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A personal, one-on-one interaction has definitely taken a back seat when it comes to social interaction. More and more people are getting hooked on to socially interacting with friends and family through the internet. The immense popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter etc is proving beyond any doubt that live social interaction is facing stiff competition from social media sites.

Are our ‘Live’ Social Skills Going for a Toss?

“A Social Networking Site has becoming the Life Blood of Its User”

Yes, the indications are that our skills are becoming severely limited these days, courtesy our increasing fascination for interaction on the internet. This is an occurrence that is fast developing serious overtones of a problem that is psychological in nature, and one that needs to be taken care of in a hurry. People no longer are spending time meeting their friends at the neighborhood coffee shops or at their homes, but prefer to catch up with them through the confines of a social networking site.

They have become as dependent on social networks for their social interaction as they are dependent on say food, water or oxygen for their survival…….and this is not an exaggeration. A person might be willing to forego an endless number of things, but forgoing the daily sessions on a social networking site, is not up for discussion.

Head Over Heels with Online Social Interaction

“Social Networking Platforms provide a comfortable and secure environment”

Why are people falling in love with this phenomenon, so much so that they are ignoring the social interactions that are a part and parcel of real life?

Well for one, it provides a comfortable environment for interaction. You are not burdened by the ‘time’ factor. You can interact with people in your own time and give the interaction the amount of time you want. There is tremendous comfort in doing things your way without slotting interactions into any given time frame. In a world where time is at a premium, social interaction on the internet presents a great way of keeping in touch and forming new relationships without compromising on time. Imagine, your friends are available for a quick chat even in the middle of the night! This is something that is not possible in real time, face-to-face interactions.

Secondly, online social interaction is not demanding. We have seen how it does not make any demands from the ‘time perspective’. Such interactions are also not demanding at an emotional level. There are little or no expectations from the person at the other end. The person has the luxury of just saying good bye and logging off. There are very few if any heart felt goodbyes and promises made to meet another day. Without any emotional baggage, people strapped for time consider online social interaction a great way of having a social life without the associated demands of an emotional nature.

Thirdly and this is an often overlooked reason for the popularity of social interaction on the internet is that YOU DON’T HAVE TO DRESS UP FOR THE OCASSION. You can either be what you are, and conversely, you can be whoever you want to be. So, if you are somebody who doesn’t see any merit in trying to impress the person you are going to meet by turning out in what is considered ‘acceptable’ attire. You can sit at home, converse and have fun without bothering about the social niceties. You are your own person.

There is a twist to this aspect, turning it around on its head! On the internet you can be what you want to be. Even if you are disheveled slacker, in real life; you can turn into a suave go getter with an attitude and without any effort at all. On the internet, the right impressions can be made without trying too hard.

No Time, but all the Time for Online Social Interaction

Different people take home different benefits of online social interactions. The benefits are dependent on the reasons behind such interactions and what they want out of it. For some, time is a premium and they spend most of their time in offices or in performing their daily tasks. For such people, online social interaction is as good as manna from heaven. They can interact with people even at unearthly hours or for that matter whenever they have the time. People are falling in love with an online social environment because, here, they are the master of their own time and space.

There is also a certain group of people who find it difficult to be a part of live social interactions. It’s not that they want no part of it, but it is that they are either intimidated by the whole process of interacting on a one-on-one basis or they just aren’t comfortable with it. Such people are making hay on the internet social circuit. The confidence that they lacked in a live environment comes back to them in an online environment.

Another factor that has given a leg up for online social interactions is anonymity. A person can be who he/she wants to be on the internet and nobody will bother to notice. This again gives many people the confidence that they sorely lack in the real world. Where in the real world such people might come across as shy or introverts, on the online world their persona can dramatically alter into outgoing, friendly and somebody who is supremely confident of his/her abilities.

The Underlying Problems

Online interaction can never be a substitute for an everyday face-to-face interaction. People who only focus on online interactions are unable to understand the nuances of body language, facial expressions or even the sharing of emotions.

“A smiley can never be a replacement for a real smile.”
The internet definitely offers a way to connect, but it is the kind of emotionless connection you can well do without. It’s superficial at best and you can never really be sure whether a person at the other end is participating in a heart felt conversation or is least bothered with what you have to say to him/her. A human being needs unmediated displays of emotion, which only the real world can provide and the not an online world.

The problem with internet based tête-à-têtes is that they not only give you a false sense of confidence, it also enables people to easily fake confidence or even emotions. This has a tremendous impact on their real world communications. It’s almost like leading two lives, with two sets of thinking and only depending on shallow online interaction to help take care of your social needs. This is something that needs to be avoided at all costs.

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Posted by Pratik Dholakiya

Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of The 20 Media, a content marketing agency specializing in content & data-driven SEO and advisor at MoveoApps, a mobile apps development company. He regularly speaks at various conferences about SEO, Content Marketing, Entrepreneurship, and Digital PR. Pratik has spoken at 80th Annual Conference of Florida Public Relations Association, Accounting & Finance Show, Singapore, NextBigWhat’s UnPluggd, IIT-Bombay, SMX Israel, SEMrush Meetup, MICA, IIT-Roorkee and other major events. As a passionate SEO & content marketer, he shares his thoughts and knowledge in publications like Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fast Company, The Next Web, YourStory and Inc42 to name a few.

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