Technology's Negative Impact on Communication

There are obvious positive effects on society that Internet technologies have such as gathering information at super-fast speeds, easily navigating in foreign areas, purchasing international items, acquiring an education online, and a myriad of others which all possess exceptional benefits.  Though these advances have changed lives and made so many prosperous, how has society been affected by technology in regard to communication?  With increasing statistics of social networking usage, it may seem most people are on the SNS (Social Networking Site) bandwagon using such sites as MySpace, Facebook, Google+,, and hundreds of others to communicate.  In fact, during the 2011 summer months Facebook and Twitter reached record breaking numbers in the visitors on their sites (“Kantar Media Compete Releases Ranking”, 2011).  It is apparent that technology is changing the communication process, but is this a good change?  Human beings are social creatures and communication allows individuals to be part of a social environment.  Communication may be defined as “a social process in which individuals employ symbols to establish and interpret meaning in their environment” (West & Turner, 2007, p. 5).  With the type of impersonal communication experienced through modern technologies, one must question the quality of the symbols used and the effectiveness of modern technological interactions.  Face-to-face communication is decreasing at an extremely rapid rate, yet people seem to be spending several hours a day communicating online.  According to Clifford Stoll, the Internet is a paradox, used for social technology to communicate, yet it declines in social involvement (1999, p. 200).  The Internet allows for global communication and though the benefits are many, the impact it has on communication has negative implications especially for younger generations.  Staggering numbers suggest teens are no longer making face-to-face contact with their peers.  Without close and personal interactions, children are unable to establish trusting friendships (Stout, 2010) which may lay a negative foundation for how they will communicate and maintain relationships as adults.  How effective will they be in adulthood with little understanding and experience with face-to face interactions in childhood?  The increased technological utilization of communicating online has negatively impacted the effectiveness of communication and the quality of meaningful social interactions.

Technological advances in communication have negatively impacted correspondence since it now must be in abbreviated forms with emoticons and acronyms.  Though these technologies allow an easier way to communicate at any time and any place, they are hindering communication skills.  Social interactions have become less formal with no grammatical rules to follow (Edmonds-Brown, 2008).  Apparently, communication technology is enabling an ignorant society.  Constant use of SNSs produces less formal communication utilizing abbreviations, emoticons, and acronyms and such use must have a negative impact on formal communication in business and collegiate settings (Vitak, 2008).  The modern technological form of communicating includes symbols and pictures depicting words and gestures.  This abbreviated manner of communicating appears to resemble that of the Stone Age except now it is typed onto some form of computer instead of drawn on a wall.  In this regard, is communication technology allowing society to move forward or backward?  Using such technologies, people are often misunderstood, closeness is no longer involved with communication, and gestures are not easily communicated other than with the use of emoticons.  These symbols may misrepresent what the messenger is attempting to say.   The translation gets lost in the questionable pictures and symbols people are sending to each other leading to unnecessary drama. 

Children living in this era may not even experience the benefits of face-to-face communication.  They will live a globally interconnected life, but will be negatively affected due to no real contact with the world (“Technology’s Effect on Interpersonal Communication”, 2008).  Exposed to mostly Internet interactions, individuals will experience increased weaker communications replacing real-life activities (Jackson, et al., 2004).  The content of these miniaturized messages lessen the effectiveness of their intentions so the communication is weakened because the messages are weakened.  Modern communication is not personal and meaningful anymore.  Messages are now sent via tweet, text, email, or some other messaging medium.  Important communication no longer needs to be formal.  Take for instance the below cartoon, it is not much of an exaggeration:

(“Technology’s Effect on Interpersonal Communication”, 2008). 

Social experiences are jeopardized, communication skills are declining, and those on the other side of the digital divide are left out because their participation is lacking in communication technology.  These negative impacts are creating ignorant, misunderstood, and isolated individuals in a modern society.  Check out the video below as well as the video page to observe how communication technology has a crippling effect on social interactions. There is also a page with solutions to this communication problem.

~Petrina Bullard~

Dallas Baptist University 

September 2011                                 


YouTube Video