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Social media coming between good old fashioned social skills

Students pose for a photo for the Weal newspaper story, 'Social media affects on relationships' on March. 4, 2017. (Photo by Katerina Kotsaftis/SAIT)

Students pose for a photo for the Weal newspaper story, ‘Social media affects on relationships’ on March. 4, 2017. (Photo by Katerina Kotsaftis/SAIT)

The media, which we choose to communicate with, can in turn define the context of the message itself. SAIT students should be careful when choosing how and what they talk about.

We live in a world that is given context every day through multiple small social cues. Inflection of voice, body language, tones, and word choice all play big factors into how we choose to communicate as humans.

The problem is that social media deprives people of all the regular cues used in normal communication. This is where problems can arise. Stripped of all contexts, a message is often given context by the person receiving and by the medium used to send it.

What would it be like to be fired over Snapchat, or asked out on a date through a business letter? It’s a ludicrous notion. Yet for important aspects of our everyday lives students turn to social media and often apply it incorrectly.

Take Tinder for example, a dating service that boasts about being superficial and is geared towards instant gratification of sexual impulse. If the picture makes you warm and fuzzy, you send them your approval, and if it doesn’t you relegate the person to the digital waste bin.

This says a lot about the context Tinder users give to their dating lives and how they choose to communicate that. Having a dating service that reduces courting to a sexual impulse is brilliant. Tinder reduces all the context of dating to the biological, but important social cues are lost along the way.

Lauren Wilson, a student in the anatomy and physiology program at SAIT, doesn’t use social media often because she prefers face-to-face communication.

“You can see their emotions better,” said Wilson.

Out of all her friends, Wilson said she is the only one who doesn’t use Facebook. Although, she does use Snapchat and Instagram to stay in touch with her sister.

This is informal communication sent through an informal medium.

Wilson believes there is great potential to miscommunicate through social media.She has accidently sent messages to the wrong person before and was thankful that the contents were harmless.

These miscommunications gives rise to the argument that most essential communication should be done in person.

Marek Bezak believes that contextual clues give conversation something that social media can’t replicate.

“You can’t feel tone [online],” said Bezak.

“[In person] you can say the same thing three ways with different tones.”

The communication styles are different in how they imply things. In person implications can come from pauses, glances that hold eye contact, a shift in shoulder position, and countless other ways.

Digitally all of that is lost. A pause in text communication could easily be because the other person’s battery died, or could be because they don’t want to continue the conversation.

When communicating with sexual interests over text messages a pause of 15 minutes seems agonizingly long to wait. Often feelings are hurt, and no one is to blame for it.

Tyler Nagel, a journalism, graphic communications and print technology instructor at SAIT, believes in the degrees of intermediation in our social messages. The choice a communicator makes is to what degree that mediation is acceptable.

“Conversation is communication at its purest and anything else risks diluting,” said Nagel.

Nagel believes that the reason written language is often formal is that its medium is useful for removing emotions.

It has to do with the limitation of platforms. Facetime and other video calling services may be the closest thing possible to in-person communication, but even they have their limitations. You can only see what the other person is pointing the camera at, whereas in person you can glean context from everything around you.

“The chief advantage [of social media]is it allows you to speak to the masses,” said Nagel.

“Students most important communication is one on one or to a small group. If they want to communicate in the clearest manner they should do it in person.”

When it comes to the business world this becomes even more costly and dangerous than our private lives and it’s sometimes as simple as a typo.

It has been speculated that a simple missing hyphen in the Mariner-1 space mission may have been the cause of the mission’s failure and cost the United States government $18.5 million in 1963 dollars which when adjusted for inflation is nearly $147, 300, 000 in 2017.

This just demonstrates how easy it is to miscommunicate.

The waters on communication are unclear and students are often ill equipped to understand exactly what they’re doing and how they’re doing it because there are no set rules for digital communication. Choose the medium and the message wisely or risk it being lost, or even worse misunderstood.

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