Those who use technology in the extreme can cause a communication breakdown and a loss of emotional values in their social systems. According to several studies over the past two years, technology use is having a negative effect on the social interactions of individuals who use their electronic devices to communicate in interpersonal relationships. This includes pre-teens, teenagers and adults. The most recent study, conducted by a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), professor of psychology, Patricia Greenfield, demonstrated that people are losing their ability to recognize the visual cues of emotional states when interacting with other individuals in face-to-face communications.
Two groups of sixth graders were given comparison tests before and after the study. The students were observed while they looked at videos without sound and photographs. They were then tested on what they thought were the emotional conditions of those in the photos and videos. Half the students were then sent to a camp for five days, without any access to electronic devices, such as cell phones, iPads, laptops, etc. The other half just continued doing their daily activities with regular access to digital media.
After the five-day period the post test was given to both sets of students. Those who did not go to camp only displayed a modest improvement in recognizing the emotions of those in videos and photographs. Those students who went without the use of technological devices at the camp had a noticeable increase in their ability to identify the emotional values of those in the photos and videos.
The suggestion from the study is that young people are losing the ability to recognize visual, non-verbal signs of communication and facial expressions that indicate emotion. These are important cues for developing and maintaining social skills in face-to-face communication. Humans are social by nature, and the implication is that these devices can cause a breakdown of emotional values, the loss of which seriously undermines the ability to interact with others in meaningful ways.
Another aspect of using electronic communication instruments is the implication that they cause people to feel less good about themselves. A University of Michigan study noted the use of Facebook among college-aged participants caused them to feel less happy about their lives. Researchers text-messaged 82 individuals in the study for two weeks, five times a day, to ascertain how the use of Facebook impacted on their feelings. The study was published in PLOS One and is titled Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being of Young Adults. An unexpected finding revealed that those who had the most face-to-face interaction with others in their real life and who used social media like Facebook in their cyber-life, had the most steep decline in how they felt about themselves.
This may mean that people who participate in real life social interaction compare that to cyber life interactions and feel their own life does not measure up. Using Facebook less, engaging in more face-to-face communication and talking on the phone reversed the negative effects of electronic social interaction. It was also noted those who were not feeling very good about themselves did not visit Facebook during those episodes.
Adding more information about electronic communications that are disturbing for humans is a different study from the University of Gothenburg, The Sahlgrenska Academy, Goteberg, Sweden, by researcher Sara Thomée. This research studied computer and mobile phone use and the risk of sleep disruption, depression, and stress among young adults. The study lasted a year with conclusions linked to several areas of concern including; the extreme use of mobile phones resulting in sleeping problems with men and an increase in depression in both women and men and the use of a computer without sufficient breaks causing depression and sleep problems with men and increased stress in women.
The study involved 4,100 adults between the ages of 20 and 24 who filled out questionnaires. Another 32 individuals who were considered extreme users of computers and mobile phones were interviewed about their use of digital media. There are no conclusions from this study as to why the heavy use of these media result in higher stress levels, sleep disorders, and mental health problems. A possible conclusion is the overuse of modern technology can cause emotional values to breakdown and people with these manifestations may contact and reach out to family and friends through these implements rather than by direct contact.
By Andy Towle