Social Networking and Interpersonal Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills among College Freshmen

7 July 2016

Growing concern exists among researchers regarding the effects of the internet on youth regarding potential risks to safety, well-being, and skill development. Social networking is a current phenomenon that consists of both web-based communication with internet users through websites (Facebook, MySpace, YouTube) and interaction with others via cellular phones. According to Facebook statistics, there were 526 million daily active users on average in March 2012. Further, the 2010 Media Industry Fact Sheet reported that two-thirds of the population over the age of 13 are connected by cell phones.

Social networking has become common in today’s society, especially among adolescents and young adults, and continues to grow in popularity. These activities occur among people who already know each other personally as well as those who have never met in person. Increased utilization of computers and cell phones to communicate, tasks that have historically required interpersonal skills and face-to face interaction, may be altering the means in which young people attain and practice skills that are necessary to function in their daily lives.

Social Networking and Interpersonal Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills among College Freshmen Essay Example

Over the past decade, technological advances have reached all segments of the population across the globe. The 20th century was epitomized by youth staying connected through face-to-face interaction or the use of the landline telephones. Social networks, thought of as a set of people in which support is exchanged or relationships that are important to an individual were typically managed through interpersonal or conventional telephone contact.

However, the growth in internet access and software availability as well as advancements of cell phones, combined with a population of youth who have grown up exposed to this technology, has resulted in social networks being replaced online and through telecommunications. The youth of today use technology such as the internet more than any other method through which to communicate and socialize. Recent studies have shown that communication technology is increasing exponentially with each generation and is becoming a mainstay within our society.

According to statistics gathered by ComScore Networks, 713 million people ages 15 or older, which were 14% of the global population, used the Internet in June 2006, with 153 million being in the United States. Further, adolescents use the internet much more often than children, but the age of first internet use is rapidly descending. In fact, even young children are online and there are numerous social networking sites that cater to this population. As technological advancements are made, the residual impact of social networking on society’s young generation is of valuable importance to researchers in the social work field.

Left unattended, the lack of skills to effectively communicate and resolve conflicts in person may negatively affect behavior and impair the ability to develop and maintain relationships. Once envisioned as an efficient tool for researchers to share files and access data by remote login, commercialization of the Internet has resulted in the creation of email and the World Wide Web. The enormous technical complexity of the internet has expanded to include thousands of networks, millions of computers, and billions of users across the world. The Web 1.

0 experience, which was exemplified by connectivity, internet entrepreneurs, and the potential of substantial monetary profits, has been replaced by Web 2. 0, which is detailed by user-generated content, group formation, and social networking. Combining the tremendous expansion of the internet and the advances in communication technology has resulted in new capabilities not foreseen by the original developers. Modern conveniences such as using cell phones and the creation of social networking sites (Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter) for interaction have shown a variety of influences in the research.

Within the social networking spectrum exists the activities of instant messaging (IMing), texting, blogging, bulletin boards, and posting (comments, status updates, and videos). The “Effects Model” to explain the shift from seeing the Internet as doing something to adolescents to an outlook that consists of adolescents taking an active role in co-constructing their own environments. As with any object, the responsibility falls upon the Internet user or social networker as to the purpose of engaging in the activity and what is hoped to be accomplished.

However, technological side effects may not always be apparent to the individual user and, combined with millions of other users, may have large-scale implications. Therefore, each participant has a dual role—as an individual who may be affected by the social environment and as a participant who is interacting with others and co-constructing the same environment. Given that communication plays a central role in personal relationships and that relationships are assessed by the communication skills of others, impairment in the ability to effectively communicate may hinder successful relational development in young adults.

This can potentially impact an array of life areas such as family relationships, socialization, school performance, and employment. Further, the failure of young people to effectively resolve conflicts in person can jeopardize safety and may lead to chronic acts of violence that include verbal threats, pushing, grabbing, punching, and fighting. Thus, the lack of conflict resolution skills may lead to the use of human services and involvement in the legal system, requiring the need to access limited financial resources, and also the risk of out-of-home placement.

Despite the potential benefits for adolescents who engage in the various types of social networking, such as the sense of being understood and supported by peers the research is showing that the excess use of this technology may underhandedly inhibit proper interpersonal skill development. Due to the nature of the social work profession and its efforts to enhance the lives of youth and plan for their successful transition into adulthood, further examination of the impact of social networking on adolescents is justified.

