Why Eye Contact Still Matters in the Age of Email

PAN Media

This post is courtesy of Julie Halpert and originally appeared on Mashable.

February 20, 2013

I teach a college level journalism class. Last semester one of my students, unhappy about the grade I gave her on a paper, sent me a scathing email saying she deserved better than a "B" and chastised me for my "scattered and inconsistent edits." I suggested we meet so I could better explain my rationale for her grade. Her next email said she didn't want to waste her time with an appointment talking "about something I can't change."

I responded that other professors would not tolerate this sort of attitude and she should use it as a learning exercise in how to communicate with others, particularly in a professional setting. I doubt she would have had the nerve to articulate such hostility in a face-to-face meeting. In fact, after sending the emails, she was perfectly pleasant in class.

I'm fairly certain this student exemplifies a generation of young people who inevitably will find themselves shortchanged by spending so much time communicating in writing, in front of computer screens, which has become the norm.

According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of all teens are now online, with 63% of them reporting that texting is their primary form of communication; 20% won't even talk on a land line. As the first generation to experience social media, there's growing concern about the impacts.

One recent study, by Jean Twenge, author of The Narcissism Epidemic, finds that the extensive amounts of time college students spend on social networking sites leads to narcissism. Other experts say that's not the only downside. They fear that this generation of young people will grow up with communication skills so stunted, it will significantly impact the quality of their adult lives.

It's always been true that children have the sense that they are the center of attention, says Elizabeth K. Englander, a professor of psychology at Bridgewater State University. "Social media has enhanced that sense."

Feeling that everyone is watching them, it may make it more difficult to take risks — even positive risks like a particular kind of job — since if the risk fails, it will be visible to everyone. She feels a reliance on texts instead of face-to-face communication will lead to impeded communication skills. A text can't convey the subtle cues, like facial expressions, body language and tone of voice that can be used to better understand someone's feelings. "It means you have less practice when growing up at reading subtle cues," she says. That can have a great deal of impact into adulthood, since learning to read those kinds of cues is critically important in communication. Some young people may realize the impact this is having and develop those skills in college or after they graduate, but some won't ever figure it out, she says.

Continue reading on Mashable...

PAN Recommended Content:

influencer marketing

Subscribe to our newsletter