Social Interaction and Technology

Due to broken links, the following post has been updated in November 2019.

Just made this post over at The Social Lens: Social Interaction and Technology.

I authored a blog post in early January entitled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. That post addressed the influence of technology on the current generation, using terms to identify the younger generation such as “Wired, Wireless, Mobile, Open, Participatory, and Empowered”.

We tend to have informal conversations in my department from time to time around the use of web 2.0 technologies, particularly Facebook and Twitter. It is obvious, as was reflected in the the Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants post, that there is a very large gap regarding the use of information technology and devices between the younger and older generations in the United States.

Part of those informal discussions we have around our department involve the environment of the classroom versus the environment of the virtual classroom. Does online learning (learning through the internet, using Facebook and Twitter) meet the same standards and achieve the same results as the traditional classroom setting? There are a variety of issues to be addressed regarding online learning, some of which can be found here.

This is a topic of much consideration of faculty and students at varies institutions across the United States, and the world. Taking that notion one step further, if young people are using the internet so frequently, along with social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace (see this report providing indication that teens don’t tend to use Twitter that much), then we begin to need to address this fundamental change in a new form of social interaction, forming new communities.

This is the basis of social networking sites: networking through interaction, encouraging negotiation, communication, and collaboration.

During our informal discussion today, I mentioned the community or personal learning network I had established through my use of Facebook and Twitter. A colleague replied, “But that’s not community.”

Can we have meaningful social interactions without physical appearance? How does current internet technology facilitate better social interaction? Does the technology hinder social relationships? How do the changes wrought by recent technologies differ than say the invention of the telephone? In your opinion, do our relationships benefit or suffer as a result of the use of technology? Can we have community through online interaction?

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