If anyone doubts the human craving for interaction with others, they need only to check the number of messages in their electronic “Inbox” and “Sent Items” folders, as well as the details of their latest mobile phone bill. Texting, emailing, and instant messaging have become a way of life. Nonverbal communication has taken on a whole new meaning in this 21st century.
While we can agree that electronic forms of communication offer distinct advantages (e.g., the ability to communicate whenever, wherever, with whomever), there are major disadvantages:
- We’re systematically replacing genuine human interactions with nonverbal (and thereby non-feeling) exchanges.
- We’re avoiding confrontation by allowing inanimate objects to do our “dirty work” for us.
- We’re allowing notifications from our mobile devices to distract us from consistent, quality time with friends and family -- even when these people are in the same room with us!
- “Alone time” is harder to come by because anybody can access us just about any time.
- For reasons that are presently being researched, we are becoming addicted to various forms of instant communication.
The list goes on and on. According to a June 20, 2012 Collegiate Times article entitled “Social media may become the newest addiction”, Eric Jones reports:
“Researchers at the University of Maryland conducted a far-reaching experiment, nick-named "Unplugged," with college students at 12 universities around the world. Students were asked to remove themselves from typical technologies we use every day - cellphones, television, the Internet, iPods, etc. - for a period of 24 hours. After the 24 hours, questionnaires and interviews saw that many students experienced what could be accurately described as withdrawal symptoms - reaching for a phone that wasn't there, experiencing discomfort without access to email and the web, and feeling awkward in silence without television or music.” He goes on to say that one of the afflictions that psychologists are considering as an addition to the next DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is something called “cellphone vibration syndrome” or “phantom cellphone vibration.” He describes this “as a minor affliction in which the person affected constantly feels a vibration in the pocket where their phone is typically held...a compulsive response caused merely by the anticipation of a text message or social network notification.” Desiring communication with others is not unhealthy in and of itself. In fact, it’s a basic human need. It takes an unhealthy turn, however, when the fulfillment of that need comes in the form of words on a screen rather than words communicated through the mouth, eyes, and heart of the person right in front of you.