Does Social Networking Make us More or Less Social?

That is the question on many social scientists and communication scholars minds.  When people use social networks and texting, does it hinder their ability to communicate in person?  Are these technologies making us more social or less social?

It is not clear how the rise in instant, computer-mediated communication will change the nature of social interactions, but it is clear there will be a change.  A significant change.

In the New York Times article this Sunday, Antisocial Networking?, the writer brings forth current statistics on teens’ use of social networking and texting and debates the social implications.

Commentary on the statistics from the PewInternet Study website suggests that face-to-face teen contact has actually remained steady (31%-2006, 39%-2007, 29%-2008, 33%-2009) while texting and social networking has increased.  In regard to texting, the author, Rich Ling, comments “Thus, another interpretation is that teens actually have more access and more informal, casual contact because of texting. This is because texting is woven into the flow of other activities.”

There we have it, evidence that it is making us more social.

But the NY Times article also mentions a Kaiser Family Foundation report that American kids between 8-18 spend 7 1/2 hours a day using an electronic device.  That is evidence that it is making us less social.

Is all this electronic interaction making the next generation less able to develop and maintain healthy relationships?  Or, are healthy relationship going to be defined differently in the next decades?

All I know is that I am thankful I am alive during this period of such change and can’t wait to see how technology and communication continue to intermix and influence each other over time.