A Teen Speaks: Is Social Networking Damaging Our Social Skills?

“Guess what I saw on Facebook last night?” The most popular question of the decade amongst today’s teenagers is laced with rhetoric because really, the person asking it doesn’t want an answer. They just want to be able to tell their story, their little piece of trivial information concerning a status they saw, or a photo they looked at or an inbox message they received. At my school, it’s Facebook. At others it may be MySpace, or Twitter, or whatever other social networking site is the must-be-seen-on for that month, but ultimately they all work the same way.

This question, said more like a comment, is possibly the most common conversation opener used in high schools. Rarely is a conversation with more than three exchanges heard without at least one mention of online communication. It seems that after the polite “Hi, how are you?”, teenagers desperately return to the topic of Facebook, or similar, and their online ‘friends’. Either that or there was nothing interesting on Facebook that night to talk about, so the conversation dies out. One of the two.

Sure, social networking has taken over the world in a way that nobody could have possibly predicted, but is this really what the world has come to? Seriously? If the majority of teenagers resort to talking about talking, even if it is online communication, something’s gone seriously wrong. Where on Earth have our social skills been hidden? I, for one, would like them returned as soon as possible, please.

Personally, I don’t find talking about social networking interesting. I’d much rather be having a chat about the upcoming party or last night’s netball game or something in real life, than what some ignorant, young brat with too much time on their hands said to another ignorant, young brat. I mean, sure Facebook is fun and it is a great way to communicate, but when I am unable to have a single conversation without hearing a reference to it, I become slightly annoyed. Surely our lives have not become so boring that we have nothing else to talk about.

Not only is it irritating that many teens cannot go for longer than ten minutes without checking their Facebook pages before having withdrawal symptoms, but it is even more frustrating when they can’t even go half as long as this without mentioning the site. What is this saying about our generation? With our whole social lives revolving online, some people seem to think that there is no longer a need for exceptional social skills away from the World Wide Web. I differ greatly. It is true that while people are young and at high school they may be able to get through life with fragmented sentences, abbreviated words and mere grunts if they can’t be bothered speaking, but what happens when they leave the security of the school yard? When they’re meeting a possible employer and can’t construct a proper sentence let alone participate in a whole verbal conversation without mentioning a LMFAO or WTF? I, as a seventeen year old, honestly believe that social networking is having an impact on the social skills of today’s youth and am worried about the effect it will have for my friends and peers in terms of employment. Employers, even of small, local supermarkets, are still looking for people who can speak adequately. They can’t afford to get a bad name because they have staff that swear at customers or can’t be understood or huff and puff when they don’t want to talk.

And this is in the actual workplace. Don’t forget about job applications and resumes. Teenagers that submit applications with spelling and grammatical errors are unlikely to be considered for even the most simple of jobs, because while our standards of verbal etiquette seem to be going down in general, the demand for jobs and expectations of quality staff members seem to be rising. So much business work is done online now and many people forget that e-mails are just another way to learn about someone else. Employers want respect in all forms of communication; if you wouldn’t call them ‘bud’ or ‘babe’ in real life, don’t do it through an e-mail or text message. Save that for your friends. Teenagers are forgetting that their online profiles can be seen by more than just their mates. While calling someone names or swearing profusely may be seen as the norm when online, I can guarantee the majority of employers won’t find it very cool.

The fact of the matter is that social networking is affecting all aspects of our lives, whether we like it or not. There is evidence that the social skills of modern teenagers are declining and I, myself, have experienced it first-hand. In terms of employment, it may just be our downfall. Just because social networking is the ‘in’ thing doesn’t mean we have to talk about it and our online ‘friends’ constantly. It might just be time to pull back slightly from the online world to have a proper conversation with your real friends, that is if you still remember them. Spelling and grammar should not be forgotten or taken for granted. Your skills in these fields just may be the difference between you and another candidate when applying for a job. It’s great that teenagers have made their own language and style of communicating, but this isn’t going to help us against standard communication. In my final year of high school, it’s time to think ahead and return to the world of properly constructed sentences, semi-colons and small talk. In the end it will be cooler to have a proper job and a proper salary than it will be to have the most online friends. After all, having more online friends than real-life-see-in person friends isn’t cool. It’s plain sad.

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