I'm very social in my bedroom on my laptop and iPhone

Last night I watched a TV programme on BBC three called Websex: What’s the harm which was investigating ‘how the internet is changing the sex lives of 16-24 year-olds’, interviewing young people who rely on social networking sites, mobile technology and webcams.

One of the first young people to be interviewed was a 19 year old male who had quite worrying speech, as in he sounded pretty stupid and his sentence structure was very poor. In addition, his views on using the internet to find girls were pretty shocking.

Another young girl told the interviewer that she was bullied when she was younger and had no confidence so she would come home, sit in her bedroom on her laptop and immerse herself in social networking sites. She has been approached by men on Facebook who tell her how beautiful she is etc. and this has actually resulted in relationships. So is this a good thing because it is providing her with more confidence? Or is it dangerous, a) because these people approaching her could be anyone, not the person in the profile photo, or b) because her social skills aren’t being used and could deteriorate. Has she really got more confidence, or is this just virtual confidence?

The main points I took from the programme were as follows:

  1. On one hand social media and the technology surrounding it is helping young people with confidence and providing them with information.
  2. But on the other hand their “real world” social skills are suffering as a result of their increasing online virtual interactions.

We’ve all seen the comedy sketches of teenagers meeting up but all texting and Facebooking each other on their phones and so not actually speaking to each other. There is the worry that the younger generation will grow up lacking in real world social skills and poor grammar and spelling due to using short hand and acronyms on social media and texting.

Obviously this particular programme was focusing on the influence that technology and social networking have had on young people’s views of sex. The supposed anonymity that they feel they have online is resulting in young people having increased confidence to do things they wouldn’t normally do in real life, such as stripping off in front of a virtual stranger or sending them naked photographs.

We’ve all heard of Chat Roulette where you can randomly meet people via webcam. Obviously the majority of people appear to be naked and not showing their face, or just a bit weird. But some young people are using this to meet people for websex. Again, this is not very social. If this is how they learn to build relationships then how are they going to do this in real life?

So back to my original point, is social media making us anti-social? Young people may have hundreds of online “friends”, but would they walk up to someone in the street and strike up a conversation? As you probably know, I do love social media and love the power it has in so many respects, but it is also good to be aware of issues it could cause, particularly among young people.