude that social media does affect
interpersonal communication. Since this generation is so into social
media and social networking, it is a habit that almost everyone enjoys
and because of that, face-to-face communication is becoming harder
because people are use to communicating through technology. These
findings lead to recommendations for people to put down their cellphones and detach from social media once in a while to experience
face-to-face communication without cell phones at a party or a family
gathering and see how much more connected they feel in that
situation. Disconnecting from social media once in a while can help
people gain confidence in face-to-face communication again and
people will not have to feel the need to take out their cell phone, and
go on social media, for a distraction. This research paper on social
media and interpersonal communication can be useful in the future to
other researchers because this topic has been brought up as a
communication crisis and further research could be conducted to see
how worse this issue is getting and how people can resolve or better
the issue.

VI. References

Auter, P. J. (2007). Portable social groups: Willingness to


communicate, interpersonal communication, and cell phone use
among young adults. Retrieved March 25, 2016 from
https://www.academia.edu/847390/Portable_social_groups_Willi
ngness_to_communicate_interpersonal_communication_gratifica
tions_and_cell_phone_use_among_young_adults

Drussell, J. (2012, May). Social Networking and Interpersonal


Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills Among College
Freshmen. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from
http://sophia.stkate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1021&conte
xt=msw_papers
Fowlkes, J. (2012, October 11). Viewpoint: Why Social Media is
Destroying Our Social Skills. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from
http://college.usatoday.com/2012/10/11/opinion-why-socialmedia-is-destroying-our-social-skills/

Keller, M. (2013, May/June). Social Media and Interpersonal


Communication. Retrieved May 3, 2016, from
http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/051313p10.shtml

Tardanico, S. (2012, April 30). Is Social Media Sabotaging Real


Communication? Retrieved February 28, 2016, from
http://www.forbes.com/sites/susantardanico/2012/04/30/issocial-media-sabotaging-real-communication/#1edfa92c4fd8

Turkle, S. (2012, April 21). The Flight From Conversation. Retrieved


March 15, 2016, from
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/the-flightfrom-conversation.html
Vevere, V. (2015, January 1). IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON
INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION PATTERNS. Retrieved
February 26, 2016, from
http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=735
44af4-cb47-4b77-9636d7fd224c7f28%40sessionmgr104&vid=0&hid=115
Hypodermic Needle Theory. (n.d.). Retrieved April 15, 2016, from
https://www.utwente.nl/cw/theorieenoverzicht/Theory%20Clust
ers/Mass%20Media/Hypodermic_Needle_Theory/
VII. Annotated Bibliography
Vevere, V. (2015, January 1). IMPACT OF SOCIAL MEDIA ON
INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION PATTERNS. Retrieved
February 26, 2016, from

http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=735
44af4-cb47-4b77-9636d7fd224c7f28%40sessionmgr104&vid=0&hid=115
Veveres communication study discusses her survey of college
students and how social media affects their day-to-day
communication when they speak and write. The majority of
students agreed that their online behavior affects their everyday
communication and that they use abbreviations, contractions,
and specific symbols. Her survey also showed that the majority
of students dont think of grammar and punctuation when
sending text messages or on social media, which poses a habit
when writing professional emails. With this research study, I am
able to use her survey and conclusions when discussing how
social media affects interpersonal communication.

Auken, J. V. (n.d.). Four Approaches to Help College Students Develop


Traditional Communication Skils in a Social Media Age. Ebsco
Host, 23-24. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
In this online article, Auken discusses how traditional forms of
communication are no longer the default for students. Social
media has changed how individuals communicate and interact
with each other and Auken talks about some of the effects social

media has on face-to-face communication such as, how people


struggle to navigate the sometimes uncomfortable interactions
that result from dealing with emotions, body language, and
focusing attention on the other person that are inherent in faceto-face communication.

Keller, M. (2013, May/June). Social Media and Interpersonal


Communication. Retrieved May 3, 2016, from
http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/051313p10.shtml
In this journal article, Keller talks about scenarios and key issues
that are surfacing due to the role of social media and how it
affects peoples communication styles. We are not meeting
people face to face as often as we should do and social media
allows for more contact, more communication, in a more public
manner. Keller brings up cyber bullying, it is on the Internet and
people cant just walk away from it as if it were face-to-face.
Social Media is permanent. Keller also talks about social medias
the far-reaching effects, information overload, protecting privacy,
and the future of social media. This article is useful when
discussing social media and its affects on interpersonal
communication.

Fowlkes, J. (2012, October 11). Viewpoint: Why Social Media is


Destroying Our Social Skills. Retrieved February 27, 2016, from
http://college.usatoday.com/2012/10/11/opinion-why-socialmedia-is-destroying-our-social-skills/
In this article, Fowlkes talks about how social media interaction
now dominates both online and offline conversations. Fowlkes
talks about recent research studies and how the more
generations are born into the social age, social media will
continue to be the favored communication among young people
and that may have a longtime affect to their ability to properly
communicate in person with peers. The article continues to talk
about social media versus interpersonal communication and
this will be useful when writing my paper.

Drussell, J. (2012, May). Social Networking and Interpersonal


Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills Among College
Freshmen. Retrieved February 28, 2016, from
http://sophia.stkate.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1021&conte
xt=msw_papers
In Drussels research study, he writes that computers have been
mostly used for interpersonal communication. And in terms of
meaning, communication is the most important use of the

Internet for adolescents. With that being said, Drussel talks


about how the decline of face-to-face interaction will result in
decreased ability to handle real-life conflicts. He goes on to
analyze data from a study of adolescents with close online
relationships and how it showed that there were high amounts of
conflict with their parents as well as low levels of communication
with their parents. Drussels mentions a few other studies that
will also be helpful in discussing how social media affects
interpersonal communication in my paper.

Tardanico, S. (2012, April 30). Is Social Media Sabotaging Real


Communication? Retrieved February 28, 2016, from
http://www.forbes.com/sites/susantardanico/2012/04/30/issocial-media-sabotaging-real-communication/#1edfa92c4fd8
Tardancio writes about how anyone can hide behind a text,
email, a Facebook post or a tweet, projecting any image they
want and creating an illusion of their choosing. The receiver is
receiving nonverbal cues and this makes us less connected to
the conversation. She goes on to talk about the new set of
communication barriers through social media and technology
and this is useful for my paper.