Human Social Connection in Digital Age

How Does the Internet Bring People Together? | SWG, Inc.

In order to address the importance of partnering with educators, leaders, students and families to foster a culture of respectful online interactions and a healthy balance in their use of technology, we must understand the impact of technology in human social connections. 

We always know that humans are profoundly social species, we want to connect with others since we were born as we want to have connection with our parents and throughout our lives as adults. When I think of connection, it means the feeling of knowing, belonging, trusting, and respecting. As technology is becoming part of our life , I am reaching for an understanding of what impact technology brings into human social connections and how to ensure social connection in virtual interaction are meaningful? 

In the article of “The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World,” Janna and Lee argued that technology has brought more positive impact to human connection than negative impact because “digital life links people to people, knowledge, education and entertainment anywhere globally at any time in an affordable, nearly frictionless manner”. According to the interviewer in their research, Daniel Weitzner who is a principal research scientist and founding director of MIT’s Internet Policy Research Initiative shared his idea that internet is the ultimate connection machine to fulfill the need of connection for human as “internet connect people with meaningful and rewarding information and relationships.”  

Although I personally benefited from technology to stay connected with family and friends in other countries, it seems too ideal that technology only brings positive impact to our social connection. The article “The Digital Age: Are We Losing Human Connection?” argued that virtual connection in the form of cyber bulling, trolls and grooming can result in rejection which leads to a significant effect on individual resilience and perception of self in young children, and it can carry over into adulthood. It listed examples of people feeling rejected in virtual society: 

  • Social media enables and promotes social comparison to others and create a feeling of “I am not good enough”.  
  • The rise of the fear of missing out and lost the membership in a group occurs when people don’t tune in and keep up to date in social media.  
  • People lacking social skills to make friends on-line potentially leading to more isolation  
  • Constant checking, and interrupting ‘in the moment’ social interactions not only perpetuates immediate gratification for the user but can have a negative impact on others present.  

We all understand that digital evolution continues to happen regardless we are positive or denial about it. When we are aware of how our social connection is changing around using technology, we also need to be aware of the relationship between us and our digital devices. As educator and parent, I am reflecting on the suggestions given by Lisa Jones (2018):  

  1. We must be aware of how technology is changing our behavior and think about our relationship to our devices. 
  1. As adults we model our behavior to young people. Let’s be aware of our relationship with technology and model respectful and restrained usage rather than dependence, by promoting positive social skills and body language in our interactions with others, despite the temptation to check our devices. 
  1. Take responsibility for our actions because our actions have implications. Be aware that we can implicitly communicating the message that the device is more important than the person you use deice during face-to-face interaction with others.  
  1. Do not separate technology from well-being and resilience. The connection between digital world and real world is important.  
  1. Encourage parents to read terms and conditions that are associated with online activities including social media to teach the knowledge of privacy and identity in digital use.  
  1. Educators should be aware of how much technology is being consumed in student learning and ask question as “is it essential to use technology in every class? Or can we empower teachers to step away from their white board from time to time?”  

The urgency of helping our younger children to learn the skills to make connection in the digital world should be addressed. According to the article “3 Strategies to Foster Sociability”, educators should focus on teaching social skills early, creating shared social norms, and engaging students in cooperative learning to prepare students’s skill in social connection. However, it will be my next journey to explore the strategies to transfer or apply these skills into the digital world in young children.

The goal to foster a culture of respectful online interactions should be built upon the foundation of positive social connections in the digital world. While technology truly bring the convenience to connect more people in more places, the social connection we make through technology should always be reflected on its quality.   

References

Janna Anderson and Lee Rainie, “The Future of Well-Being in a Tech-Saturated World,” Pew Research Center, April 17, 2018 

Jones, L. (2018). “The Digital Age: Are We Losing Human Connection?” Retrieved from 

https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-digital-age-are-we-losing-human-connection/

Price-Mitchell, M. (2015) “3 Strategies to Foster Sociability” Retrieved from

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/8-pathways-strategies-foster-sociability-marilyn-price-mitchell

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