Therefore, it is the purpose of this study to examine the impact of social networking on the skills of communication and conflict resolution within the young adult population. OBJECTIVES: 1. The social networking activities 2. Discuss the quality of social networking relationship 3. The benefits and concern of social networking 4. Communication and conflict resolution skill a. Social exchange theory b. Object relation theory 5. Access to social networking 6. Conflict resolution Social Networking Activities

Advancements in technology have resulted in people being able to access a wealth of information and participate in virtual opportunities not previously available. Through the tools of computers and cell phones, society has moved from engaging in face-to-face interaction while performing these activities to endeavours that do not require in-person interaction with others. The devices have therefore become the actual mediators between people and knowledge or entertainment. Within recent years, technology has also made available different avenues for communicating.

The capabilities of computers and cell phones have allowed users to develop means to participate in the world of social networking, now making the device the mediator of communication between individuals. Internet surfing. The term “Internet surfing” appeared after the creation of the personal computer and the Internet and is seen as an extension of “channel surfing”, where viewers randomly change channels on a television using a remote control with no real physical effort.

Internet surfing is activity described as spending time visiting either random or targeted websites on the Internet for non-communication purposes. Users can view websites to gather information, play interactive games, shop, and view photos and movies. Surfing the Internet can be addictive in nature because individuals receive short-term gratification every time they go online, making it very desirable to continue to go online to receive this gratification. Studies have demonstrated that excessive Internet surfing may increase depression and social anxiety.

Therefore, individuals who struggle with Internet surfing and also participate in social networking as a means of meeting their social needs may be at risk for a significant decline in communication and conflict resolution skills due to their isolative behaviors. Moreover, someone found that adolescents with low perceived friendship quality reported significantly higher depression and social anxiety. Since excessive computer use can inhibit exploring one’s actual environment and impact the growth of friendships, this is of major concern.

Instant messaging. In contrast to surfing, instant messaging (IM-ing) consists of sending real-time online computer messages to another user in a mutually established conversation. Researchers found that IM-ing is the most popular method of communication among teens who go online, with 75% using this medium and 48% doing so at least once a day. This format is typically private and can be an opportunity for adolescents to practice and develop social skills.

However, a recent longitudinal study showed that IM-ing predicted more depression among adolescents over a six month period. The effects of Internet surfing and IM-ing on internalizing problems may be closely related due to the finding that adolescents who spend more time IM-ing also spend more time surfing. Texting. The short messaging service (SMS), more commonly known as “texting”, is the cellular phone version of IM-ing and also results in virtually instant messages between the sender and receiver.

Cell phones have been engineered over the past years to accommodate the demand of texting, such as offering a full QWERTY keyboard, and many cell phone carriers offer plans that contain unlimited texting. In fact, in 2003 expected SMS to dominate mobile messaging in regards to both traffic volume and revenue well into the last quarter of the decade. In a Norwegian study of 19-21 year olds, participants sent an average of six texts per day in 2001. When the same age group was measured again in 2007, this number tripled to an average of 18 text messages sent per day.

A survey conducted on 2,277 American adults by the Pew Research Center found that 18-24 year olds sent or received an average of 109. 5 text messages per day, which works out to be more than 3,200 text messages per month. In a European study of 635 participants ages 16-55 years old who visited a website and completed an online questionnaire, 48. 9% reported preferring to use their cell phones for texting over voice calls and 26. 1% reported texting too much This study also measured levels of loneliness, expressive control, interaction anxiousness, and conversational involvement.

Two significant findings were that 61% of the participants stated they say things in text that they would not feel comfortable saying face-to-face and 64% stated they feel they are able to express their true feelings best in text messages rather than in face-to-face interactions or voice calls. Quality of Social Networking Relationships Personal interaction is and has always been an important function of the human experience. Prior to the technological revolution and creation of personal computers and cell phones, relationships were typically developed and maintained by means of face-to-face interaction and verbal or written communication.

With the development of the Information Age, characterized by the ability for people to freely and conveniently access and exchange information through technology, the way in which our society interacts with one another has continued to transform. Technological Determinism Theory attempts to help explain how changes in methods of communication through advancements in technology impacts general society. According to this theory, media technology shapes how individuals in a society feel, act, and think as well as influences how society functions as they move from one technological age to another.

In other words, people learn how to think and feel the way they do based upon the messages they receive through the current technology. This theory supports the belief that “the medium is the message” and that people adapt accordingly and will utilize the means in which society as a whole is using to communicate. As the medium changes, so does society’s way of communicating. If the medium is impersonal, then the message itself is also impersonal. With the creation of the virtual world, individuals have the opportunity to interact with others, both known and unknown, in a variety of ways.

