Writing in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Shirley S. Wang reports:
Several recent studies have found that digital communications can lead to more or better friendships, online and off, greater honesty, faster intimacy in relationships and an increased sense of belonging, in addition to practical social benefits like an expanded circle for networking.
… researchers found users expressed a significant amount of empathy online, and that the more time college students spent on Facebook, the more empathy they expressed online and in real life.
It would seem that Facebook and other social media outlets are providing students with a forum of discovery traditionally found within neighborhoods and the broader community. Here they’re learning lessons and truths that were once primarily discovered at home, church, on the playground, inside the classroom or while playing Little League ball. Specifically, through Facebook, the younger generation is being reminded that the world is a big place, with many people and many problems. To put it simply, they are learning via texts, instant messages, status updates and posts of various stripes that life is not all about them.
On many levels, this strikes me as a good thing, but like with anything, a spirit of moderation seems in order. All the research in the world couldn’t convince me that Trent and Troy should bury themselves online and avoid traditional personal contact with friends. Parents would also be wise to tread slowly regarding the fact that online communication produces “faster intimacy in a relationship.” In a purely platonic sense this may be a good thing, but teenagers of the opposite sex are rarely satisfied with mere friendship, or at the very least, are naturally curious about sex and romance.
Not surprisingly, studies have found that shy students are more expressive online, where they feel less intimidated and more socially at ease. Again, a good thing, but even then, it is the wise parent who monitors and remains involved in their child’s life, both online and off.
The article I quoted at the beginning asserts that social media helps kids become better friends, in addition to helping them understand human nature and become more sensitive to the needs of those within their social sphere. Do you agree?