Social media has permeated society to become an integral aspect of interaction between people. Barely an hour, let alone a day, can pass for some millennials without glancing at Twitter or scrolling through their Facebook feed. Many argue that this shift in favor of digital interaction diminishes in-person encounters and impacts social skills in general. A recent article in The Atlantic, written by a teacher, begs to differ.
The author of the piece, California teacher Andrew Simmons, claims that the prevalence of social media in the lives of his students have improved their writing as opposed to the more common argument that emojis and text-speak has decimated the generation’s knowledge of the English language. Simmons focuses not on grammar or style, however, but on his students’ ability to open up emotionally in their writing.
He argues that before social media became popular, students — and specifically, young male students — were influenced mainly by pop culture icons who projected a masculine image. That, coupled with general expectations of masculinity and strength fostered by society, encouraged these students to keep any vulnerable feelings to themselves. With the advent of social media, however, expressing oneself has become relatively commonplace. According to Simmons, this expression translated into academic writing assignments, and students today feel more comfortable writing about personal issues than those in the past.
I found this perspective particularly interesting, especially since millennials’ interactions via social media are generally thought to be negative. Rarely are the positives of social networking recognized in term of academics. Millennials aren’t necessarily losing in-person social skills, but instead developing new ones that are relevant to the digital age and perhaps phasing out irrelevant ones.
Online social networks don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. If anything, we should be constantly preparing for whatever new digital tool is on the horizon. Better to look at the positives and accept the evolution of communication rather than fighting an impossible war against it.