Sunday, 23 June 2013

Is Social media hampering our literacy skills, harming our relationships whilst destroying the art of conversation? by Toby Lee, Dyslexia Dublin CETC © 2013

I for one believe it is – we as people don’t 'talk' anymore. In fact it is becoming almost tiresome for many to pick up or engage in a phone conversation and to keep the call going takes great effort from the instigator of the call.  Mobile networks are making huge amounts from texting and instant image processing... we are endangering our very own identity and become very cyber almost robotic in our ways. Sending a letter is almost non-existent, receiving birthday cards has all but disappeared. Most, including our own offspring, are happy to send a text and even that is if someone else reminds them of the occasion! I would much rather receive a letter or card from someone than an email. I am just back from holidays and even the sending of the traditional post card seems to be lost on the current generation. How do you feel?... would you rather receive a personal invitation to a party or to receive a text from a family member or friend? How far does this have to go! My sister sent me a text to say she couldn’t attend my wedding… why did we bother sending out invitations through the post with RSVP?  The personal touch is being lost and I think we will rue the day.

Like most of life’s issues, there are sides to any debate. You see families sitting down in different parts of the house on social media and quite often watching telly whilst texting or trawling the web on their laptop and not a verbal word offered or shared… the word is I am so popular or I have to keep in touch or you’re just not ‘techy’. Our family returned from holiday with little to tell as it had all been said through facebook, in fact all our holiday snaps, that before we would anxiously wait for word from the film developer who has now lost his or her job due to the techy brigade, were all sent the very second they were taken, via instagram or facebook and the dreaded iPhone.

1. There are several areas of communication that aren’t used when social networking and suffer as a result. We fail to judge reaction through the lack of non-verbal behaviours such as facial expressions, signs and gestures, facial approval or disproval (do you like my hair/dress?), and eye-contact, all of which contribute to successful communication. Networking via the internet causes these to be non-existent and, although many will agree through the face(less)book that you look nice or that is a nice garment, you will never truly know if they mean it as you cannot see expressions through the internet.

2. Sharing time with family and friends in a variety of settings gives you so much and, do you know what, we take it so much for granted and will miss it shortly when it no longer exists.  We see and learn so much through communicating with others (Central Europeans find our culture strange)… we used to sit around the dinner table and talk at length about the day, thus serving to highlight potential problems or indeed just enjoy each others company, instead now we go to different corners of the house and dine alone.

3. Spending large amounts of time alone with a computer reduces the time available to develop the skills necessary for some types of communication (gregarious)… there is also talk of this affecting dementia (on the increase). While other skills may be enhanced, the overall effect is to narrow the range of communication skills of the individual.

Back in the old days people used to spend the time to write letters to people they wanted to keep in touch with that lived too far away to visit. This meant more attention was paid to grammar and spelling, structure and meaning of the letter. If you have family that you never see then it can be a good medium, but don’t let it replace an opportunity to make that rare visit.

You can have a lot of so-called friends that you have never met on social media, but how many will be there to help you in a crisis?… how many will stop and pick up a bottle of milk if you can’t get to the shop and how many have you ever met for a coffee?... not many.

I was talking to a parent the other day and mentioned that it is now possible to get through the entire day without communicating face to face with anyone, you can prepay for petrol, self-scan at the supermarket or buy online…get a prepaid bus/travel ticket…book a cinema ticket without speaking a single word!  You see many out with partners or friends having a meal and saying absolutely nothing to each other and many when confronted with having to speak, don’t know what to say!

I see this in many students that lack conversation and the ability to construct assignments, all their news is spewed out on facebook/twitter or text, long before they arrive at school on a Monday morning.  This also affects those who are not using such media, as they are seen as old fashioned or square and the lack of conversation denies them the chance to improve/expand their literacy skill, which is so important to someone with a specific learning need.

“Engaging in too much social media activity may damage strong relationships”, a new Oxford study has warned.
Research by Dr Bernie Hogan of Oxford University tested the theory of 'media multiplexity' (the ability to communicate via several communications channels) which was first posed in 2005. The theory suggests that there is a clear link between the number of media channels used to communicate, the frequency they are used and the strength of relationship ties.

Don’t lose touch with those close to you by talking at length to invisible or false friends…we are driving ourselves into isolation… reducing our vocabulary and the ability to relate to everyday information.

I truly hope for the sake of conversation this will change… I hope our partners don’t run off into the sunset arm in arm with their laptops, 3G's and his/her hotmail friend, Toluna Vyber!!
If you would rather convince your child face to face conversation is the way forward and want to improve the comprehension of your child then check out our range of dyslexia friendly and easy to read books checkout our web at 
All our articles are for guidance and should never be taken literally, professional advice should always be sought.
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Toby Lee Dyslexia Dublin CETC

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