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Not-so-social media What are the benefits of Facebook replacing face-to-face communication?

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We’ve all heard the criticism regarding social media — that, as a generation, we’ve lost the art of conversation and are too self-absorbed and caught up with our social media accounts to connect with each other. I have to disagree. Social media is not inherently restrictive and isolating; it is the way that you choose to use it that determines how you connect with the outside world. You could just as well isolate yourself by immersing yourself in a novel or movie, so why does social media have such a bad rap among older generations?

Contrary to popular belief, we have not lost the art of conversation, we’ve simply come up with new ways to engage in it. I have a few friends who are international students and use platforms like FaceTime and Skype to communicate with family abroad. Just because the conversation occurs through non-traditional media doesn’t mean we shouldn’t embrace the fact that we are able to stay in touch with people miles away.

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Even class assignments make use of social media to improve productivity. Think of how many of your Facebook groups are dedicated to schoolwork. Organizing meetings in person is not always feasible. Of course, in-person interaction is a different experience and does help you form bonds with people you may otherwise forget about after the course is complete. However, the reality is that a commuter student, for example, would benefit from an online meeting through sites such as Facebook or Google Hangouts as opposed to altering his or her schedule. Rather than try to find a different time and potentially cancelling meetings altogether, social media provides flexibility for everyone involved.

I’m not advocating that all contact be limited to social media, because that would really limit our communication. Face-to-face interaction ensures that body language is visible and can be interpreted. It can be difficult to get the same intuitive understanding of how someone is feeling through emojis and text. Despite the fact that video chat is available, it is certainly not perfect. While it is important to be able to communicate effectively in person, why shun technology that works in favour of those who prefer to convey their thoughts through a different medium? Social media not only offers a platform that can accommodate busy and conflicting schedules, but it also serves as a comfortable space for people with more introverted personalities who might prefer to communicate online. At the same time, what social media allows us to share with others is probably one of its most innovative and valuable aspects.

Contrary to popular belief, we have not lost the art of conversation, we’ve simply come up with new ways to engage in it.

We all know what it’s like to have an indescribable experience. When I try to describe my summer vacation to my friends, I tend to repeat how amazing, fantastic and wonderful it was, but those words hardly capture the experience accurately. Social media platforms like Snapchat and YouTube take words out of the equation and make experiences shareable without overusing clichéd terms to attempt to explain them. Conversation is important, and contrary to popular belief, millennials do engage in it. Yet, the traditional conversation is not always the best way to communicate. Social media gives us the means to communicate beyond words and to share experiences as they happen rather than after the fact. At the end of the day, social media does not hinder conversation if it is used appropriately. Rather, it connects us with people in unique and valuable ways and enhances our experiences of the world as we share them with people across the globe.

 

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