Most college students use Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. In everyday conversation, we refer to different memes and viral tweets. Technology has undoubtedly changed our social lives—and our love lives.
Phrases like “they slid into the DMs” or “we matched on Tinder” are now part of the typical college student’s vernacular. That one person who always favorites your tweets is suddenly your best friend—even though you’ve never met them in person. Wooing now consists of simply liking all of your crush’s Instagram posts.
There’s no question as to why social media is in everyday culture, what with the ever-growing use of smartphones. According to Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans own smartphones.
One reason people use smartphones, along with other technology, is to find that special someone. Online dating is becoming increasingly popular among young adults. In 2015, 27 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds have used an online dating site or app.
Lara Smith, a freshman at Lee, pointed to the benefits of meeting someone online. “A first date is usually about getting to know a person, but online a lot of that is on their profile,” Smith said. “So if you don’t like what someone’s views are, you really don’t have to waste your time getting to know them on a date.”
Before the rise of the digital age, people adjusted to the necessity of physically being with someone while getting to know them. Now, we only have to spend a quick minute to get the jist of what someone is about.
In the book Communication Technology and Social Change, writers Carolyn A. Lin and David J. Atkin discuss a theory that some people prefer online social interaction instead of face-to-face communication because they feel less threatened and more efficacious online.
Whatever the reason for using technology to interact with others, this tendency obviously has drawbacks.
“One particularly noteworthy finding to emerge from the growing literature on problematic Internet use is that individuals who report negative outcomes associated with their Internet use appear to be especially drawn to the interpersonal uses of the Internet,” writes Lin and Atkin.
I’ll be honest: I’ve found negative results from attempting to relate to others, specifically partners, through texting or social media. And I’m not alone in feeling like technology has impacted my relationships. Pew says 42 percent of respondents reported their partner being distracted by their phone while they’re together. Eighteen percent have ended up arguing with their partner about their cell use.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are too many methods of being present and confident with your date or significant other in person.
Jolene Erlacher, author and life coach, gives tips on effective face-to-face communication proven to bolster self-confidence and make any interaction instantly better.
1) Smile. Use body language that indicates engagement and interest. At the beginning or end of a conversation, this may include a strong handshake. Throughout the discussion, appropriately smiling, nodding or leaning in during important points indicates you’re listening.
2) Maintain eye contact with the person—not your device. Digital communication allows for multi-tasking. An interruption while writing an email or a distraction while texting seldom affect the quality of the interaction. However, in face-to-face communication, appearing distracted or allowing interruptions (like checking a text message), indicates there are other more important priorities than what you are hearing. Maintaining eye contact or ignoring distractions around you shows the value you place on the person and conversation before you.
3) Take a sec. Make it a practice to allow a pause when others finish talking. You may discover they have only stopped to gather their thoughts and still have something more to add. It also communicates that you are listening and absorbing what they are saying.
4) Ask questions. Ask follow-up or clarifying questions to be sure you fully understand other perspectives and expectations. This is especially important in face-to-face communication since we cannot reread a conversation the same way we can a text message or email.