Social Networks Enhance Interpersonal Communications
A Nielsen Wire study notes statistics that illustrate the rise of social media use in recent years. We inherently know that social media use rises each year (from the turn of the 21st century, forward). Every media imaginable reports our use of social media and social networking practices. A Nielsen Wire study report included actual statistics and graphs on the “social media phenomenon” for us visual information processors. I identify this resource because I can personally and easily understand the visual reporting.
We can no longer consider the social media phenomenon a “new thing”. Google, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other sites have been around long enough for an entire generation of people to know nothing except these tools as communications media. That generation is a growing part of the workplace. That generation is making decisions about how the workplace operates and how we communicate within the workplace. That generation—born in 1985 and beyond—will be in decision-making positions before we know it, if not already in their own businesses. When they are decision-makers rather than “just influencers”, the pace of change in the workplace will really take off.
Workplace changes include considering and implementing better use of social networking rather than just asking, “Should we use these tools?” One of the primary advantages of social network tools is the expanded “social” aspect.
Social is different for someone born in 1990 than for someone born in 1950, yet it is the same. Too many articles and blogs note the negatives of social media and social networks.
Let’s look at the positives of “social” in social networks.
- Increased “social”. We connect with people more readily and more easily through social networking tools. For those with self-esteem challenges and those who consider themselves “social wallflowers” or “introverts”, connecting with people on social networks helps them break out of their shells through a keyboard or keypad. There are more connections rather than fewer. We establish more communities over a broader world span. These communities offer more support, greater assistance in times of need, and more-immediate news and information on which we can act (or not!) as a more-informed decision-making society.
- More “self” revealed. Some will say this is a negative development when considering sexting and personal data online. On the positive side, though, we tend to reveal more of our honest feelings to each other online than we do in person. When we release the “stuff” inside us that keeps us tense and uptight, we experience better overall health. We establish tighter relationships that create a stronger social support structure. Realize, however, that a delicate balance must exist between too much information (or too personal for public eyes online), honesty, personal safety, and organizational security. A lot of dishonesty exists in the world. When we make self-revelations, we must do so smartly.
- Greater language skills required. Person-to-person communications involve multiple components of messaging: the words we use, our vocal variety, our body language, movements, and positioning, our facial expressions, listening skills, and more. With social media we have the words we use, emoticons, and only with a webcam do we have visual cues, or a microphone, the audio cues (as of this writing, anyway). The other components of effective interpersonal communications are missing – including immediate feedback and response in many cases. Therefore, our skill with how we choose and use our words must improve in order to make up for the other cues we miss. We must have better command of our language skills.
“Interpersonal” includes being more social, revealing more of ourselves honestly and safely, and using language more effectively. Social networks, when used and managed effectively, allow us to practice our interpersonal communication skills in a laser-focused way. Our challenge is not to hide behind social networks, but to use them to initiate more in-person interaction…positively and safely.