With the change in nature of these relationships, it has been of interest to gauge the perceived quality of online relationships. Because Internet sites, such as America Online (AOL) and Facebook, allow groups of users to connect with other groups, users engage in group forming activities that are comparable to face-to-face groups. Social networking sites on the Internet may be used to strengthen relationships that already exist, therefore acting as a bridge between the online and offline worlds.

A study by the USC-Annenberg Digital Future Project (2006) on Internet usage found that 43% of Internet users who are part of online communities feel as strongly about their online communities as they do about their real-life communities. In another research study among adolescents, a prominent finding was that participants who had developed friendships and relationships online consider them to be as real as relationships in their actual lives. Further, these online friendships were described as being long-term, trusting, and very meaningful.

Because of potential attached meaning to these virtual relationships and the possibilities that human interaction may become volatile and unpredictable, it is of explicit interest to investigate how users, specifically adolescents and young adults, manage to communicate and resolve conflicts within these communities. Therefore, more research is needed in this area. Benefits and Concerns of Social Networking Different theories have surfaced regarding the impact of social networking. It has been found that participation in social network sites

provides a number of potential benefits for adolescents. It was found that benefits of online interaction include that it provides a means in which to learn the ability to relate to others, tolerate differing viewpoints, express thoughts and feelings in a healthy way, and practice critical thinking skills. In addition it states that communicating with others on the Internet is an opportunity to explore self-identity and enhance self-discovery. Another perceived benefit is that the Internet increases the possibility to contact peers, thus enhancing self-esteem and feelings of well-being.

Further in regards to social networking, the Internet provides a virtual place to spend time and share thoughts and objects with personal meaning, such as pictures and stories, and remain closely connected with friends regardless of geographic distance. Also, it is believed that individuals may feel empowered when using social networking to establish relationships that provide information, mutual assistance, and support. Finally, it was found that teens with difficulties may use online relationships as temporary bridges that bring them into safe and comfortable face-to-face relationships.

All of these mentioned benefits to participants, especially adolescents who are attempting to practice social skills and explore who they are as individuals, add to the justification of including social networking into the current developmental perspective. Despite the potential advantages of social networking, there are a number of concerns. A well-known study conducted by Kraut, Patterson, Lundmark, Kiesler, Mukophadhyay and Scherlis (1998) was one of the first to examine the relationship between Internet use and the aspects of social involvement and psychological well-being.

The HomeNet field trial followed 93 families in their first 12-18 months of being online. A total of 256 people took part in the study. It was hypothesized that the users would increase their sense of social support and feel less lonely, be less affected by stress, and have improved mental health. However, the results of the study showed the opposite. Associations were found between increased Internet use and decreased social involvement, feeling lonelier, and an increase in depressive symptoms.

Another result was that higher Internet use was related to a decrease in communication among family members. The results of the original study were criticized and caused much controversy, prompting a second study. The follow-up study found varying results that contradicted the results of the first study in all areas except life stress. Another consequence of social networking that has been addressed in the research is the issue of cyber bullying. Much data exists regarding the negative aspects of social networking and the incidence of cyber bullying and victimization among users.

Traditionally, bullying has taken place during face-to-face interaction. However, advances in technology have opened up new ways for this to occur over electronics, from texting on cell phones to the posting of comments or videos on websites. Regarding text bullying, the prevalence of its occurrence ranges from 15-32%. In nationally representative surveys of 10-17 year-olds, it was found that twice as many youth reported they were victims of online harassment in 2005 as compared to data from 2000.

The issue of cyber abuse (bullying, unwanted sexual advances, and stalking) should be taken very seriously due to the detrimental effects on victims, which include feelings of depression, guilt, shame, as well as self-harm and withdrawing from family and friends. Using a phenomenological approach, an analysis of anonymous posts by adolescents revealed a high incidence of cyber bullying from both real-life acquaintances and those who were met online. In another study, it was found that students who were text bullied were significantly more likely to feel unsafe at school than those students who had not been text bullied.

Whether due to low self-esteem or poor social skills, adolescents who turn to online relationships because of feelings of isolation by peers may find that online relationships are filled with complications. It is within these relationships that adolescents may be victimized by cyber bullying, unwanted sexual advances, and even cyber stalking. Communication and Conflict Resolution Skills Successfully maneuvering through life requires attaining a set of skills, for example the ability to communicate with others and work through conflicts that are acquired through different avenues during a person’s developmental journey.

