There’s no denying that the past few years have seen an immense rise in technological advancements. And there’s no denying that these advancements have changed our lives, for better or worse.
One aspect of our lives that’s been completely transformed is how we build relationships and communicate with others.
Ever since 2015 when Oxford announced an emoji as their word of the year, the question on everyone’s lips was “How is technology changing human interaction?”.
The answer is not as simple as some might believe. Technology has had an adverse effect on human interaction. Some of it is good, some bad. So, let’s take a look at some of the ways that technology has changed human communication.
A Lack of Empathy
One innately human trait that we might be losing thanks to technology is empathy. Take into consideration cyberbullying, for example. While children have unfortunately been bullied in school since the dawn of time, it seems that the situation is getting worse with the rise of technology.
Over 34% of school kids in the US have experienced cyberbullying. Bullies are becoming more aggressive, hurtful, and are showing a great lack of empathy.
Although the studies are inconclusive, evidence suggests that cyberbullying perpetration is related to low empathy.
This might be due to the fact that these acts aren’t performed face-to-face. In-person communication requires you to analyze the body language and facial expressions of another, and read their emotional response.
This isn’t necessary for online communication and can cause more aggressive behavior and greater apathy.
The Changing Roles in Business & Education
The lack of student empathy can cause problems in classrooms (and later in offices) as well. But the good news is that technology can bring many benefits to schools and businesses.
Incorporation of LMS software into classrooms and offices can bring great relief to some learners, for example. With this technology, learners can study at their own pace and avoid other’s judgment in the process. The greatest benefit here is that educators take the role of mentors and friends.
When used correctly, technology allows teachers to dedicate more of their time to individual students. They’re not the disengaged authority, but rather facilitators of knowledge. Assisting each student if and when that’s needed and building a stronger relationship with them. Student-teacher interaction becomes more personal and emotional.
We can learn a lot about online communication and human interactions through the countless dating sites and apps out there. Regardless of whether you think online dating is good or bad, one thing holds true – it’s very straightforward.
This is actually a good thing. Don’t mistake straightforwardness for bluntness. Straightforward communication is honest and to the point, not to mention that it’s healthy.
Since the internet can provide a veil of anonymity, users can be very open about themselves. They can speak their mind, and share their interests and hobbies with like-minded individuals, all without the fear of being judged.
More Room for Dishonesty
That veil of anonymity just mentioned? Of course, it allows for more honest communication, but it does allow others to be more dishonest as well.
Primarily, people can easily lie about their true identity. This can be very worrisome when you start thinking about cybercriminals, crooks, and other things.
Secondly, it gets easy pretending to be someone you’re not. You can easily enhance your image online, and not just through photoshop. People lie about their interests, hobbies, likes and dislikes, all to seem more appealing to their followers.
Only 18% of men and 19% of women reported that they present a completely accurate reflection of who they are on Facebook, for example. This doesn’t bode well for healthy human communication.
Lack of Self-Censorship
One of the greatest nightmares of PR professionals around the world is the lack of self-censorship on the internet. While in the so-called good old days, all public relations were handled by professionals, a single comment on Twitter can spell disaster for anyone. Be it a famous YouTube influencer or a politician.
While social media can allow users to better engage with their followers and establish a real relationship with them, it can cause trouble. How many apology videos have you recently seen for not-so-thought-out comments and actions online?
Hopefully, this teaches others to think before they post, and stay honest online.
Broadening Your Social Circle
Technology has allowed users to greatly expand their social circles. Chiefly, we have the aforementioned dating apps that can help us find a romantic partner. There are also many apps that can help connect people with similar interests who are looking for nothing more than just a friendship.
If you have to work on your business networking, you can easily find the people you need online. Reconnect with long lost friends, or family members living abroad.
You can easily build your professional and personal social circle. Everyone is available right at your fingertips.
Better Intercultural Communication
While some believe that technology is creating a bigger distance between people, it actually works to bring people together. The internet truly has made the world a smaller place.
Not only can we reach those literally on the other side of the world, but we can also rely on technology to improve intercultural communication.
We can easily learn about the dos and don’ts of another culture. Use numerous language learning apps to improve our interaction. Share our experiences, and so much more.
Effects on Mental Health
Technology can have adverse effects on our mental health. As mentioned, with the lack of face-to-face interaction, we become less empathetic. Seeing our social media friends enjoying the perfect life online can make us feel isolated and jealous. It’s easy to become detached and feel alone.
However, technology can also improve our mental well-being. Connecting with people around the world who share your interests, experiences, and more can make you feel more accepted. You can feel supported and validated.
The Bottom Line
Today, technology and human interaction go hand-in-hand. Technology has had such a huge effect on our communication and relationships. Of course, not all of it is good, but not all of it is bad either.
At the end of the day, it’s all about balance. It’s not about using technology to replace face-to-face communication, but rather about learning how to use technology to improve your real-life interactions with others.