Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Anybody Wanna Take a Selfie? Thoughts on Social Media and Texting

Oh my gosh...does everyone want to take a selfie with me?

I read an article today (see link below) that brought some raw feelings, as well as some opinions that I decided to blog about. Social Media is a fairly new concept for many of us (i.e. ten years old or less), but to the upcoming generations it is a daily influence. Whether it's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or blogging it is something that the newer generations will continue to use. For starters, I don't want any of my three readers to believe that this is an anti-social media blog. I use social media for my personal and professional life. Over time I have learned which subjects, topics of discussions, or people that I prefer to follow or to have follow me. I have also learned, by sad experience, that the ability to communicate effectively is not supportable by social media.

Many aspects of the human experience and how we communicate are lost in text. It is difficult to convey true emotion and even intention with mere words. Body language, facial expressions, context, mood/affect and much more are lost. There can also be a diminished sense of accountability when using social media as a means to convey opinions or feelings. People tend to be less afraid of conveying their thoughts, no matter the consequence, when there isn't an actual voice behind it. It's easy to write out opinions without worrying about how others might receive it. We tend to believe we are protected because there is no eye-contact with the communication.

However, this can be both helpful and destructive. I once had a client who had experienced severe trauma. She didn't feel comfortable talking about it, so she preferred writing it out in text. After a session of this, she was able to express herself verbally. It created a bridge for her and she was able to work through and resolve a lot of difficult experiences.

On the other hand, I have witnessed how social media and text can be very destructive, particularly with teens. Young teens may not have the social and emotional developmental capacity to judge what is appropriate or inappropriate to say over text or social media. It can lead to unexpected, unwanted, or even purposeful harm to others including bullying, social isolation, and much more. Once again, this is because social media and text can serve as a bridge to communicate things that normally would be very uncomfortable to say to someone's face.

When this is occurring, there is a very simple solution. If you are a parent or caretaker of a young teen, set specific rules and boundaries regarding text and social media use. Make it specific, make it individual to each person, and be consistent with rewards and consequences. Also, monitor  their text and social media use frequently. This is not an invasion of their privacy. They are young adults, not full-fledged adults. Guidance and boundaries will not harm their developmental growth. In fact, research shows that it helps them. Finally, know the applications that your teen is using. Some of them have specific settings that allow them to send direct messages or even quick messages that are deleted after viewing them for only a few seconds. You never know what they're being exposed to.

Well, I think that's all for today...