From the early days of mainframe computers to the present, computers have been mostly used for interpersonal communication. In fact in terms of meaning, communication is the most important use of the Internet for adolescents. Regarding conflict resolution, Chung and Asher (1996) and Rose and Asher (1999) have argued that responses to hypothetical situations involving conflict are similar to responses observed during real-life conflict. This highlights the value in presenting opportunities to practice these skills to prepare for real life situations.

However, these hypothetical situations were presented face-to-face to a group by a facilitator and did not include a technological or social networking component. With an overwhelming trend among adolescents and young adults toward the reliance on technology for communication, it is speculated that the decline of face-to-face interaction will result in decreased ability to handle real-life conflicts. In analyzing data from a study of adolescents with close online relationships, it showed that a disproportionate number reported high amounts of conflict with their parents as well as low levels of communication with their parents.

In another study, adolescents who engaged in online communication and felt frightened or that they were in significant trouble did not reach out and communicate with their parents. Empirical data in social work literature, as well as other professional journals, on the effects of school-based conflict resolution programs have been positive, suggesting that teaching conflict resolution skills to students increase their knowledge of how to resolve conflict using non-violent means.

Although some research exists that examines the activities of social networking and the potential effects, both positive and negative, on its users, there is a gap in the empirical literature. Social networking relies on technology and is conducted over specific devices with no presence of face-to-face interaction, which results in an inability to access interpersonal behavior and signals to facilitate communication. Adding the possibility that relationships can become volatile and unpredictable, no current research addresses how social networking affects the ability for users to resolve conflicts in their daily lives.

A concerted effort to focus on how social networking impacts the ability to perform the functions of communication and conflict resolution in real-life relationships would be highly beneficial. The available research did not speak to these particular issues, hence the impetus for this quantitative study. Therefore, this researcher proposes the following research question: What is the impact of social networking on interpersonal communication and conflict resolution skills? Social Exchange Theory

Social exchange theory is derived from basic principles of economics and compares human behavior to that of transactions in a market place environment. The theory begins with the principle that human social behavior is based upon the drive to maximize benefits while minimizing costs. In other words, during social exchange, one must give in order to receive. However, to allow for maximum satisfaction, the level of perceived rewards needs to be greater than the amount of the perceived costs expended during the interaction process.

In social exchange theory, the six main rewards that exist, consisting of both the tangible and intangible, are love, money, status, goods, information, and services. The identified costs in social exchange theory are time and energy. Within social exchange theory, relationships are evaluated using a cost-benefit analysis with an expectation that social relations will be established and continued based on being mutually gainful, a leader in social exchange theory, denied that cultural and social environments impacted behavior and that only psychological factors were relevant.

He argued that history is only important because a history of rewards tells an individual what is in his or her best interest. However, many theorists have since added their perspectives to social exchange theory and emphasized the role that social, economic, political, and historical contexts play in social exchange. A major premise within social exchange theory is regarding the issue of power. Whether acknowledged or not, persons with greater resources often hold more power over others during social exchanges.

This power can relate to not only control of potential rewards and punishments, but also the ability to influence the thoughts and behaviors of others within social exchanges. The basis for this control exists when one person is dependent on another for his or her own sense of rewards. When applying social exchange theory to the phenomenon of social networking, it can be said that the technological exchanges between individuals capture a mutual cost-benefit structure.

The amount of time and energy one designates to texting or posting comments and status updates on Facebook relates directly to perceived rewards, such as number of “likes” or responses. In other words, given the ability to disperse information efficiently to a mass audience with little time and effort, the potential for rewards in social networking are unrestricted. This drastically differs from conventional face-to-face interaction where more effort and calculated thought is needed for mutually beneficial social exchanges.

Further, it may be that the greater the number of people within one’s social network, including cell phone contacts, viewers of videos, and online friends, the greater the amount of perceived status and power the person has by self and others. This power can be exerted over those who are dependent on acceptance and the desire that their cyber social exchanges produce rewards, resulting in potential atypical thoughts and behaviors from the person seeking affirmation.

Fear of rejection can be a powerful influence on altering one’s actions and the perceived costs of such rejection intolerable. Another display of power exists in social networking when an individual makes a conscious decision to ignore or deny attempts from others seeking social exchanges. The receiver of such exchanges may perceive limited or no cost to not responding. However, the initiator may perceive a high level of costs and even make multiple attempts to conduct social exchanges, continuing to receive zero rewards.

Object Relations Theory With contributions from multiple writers in the psychodynamic field, object relations theory is not necessarily a single theory, but is called so in order to differentiate itself from other theories with common characteristics. With an emphasis on their inner world, object relations theory examines the dual process of people experiencing themselves as separate and independent from others, while also feeling an intense attachment to others.

