Social media has had a monumental effect on our lives

Welcome to 2014, where people are using their phones to text, email, tweet, post, share and talk. Right now, your phone is probably inches away from you. I’ll bet you can’t even remember the last time your phone wasn’t within an arms length. For some of us, an arms length is even too far.

There are so many social media platforms, it’s hard to keep count. But it wasn’t always like this— social media has evolved. As a result of this evolution, it seems that our ability to communicate with one another has degenerated

According to Dr. Anthony Curtis, a Mass Communications professor at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, The first email was delivered in 1971. Seven years later, the first virtual community, the Bulletin Board System, was created. Then America Online, AOL, appeared in 1985. British engineer Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989.

1997 was a big year for the World Wide Web and social media. At this point, the web had one million sites. People began blogging, and social media site SixDegrees.com allowed users to create profiles and make “friends”. In that same year, AOL Instant Messenger made its debut. AOL Instant Messenger, known as AIM, allowed users to chat while online.

Friendster became the first U.S. social networking website in 2002. The site gained three million users in three months then one year later, MySpace launched. In 2004, people began podcasting, and Facebook was introduced to the U.S. Twitter and its tweets hit the web in 2006. Then, Apple released the iPhone and its touchscreen capabilities in 2007.

By 2011, there were 65 million tweets being sent through Twitter each day. Today, that number has risen to 500 million.  With all this social media communication taking place, we can only wonder what will happen to our interpersonal communication abilities.

CSULB Communication Professors Dr. Ann Johnson and Dr. Ebony Utley both say that social media is just a different way to communicate.“Social media is much better for keeping up with people than letters and phone calls ever could be,” Johnson said. “So I believe social media helps us communicate.”

It’s clear that social media is the most efficient form of communication we’ve ever had.

“You can connect to someone almost immediately, get right to the point, and get the information you need almost instantaneously,” Utley said.

Some argue that social media has taken away our ability to communicate face-to-face.

Utley recently did an exercise with her students where she had them bring in something that represented family to them. Only one student brought in a cell phone. That student’s family lives on another continent, so speaking over the phone is the only way to communicate with them.

Every other student still talked about face-to-face interaction with his or her families.  “I think that all the hype is that, its just hype, “ said Utley. “It’s not that we’ve lost something; it’s just that things are different.”

Although multiple people still chose to communicate face-to-face, there are people who get distracted by social media. I’m sure you can think of one person who is always on their phone at dinner instead of joining in on a face-to-face conversation. It can be hard to resist posting on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram when you have access to sites 24/7 in the palm of your hand.

This new way to communicate has changed the way we all write as well. The style of writing introduced by social media is very different than traditional writing styles.Sites like Twitter force users to condense their thoughts.

Users often use abbreviations to ensure they can write everything they want in 140 characters or less. Appreciations like “LOL” (for “laugh out loud”) have become part of a new set of language that people use.  Social media also allows us to write for a larger audience.

Hand-written letters only allow you to communicate with one other person. Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites help you get a message across to multiple people with only a push of a button. When you have the ability to communicate with multiple people, you can keep in contact with more people.

“I feel like my circle of family and friends is bigger and stronger than ever before,” Johnson said.

Social media has not replaced old forms of communication; it has just given us more options for communication.

“Just because there’s technology doesn’t mean all the old means have gone away,” Utley said. “I think it’s pretty good that we just have a plethora of different kinds of communication strategies that people can pick and choose from.”

Social media has come a long way, and it has influenced us in many ways.New technologies and websites are being developed every day. These new inventions will just add to the vast communication options we already have.