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Dangers of Online Communication in Place of Face-to-Face Communication, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

It is hard to think of an area in our personal and professional lives that has not been affected by the internet. The rapid progress in internet-enabled electronic communication technologies that began with email now also includes instant messaging, SMS, video conferencing, and social media. In addition, mobile gadgets such as cell phones, smart phones, and tablet devices have finally helped mankind realize his dream of round-the-clock connectivity. While the pace of technological progress as well as competition has tremendously increased over the last few decades, one factor that has not changed as always is the duration of the day. Convenience as well as our desire to make more efficient use of our limited time resources has influenced a significant number of us to substitute face-to-face communication with electronic communication. Electronic communication has several benefits but its overuse results in hidden costs that often outweigh the benefits.

Even though electronic communication such as email has become a norm at workplace because it is fast and convenient, it has also deprived managers of opportunities to build personal relationships with subordinates and increase subordinates’ job satisfaction. Robert Hess, President of Motiv8 Communications was told by a communications manager that email cannot help achieve cultural transformations like face-to-face communication which allows managers to look at people with sincerity and positively influence them to commit to tackling a business challenge (Hess). The communications manager’s observation reminds us that face-to-face communication allows us to take advantage of non-verbal cues which electronic communication, by its very nature, is often unable to accommodate. Electronic communication lacks the personal touch that face-to-face communication carries.

One of the primary motives behind communication is often to build trust and electronic communication makes it more difficult to build long-term relationships than face-to-face communication. According to World Economic Forum’s Klaus Schwab, meeting in person is necessary to create a basis for trust otherwise the parties to the communication will always be on guard due to superficial relationship between them (Freeland). This explains why we often hear about CEOs and other top leaders of the companies spending more time in meetings with external stakeholders outside the office than working at the corporate headquarters. These top leaders can also choose to communicate electronically within the comfort of their offices but they understand that only face-to-face communication helps build trust and sustainable long-term relationships.

A significant number of senior executives and managers believe that their respective organizations would benefit if their superiors showed the same enthusiasm towards face-to-face communication that they display in dealing with some of the external stakeholders. A global survey found that 67 percent of senior executives and managers believe that more personal communication by top leaders will increase organizational productivity. One respondent claimed that he gets more comprehensive responses to his inquiries in face-to-face communication than electronic communication. Another benefit of face-to-face communication is that it often results in quicker decision making processes unlike electronic communication such as email in which there is considerable time lapse between responses. Electronic communication may be good for quick responses but face-to-face communication is always preferable when the issue requires an honest and detailed discussion (Martin).

We should also encourage more face-to-face communication in place of electronic communication because it helps build social skills that can have considerable impact on quality of life. Stanford University psychology professor Philip Zimbardo claims that young men in colleges are now increasingly socially inexperienced which may have significant negative impact on their romance prospects. Ms. Zimbardo believes that excessive internet use including tweets, texts, and the likes are also the factors behind declining social skills which is why parents should start taking steps towards building children’ social skills while they are still young (Gale). One reason electronic communication deteriorates social skills may be that it allows anonymity, thus, parties to the communication do not worry about embarrassing themselves. Another reason may be that electronic communication is often between parties who already know each other while communication in social settings also involves complete strangers. This is why face-to-face communication is more effective than electronic communication because it enables individuals to learn social skills through more frequent face-to-face interactions with strangers.

Face-to-face communication is also preferable to electronic communication because it results in fewer instances of misunderstanding. Clinical psychologist Ana Nogales claims that her clients often report serious disagreements due to misunderstood text messages and emails.  Ms. Nogales believes that the probability of misunderstanding is higher in electronic communication than face-to-face communication because electronic communication doesn’t include body language or allow the speaker to convey emotions through tone and inflection of voice (Nogales). This shows the limitations of electronic communication because an effective communication makes use of both verbal and non-verbal communication tools.

The supporters of electronic communication may argue that we live in a different world where time is even more valuable commodity, thus, electronic communication is better than face-to-face communication because it saves time. The supporters may also argue that new electronic communication technologies such as video conferencing and Skype are perfect substitutes to face-to-face communication because they allow parties to display non-verbal cues.

The supporters are right that the competition, especially due to globalization has made time even more valuable commodity but suggesting that face-to-face communication should be given more weight even today is in no way a recommendation to completely shun electronic communication. Electronic communication is preferable in certain instances such as providing quick response to a short inquiry. The supporters of electronic communication also often overestimate the time benefits of electronic communication because certain issues may require frequent responses and face-to-face communication will actually save time in such scenarios. As far as the claim that video conferencing and Skype allows the use and observation of non-verbal cues, thus, eliminates the need for face-to-face communication is concerned, such an argument misses the point that face-to-face interaction is also a sign of sincerity and respect. By engaging in face-to-face communication, an individual sends the message that he/she considers the other party important enough to talk to them in person.

The rapid progress in internet-enabled technologies has made electronic communication an important part of our personal and professional lives. Electronic communication offers several benefits such as easy, cheap, and instant communication but it also lacks several advantages of face-to-face communication. The key is to strike the right balance between face-to-face and electronic communication because both forms of communication have their advantages and shortcomings. But in most cases, the benefits of face-to-face communication outweigh the costs though benefits are not always obvious and may only emerge over time. These benefits include improved social skills, motivated employees, improved leaders-subordinates relationships, and fewer instances of misunderstanding.

References

Freeland, Chrystia. “Face-to-face beats cyberspace THE A-TRAIN.” Financial Times 22 September 2007: 20.

Gale, Sidney. Stop the Decline in Academic and Social Skills in Boys. 22 June 2012. 25 November 2012 <http://www.sandiegofamily.com/resources-by-age/big-kid/1178-boys-academic-social-skills-decline>.

Hess, Ron. “Restating the case for face-to-face communication.” Communication World March/April 2008: 48.

Martin, Chuck. The Importance of Face-to-Face Communication at Work. 6 March 2007. 25 November 2012 <http://www.cio.com/article/29898/The_Importance_of_Face_to_Face_Communication_at_Work>.

Nogales, Ana. Family Secrets. 13 October 2010. 25 November 2012 <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/family-secrets/201010/facebook-versus-face-face>

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