Human and social interaction has long been a main key in the development of the brain as well as the ability to communicate with others. In order to do these things, people must first learn to not only communicate verbally but physically as well. Symbolic Interactionism studies these interactions and how they not only develop our ability to speak but as well as shape in our minds who we feel and believe we are as well as other people. Speech is the key to these things, and allows us to understand people different than ourselves. We also form our opinion of ourselves often based on what we see in the mirror, or how others feel about us. This is considered the “Me” part of social Interactionism. The “I” part is genetics and the different traits that we are born with. But with the continuous development of technology and devices, what we once considered the key to development of speech, as well as interaction is changing. How does this change affect our culture moving forward and what will the end result be.
While researching what effects technology has I came across an article that discusses this. The article was written by the Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, was titled, Informal Language Learning Settings: Technology or Social Interaction. It studied the effects of social interaction versus technology in regards to the ability to learn a new language. After the study was complete those who learned using technology showed more improvement compared to those who were in classroom environment using social interaction. This came as a surprise to me, as I figured speaking one on one with somebody would help a person’s understanding of a new language. But to me the issue is not of the help technology allows for people to learn. Technology in a controlled environment is a good thing. But too much diminishes our ability to learn, communicate, and interact.
Cell phones, computers, social networks, and even gaming consoles allow us to communicate without ever physically seeing the person we’re communicating with. When E-mail first came about it was a technological breakthrough. The ability to send a message instantly to someone without, physically speaking to them was considered by many to be amazing. This led to text-messaging and eventually social networking sites. An article by the New York Times in 2010 cited that over half of American teenagers ranging from ages 12-17, sent at least 50 text messages a day and over one third sent 100 text messages a day. To me this number was staggering considering on average I send maybe 15-30 text messages a day. So how is this affecting our ability to learn, speak, and interact?
Today’s society in my opinion relies too much on technology. I enjoy technology just as much as the next person, but in a controlled amount. I think it’s good for educational purposes, to communicate something quickly, and even sometimes as entertainment. But I also think it hinders the development of speech as well as social interaction. Instead of going out and interacting with friends and others, people are often content to sit on their computers or cell phones, and communicate through those. People hide behind avatars and anonymous screen names and interact with people they’ve never met all around the world. But many of these people if you asked them to carry on a conversation with a stranger, or even a friend would often struggle to do so.
So tying this all back into the concept of symbolic interaction is not an easy thing to do. As the study about learning a language showed, technology can be a useful thing; but only when it is used in a controlled environment. The article by The New York Times shows in my opinion that we rely too much on technology for communication and interaction. That it hinders our relationships with friends, family, and even those that we don’t know. Technology is an ever changing development in today’s society. This is no secret, and will not change anytime in the near future. But how long will it be before face to face social interaction is no longer used, and technology takes over completely?
Retrieved December 29, 2012 from: http://www.ucsc-extension.edu/engineering/news-archive
B.T. & S.T. (2012) Informal Language Learning Setting: Technology or Social Interaction.
Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, Vol. 11 Issue 2, p142-149.
Stout, H. (2010, April 10). Antisocial Networking? The New York Times. Retrieved from