It is an established fact that we spend a lot of our time interacting with people on social media sites. Many people believe that face-to-face communications are already a thing of past. However, a recent research has reassured that virtual interactions through Social media are unlikely to take the place of face-to-face conversations.
The researchers found no evidence for the proposition that social media reduces face-to-face communication. In fact, the study says, “Social media does not make people feel connected as much as real social interactions do. People still value face-to-face time with those who ought to matter, especially our close friends and family.”
This research debunks the popular belief that use of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter alienates people from friends and family. For the study, published in journal information communication and society, the researchers performed two experiments.
In the first place, they compared data on American youth from 2009 to 2011. This was done to see any decrease in interpersonal contacts that could be correlated with increased social media use. Surprisingly, the researchers found no such relationship. Based on these findings, they concluded that individuals recognize a clear distinction between social interactions and social media.
For the second experiment, the researchers recruited 116 people and texted them five times a day for five consecutive days. Thereafter, querying them each about their use of social media and direct social contacts in the previous 10 minutes.
“What we found was that people’s use of social media had no connection to who they were talking to later that day and what medium they were using to talk,” said Jeffrey Hall, an associate professor from the University of Texas.
“That’s not to say overuse of social media is good. But it’s not bad in the way people think it is,” continues Hall. This clearly shows that social media users are well aware that there’s no substitute for in-person interaction.
In a recent paper published in the journal New Media and Society, Hall details three previous studies.
The first demonstrates that a majority of social media activities consists of passive behaviours. It includes browsing profiles and reading news articles. Such activities are not considered as social interaction. Researchers consider chatting and commenting to be a form social interaction. However, these actions take only 3.5 percent of our time on social sites.
The second study demonstrated that most of the participants’ social interactions with their close friends happened face-to-face. When they did interact with these friends online, it was generally through chats and instant messaging, rather than through passive browsing and liking.
Finally, the third study found that only 2 percent of participants’ interactions are taking place through social media.
“All the three studies circle around the idea that we still prefer face-to-face time with close friends. If we want to have a conversation, we’re not using social media to do it,” said Hall.
Why Will Social Media Never Replace Face-To-Face Interactions?
Even if there is huge growth, value and opportunity in online connections, there will never come a time when direct interactions no longer matter.
Face to face communication is still the most important method of communication. There are no 140 character limits, no hiding behind the screen and most importantly, body language and tone of voice are in play. Nothing beats a good chat over a cup of coffee.
As amazing as the 21st century online world is, it cannot meet the human need for a hug or a handshake. Being touched and touching someone else are fundamental modes of human interaction. When we have important events in life, we gather physically rather than to virtually commemorate them. Weddings, parties, bar mitzvahs, birthdays and even funerals are all occasions when we gather to connect, embrace and provide support to one another.
No matter how good technology becomes, people will always get together physically for certain activities, states Bill Browser, Founder, and President of Noah’s Event Venue.
Even in today’s hyper-connected virtual world, there is still a place for handshakes and business cards. Additionally, surveys have shown that executives and business travellers prefer face-to-face meetings wherever possible. In business, we often hold video conferences or shared screen presentations in lieu of flying or meetings. These options make a lot of sense, create efficiencies and cost savings most of the time. Still, there are occasions when physical attendance is necessary. Estimates say, without in-person assemblies companies would lose over a quarter of their current business.
Hierarchy Of Communication
That is to say, a phone call is better than an email, a text message is better than a tweet and an in-person meeting is better than a video conference.
Meeting face-to-face is the one key to form lasting relationships. Brudney presents some proof based upon the data compiled from his selling experience to support the statement. For one thing, only in-person meetings can exhibit a full range of body language, facial expressions, hand gesture, voice tone, and posture. According to psychology, these nonverbal cues carry 93 percent of meaning in a given interaction.
Most social media interactions, however, rely solely on words. In that case, all the nonverbal cues necessary to properly establish a connection with another individual are absent. No wonder, it’s easy to misinterpret the meaning of social media posts, texts, and emails. Distant meetings are often restrained by miscommunication and lack of emotional context.
According to Forbes, most executives prefer to conduct their meetings in person. Trust and rapport come much more naturally when you’re able to look each other in the eye. It can be argued that personal relationships are much easier to build through in-person interactions than virtual interactions.
As Jeffrey Hall says, “People feel a sense of relatedness when they’re interacting face to face. While using social media does not make them feel connected.” We live in relationships with the support of technology, not relationships borne from technology. In the light of this, it can be concluded that online interactions will never replace offline interactions.