Are We Being Socially Stunted by Social Media?

Social media has graduated from time-passer to must have, and people wonder if internet is making us distant from our loved ones, and from “real” interactions with society.


Since social media graduated from a time-passer to a must have, people have been curious about its effects. The current myth is that the internet is making us distant from our loved ones, and from “real” interactions with society. The Telegraph contributor Kate Bussmann examined the effect of our increasing reliance on social media.

Anyone who has spent an extended period away from friends and loved ones knows the value of communicating over the internet. With the improvement of video calling technology, it’s become easier to keep in touch. In a way VoIP is returning our communication to face-to-face interaction.

“It allows you to have a much faster, richer experience. You see the smile breaking as you tell the joke, whereas jokes notoriously fall flat on email,” Evolutionary Anthropologist and creator of Dunbar’s Number Professor Robin Dunbar told Bussmann.

Even with advances, there has been backlash. The Phone Stacking Game — wherein everyone stacks their phones in the center of the table at dinner, and the first to pick theirs up during the meal has to foot the bill — has gained some traction. People are even telling friends and loved ones to not scoop them on things like baby news, because they want to be the one to rake in all the likes and praise.

What has most people concerned is what always has most people concerned: won’t somebody please think of the children?

“Their self-identities are being shaped by their perception of what’s required of them to be accepted by the outside world,” said psychologist Dr. Jim Taylor, a psychologist. This is largely true of all internet users because everyone wants to project that they have a great life. And with a block feature on almost every network making it easy to insulate yourself online, Taylor suggested stunting the ability of young people to cope with conflict.

Dunbar admits that while this may be a concern now, there’s no real way to tell how it will affect the digital native generation until long-term data is available. It’s not hard to pick moments out of history that fell flat under scrutiny. TV didn’t make us short-sighted. Increasingly we’re seeing data indicating that games like Call Of Duty aren’t harmful to the brain. And the social web won’t turn us into a society of isolationists.

Image credit: Ed Yourdon