Adapted from an article written by Grace Hipona October 13, 2020
Since the onset of COVID-19, Counselor’s have observed through their work with clients that people’s reliance on social media as a vehicle for connecting with others has intensified. While this engagement was beneficial and necessary during the pandemic, the reliance and preference young people are choosing social media more and more, instead of personal interaction. It does not afford students the opportunity to connect on a more meaningful level. Even more concerning is how this contributes to individuals not directly learning active listening skills.
Our over-reliance on social media as a means to connect has impacted the process of active communication. The main benefit of social media is to put information out into the universe as a means of sharing with others. However, this process is usually one-sided and does not typically result in active conversation. Individuals may use social media to stay “up to date” with others, but this might involve simply scrolling through posts without providing any comment.
When we are talking with others in person, common courtesy is to ask, “How are you?” or “How are you doing?” The other individual responds with a reflexive, “Good” or “Fine,” and then also asks, “How are you?” But on social media, this quick and simple process is completely bypassed. Typically, there is no exchange of questions. There is a responsiveness, but people are responding to statements, NOT questions.
What happened to asking questions?
More and more, students have challenges related to developing meaningful relationships. In many cases, I believe their reliance on social media in place of more interactive engagement is one of the reasons for that.
We ask questions to demonstrate that we care about the other person. We also ask questions to obtain more information, more details. We ask each other questions so that we can have a conversation. We ask open-ended and follow-up questions to learn the depths of a person.
Asking questions allows us a window into someone’s inner world, and this glimpse is key in building relationships. Without creating this opportunity, our connection with someone will remain surface level and superficial.
Unfortunately, when people use social media as a substitute for connection, feelings of isolation can be exacerbated.
Actions to take
So, what can we do?
1) Educate: We can directly teach about the significance of active listening. We can point out why social media does not easily allow for this. Set time limits at home for social media use and encourage your child’s engagement in team sports, clubs, music, learning an instrument, face to face contact with others as much as possible.
2) Role model: We can role model in our everyday lives by taking the time to ask others, “How are you feeling?” Typically, we might ask, “How are you doing?” However, if we want to demonstrate how to have a more meaningful exchange, asking how a person feels gets below the surface and provides an opportunity to show that we care and want to have a more significant interaction. We can also ask, “How can I help, What can I do?” We can listen more than we talk.” I still need help with this!”
3) Advocate: Students need to be taught these skills directly. Sometimes we assume that people will learn active listening skills somewhere along their journey in life. However, the only way to really know whether someone has learned a concept is to teach them that concept.
This is especially important for a younger generation that is much more reliant on social media for communication.
Focus on what you can control. You can choose to directly communicate with people rather than relying on social media.
It starts with asking a question. Ask a question and change a life, you just might enrich your life too!