The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Social skills stunted by technology

It is nearly impossible these days go anywhere in the United States and not witness someone attached to some sort of technology.

Americans are plugged in more than ever, with iPod headphones in their ears to block out the world around them and BlackBerries glued to their palms.

Although these gadgets seem harmless, they may be having greater impact on everyday life than most people are aware.

Since technology has ushered in a new way to communicate, everyday social skills and interactions have been affected.
In some cases, many may not know how to communicate without depending on their keypads.

Graduate student Dadiana Lopez recently worked on a research paper about the addictions of technology and found the dramatic effects they have on the generation of people between the ages of 14-24 years old to be curious.

“People are becoming more socially awkward, and they do not know how to hold conversations,” said Lopez. “Instead of calling you, they would text message. There are no more water cooler conversations.”

Elisa Fitsum, a sophomore, admits that she relies on texting to relay much of her communication to others.

“When I don’t know someone that well, or don’t relate to them, I’d rather text them,” said Fitsum. “I only like talking to someone I have a deeper connection with, like my best friend.”

At the end of 2009, Twitter had more than 75 million users on its Web site. This is just one of the growing social networking sites that have become a regular staple in the everyday ways we communicate. It has even spilled over into the work force.

According to, 10 percent of corporate companies have taken disciplinary actions towards employees that have violated social networking policies.
Sociology professor Dr. Judith DeSena has noticed students being immersed in their own technology, even when they are supposed to be engaging in a learning environment.

“On my walk up to my office, everybody is at a window by themselves on their machines,” said DeSena. “On the other hand, maybe they would have been completely alone, not interacting with anyone if not on their machine.”

Social networking sites were created to keep people in touch with others to form better friendships. But in some cases, friendship may not be the key reason.

Lopez said, “It starts like any other habit starts. On Facebook you put up a picture, people comment, and it feeds the ego. It allows people to be able to constantly communicate to feed their ego, and to feel needed.”

Like with many other habits, DeSena said, it takes realizing that one has developed this dependence in order to remedy the situation.

“When someone develops a habit, they have to come to the realization of it, and know that this is not the time for this technology,” said DeSena.

With technology not going away anytime soon, the main issue that may need to be resolved is how people use the technology and integrate it with others.

“It is going to be detrimental to students once they move onto their career,” said Lopez. “There are no conversations, since everything is electronic. Having to talk to people is going to become harder for us.”

DeSena said that social networking is a double-edged sword.

“There are benefits to technology and all of the interconnectedness,” said DeSena. “But there are also costs, if one gets so sucked in that they cannot let go.”

So is there really a way to relearn how to function in life without constantly being plugged in to some form of technology 24-7?
It seems that it is possible with a strong amount of will power and self reflection.

Lopez offers the advice to “stop the texting, take breaks. Limit the use of Facebook and all of these outlets.”

For DeSena, the etiquette of technology needs to be addressed.

“I think it really depends on what we develop as norms around this stuff, and that we need to think about appropriate uses,” she said.

“When you go into a classroom, turn them off. When you’re together with family, should your nose be in your BlackBerry?”

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