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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


Research shows social media causes people to not talk anymore

The excessive use of screens and social media is changing the effectiveness of interactions, according to an SBU professor. (HEATHER KHALIFA / THE STATESMAN)

“Virtual distance” is a phenomenon that could be affecting relationships and the way people view others.

Karen Sobel Lojeski, Ph.D., a Stony Brook University professor in the Department of Technology and Society, fears that “virtual distance” is changing the way people interact.

Lojeski coined the phrase “virtual distance,” a term used to describe the feeling or perception that you are far away from someone, even if you happen to be relatively close.

She said the excessive use of screens and social media is changing the effectiveness of children and adult’s interactions. This is because they do not know what the other person is thinking or what context they are putting the messages into. Many different things could be affecting them or happening around them at any given time, like the weather or other social interactions, that the person they are texting would not know.

“Electronics are such a big part our lives, especially with those dating apps now,” freshman undeclared major Adam Dimonaco said. “Screens allow us to instantly connect to someone you don’t even know and makes it harder to talk in person.”

Dimonaco went on to say that there are different expectations when it comes to text and in-person conversations. It is easy to have false notions about someone through messaging or online that they would not match up to in person.

“People see things from their own world view,” Lojeski said.

Lojeski said that it is scientifically proven that there is a “same-as-me bias.” Through evolution, humans are programmed to assume people are just like them. It is hard to imagine differences between people without getting to know them in person. This is an unconscious behavior.

“With texting, we never break down that ‘same-as-me bias,’” Lojeski added. “It is no one’s fault. It can lead to basically talking to ourselves and it is not the same as a regular conversation.”

It is much easier to eliminate the “same-as-me bias” when face-to-face, Lojeski said. She said it is natural for a person change his or her own personality to match another’s behavior. She said it is too easy just continue on with a conversation with out any information on the other person, and not knowing what context they are in.

Lojeski urges people to talk in person, especially when it is an argument or a sensitive topic.

“When you are having difficulties with someone, you might want to note that this could be because of virtual distance,” Lojeski said. “Fighting will not be resolved in any satisfactory way. Even talking on the phone is okay, but the ideal situation would be face-to-face.”

Some Stony Brook students feel like texting is such a prominent part in their life that it actually helps them connect to more people.

“Texting is definitely not the same as being in the same room with someone, but it enables us to keep in contact with those we can’t see everyday,” William Hackett, a junior double-majoring in biomedical engineering and applied mathematics and statistics, said. “Texting definitely does not have the same emotive force as talking in person, but I can still get that connection.”

Hackett went on to say that he has struggled with depression, and being able to text someone to know that someone was there for him in that moment saved him tremendously. Texting and on-screen conversations can be good, but only as long they are supplemental. Arguments should be had in person, Hackett said.

Lojeski encourages people to recognize that there is a “virtual distance,” even if it is hard to detect.

“People need to know virtual distance exists,” Lojeski said. “Any kind of conflict that can change a relationship you should talk face-to-face because it cements the reality that the other person is a human being.”

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