Within this theory, it is believed that all people have an internal and often unconscious world of relationships that differs from, and in many ways are more significant and powerful, than what exists in their external world of social relationships. The focus then is placed on interactions individuals have with others, the way in which these interactions are internalized, and the central role these internalized object relations play in psychological life. Thus, the term “object relations” encompasses actual relationships with others, as well as internalized representations of others and self.

As just stated, object relations include not only the intricacies of external relationships, but also an internal word of relations between self and others. Further, object relations extend to how others have been internalized and ways in which they become part of the self. This is represented in people’s fears, fantasies, wants, and desires. Interestingly, a characteristic that differentiates object relations theory from similar theories such as drive theory and ego psychology is its attention on how needs are met or not met in relationships, which contrasts to the idea of drives and impulses.

Since a person’s external needs are to be met by other people, the relationship is placed at the center of the experience. These needs include being viewed and valued by others as an individual, to be accepted for both positive and negative qualities, and to be given love, care, and protection. One important aspect of object relations theory proposed by Donald Winnicott is the importance placed on how a developing person transitions from requiring attachment to others to a position of separateness.

Winnicott developed the term “transitional object” to aid in this transition and to help settle the internal conflicts of attachment and individualism. An object that is in one’s possession to bridge the gap between separateness and internal representations of others is viewed as a transitional object (Berzoff, Flanagan, & Hertz, 2008). Basically, anything that assists a person in successfully maintaining a mental representation of valued others in their absence can be considered a transitional object.

For children, these objects may include a favorite book read at bedtime, a piece of jewelry from a parent, or even a favorite song that is usually sung together. When considering object relations theory, it may be reasonable to view items such as cell phones, computers, the Internet, and even ringtones as transitional objects. For example, the acts of carrying a cell phone or hearing a ringtone designated to a valued other may create a sense of comfort for someone struggling with independence in that it creates internal images of social networking relationships.

Even entering an establishment with the Internet, and therefore perceived access to social networks, may itself ease someone who is experiencing discomfort due to feeling disconnected. Without proper coping skills, individuals who engage in social networking to meet their psychological needs may feel distress that impairs their daily functioning when having limited or no access to these technological transitional objects. In the social networking context, object relations theory highlights the notion that people both desire to establish themselves as separate individuals with status as well as have their need for

attachment be met by those in their social network. The significance of these relationships may not be fully understood in reality, but once internalized take on a powerful and meaningful existence and adds to one’s sense of self. Interpretations of the meaning and value of these relationships rely on virtual communication, which can be subjective in nature. Along with the need for attachment, the desire to feel accepted and valued in the social networking environment can create insurmountable pressure.

Not only is a person attempting to develop relationships with individuals, but also with their larger social networking group. As object relations theory states, this includes both the good and the bad that individuals bring to relationships, resulting in potential conflict between users. For example, an individual would set aside undesirable characteristics of another in order to maintain the level at which he or she feels valued and accepted. As part of the social networking experience, users may incorporate and digest qualities of communication experiences within their online realm into their own individual identity.

The activities of texting and Internet-based communication facilitate a virtual world of relationships and allow users to internalize mental representations of others within their social network. Since no face-to-face interaction exists, people are left to rely on their creative imagination and constructions to incorporate meaning into these relationships. Therefore, each user’s internal world may be vastly different from what the evident facts might suggest in their actual social networking environment.

When issues with communication and conflict arise, users are left to reconcile what is presented in reality with their internal definitions and meanings of social networking relationships. Poor communication and the inability to resolve these conflicts may impair both the real status and internal representation of these relationships. Access to Social Networking Social networking is very popular among young adults and that participation in social networking activities is highly common in today’s technological society.

As seen in the results, all 22 of the respondents reported access to cell phones and computers, as well as had profiles on Facebook. These findings are higher than the average found in the existing literature and, considering the demographics and the limited number of participants in this study, are not descriptive of the general population. As reported in the 2010 Media Industry Fact Sheet, two-thirds of the population over the age of 13 are connected by cell phones. Also, the U. S. Census Bureau (2010) extrapolated the results of a survey and concluded that an average of 68% of households have a computer with Internet access.

Finally, according to Facebook’s statistics, 1 in every 13 people in the world have an active profile on Facebook. Therefore, the 100% participant accessibility rate for cell phones, computers, and Facebook found in this study does not accurately represent what is found in society. It is speculated that even changing the target population to include all enrolled students at the University of St. Thomas instead of only freshmen would illicit different results. An explanation may be that having a

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