Thursday, January 17, 2008

technology contributes to shyness

This semester I'm taking a course called Human Relations. As you might have guessed, it's about how we relate to others and becoming more self-aware. In the very first chapter, the textbook discusses the problems encountered by people who suffer with and the consequences of shyness. At one point, though, there is a prediction that the "future of shyness is bleak," because of how so many people are now communicating online instead of in person. The argument is: "How can someone keep 'in touch,' when there is nothing to touch except the keyboard?" And with anonymity, there is a greater risk for shy people not to develop social skills required to overcome their shyness.

While I can understand why one might agree with this (and maybe it is true for some extrememly shy person who is a wildman only in the chat rooms) I think it is ridiculous to say "technology is ushering in a culture of shyness." The text even suggests rehearsing in one's mind how they would respond in new situations to help build self-esteem. What's the difference between that and discussing problems with someone through instant messages or writing about it on a blog?

This past year, RL and I have discovered how IM's can actually help our communication. We can chat off and on all day. Sometimes it's simple how-ya-doings, other times it's planning what-have-yous, and sometimes it's serious stuff. When it comes to the serious stuff, I think it has really helped that we weren't face-to face.

As most of you already know, I am the talker in the family. RL? Not so much. But when we talk through IM's there is so much . . . I don't know . . . structure. I mean, I have to wait my turn, I don't get put off by facial expressions or body language, and he doesn't have that confrontational feeling I know he hates. It has even made our face-to-face convesations better and more frequent. We have become (do I dare say it) more intimate in person as a result of keeping in touch online.

And even since I've been blogging, I've learned a lot about myself and other's lives. Sure there are some that are superficial and for entertainment purposes only, but even then, getting to know other people (even if I don't know their real names) has helped me with my own insecurities in making real life new friends.

What do you think? Does the internet contribute to shyness?

11 comments:

Recovering Soul said...

shyness, I'm not so sure about. Do people who communicate better online take those skills to the real world?

Writing ability is definitely lessened by online communication. Grammar, spelling, etc. all goes downhill.

Ron Burgundy said...

No, I think it fosters communication in the electronic form. I think people are freer to share details that they'd never actual divulge to someone in a face-to-face conversation.

That said, the more people share in this medium, the more they may be apt in their personal life to divulge information.

Great topic.

Ron

Desmond Jones said...

Interesting, Phyllis. . .

I'm one of those shy people who enjoys 'performing', so most people who know me don't think of me as shy. And, I think blog-space is quite similar to being on stage - you're just 'putting stuff out there' for other people, but you don't really have to engage your 'deepest, truest self' in the process. . .

XI Summit said...

I believe that technology is ushering in an age where shy folk can find their voice. Just because 'tradition' says socializing is defined as face-to-face does not make it true and does not make it right.

Having said that, there is the danger for some that online may take the place of real life entirely, but that is not due to the influence of technology rather it is a choice made by an individual.

Unlike "The Performer" (Desmond), folks in my life are quite aware of my shyness and of some of the strategies I use to overcome it. I use the online world for less-critical communications so that I can 'save' some of my socializing energies for real life important situations. Does that make any sense?

It allows me to save more energy to interact with Queenie because she dislikes online communications with me because she wants to read expressions and body language as part of our conversations. For me it takes extra energy (the energy I save from online stuff) because:
1) Umm, well, my face and body are kinda over-expressive at times.
2) Well, even after 28 years she can not read me so I end up wasting energy defending mis-interpretations.

So it's all good. you folks save me energy in the socializing department that I can then spend on Queenie. BONUS!! One more marriage strengthened due to the generosity of the web.

XI Summit said...

P.S.- And yes, I do make faces and wild gestures when I read some of what's out here. Aren't you glad you only know me online?

FTN said...

XI wrote: There is the danger for some that online may take the place of real life entirely, but that is not due to the influence of technology rather it is a choice made by an individual.

I think that is extremely common, with people spending a huge amount of time on blogs, on MySpace, on IMs, on porn. It's one of the reasons I try to avoid much Internet-time at home, because it can be easy to tune out "real life" with online life.

Trueself said...

I think that there is some risk to becoming a hermit, isolated from the real world, in the age of technology. I can even see myself going in that direction, if I let myself. I would rather order goods and services online than have to (God forbid) actually speak to another person on the phone or face to face. The more that is available to me the more I take advantage of it. Not just on computers but out in the world too, I will always choose to pay at the pump when buying gasoline and go to the ATM rather than into the bank.

What blogging does for me, as well as participating in message boards and chat rooms, is that it helps me to establish communications with honest to goodness real live people out there somewhere. It helps me to hold conversations that would be darned near impossible for me in real life. It is a means of communication with others that feels "safe" to me.

Also, at least for me, what RS said about writing ability being lessened is not true. I am generally more careful with the written word, even online, than I am with the spoken word because I know it will be around longer. I try very hard to keep the grammar and spelling and punctuation correct although I know I do err a bit.

The Silent Male said...

I used to play a Multi Player online game that had action adventure and lots and lots of places for "social" interaction. Both my wife and I got addicted to that game. I think what happened was not healthy for either of us or for our children.

These days I am extremely cautious in regards to my online time. I allow myself to use the Internet while at home, but I avoid things that I would want to do more than give attention to my wife and kids. I keep my blog reading limited and make every effort to develop my posts while not at the computer (in my head) so that when I post I don't spend too much time at the screen.

I don't think that game addiction contributed to me being shy, just not very available.

Nanette said...

I don't know, that is an interesting question. I wonder if this effects the younger people that have grown up knowing nothing but technology more than say, us older folk, ha!

for a different kind of girl said...

I think the Internet definitely serves a role in the lives of people who clearly can't or won't feel comfortable around people. I also have seen it used as a "psychological experiment," for lack of a better word, where people use their relative anonymity to play with the minds of people in a realm they never (I'd assume) do so in real life.

I think, however, the Internet makes us "comfortable" in who we are - or who we "want" to be. When I think about it, I have realized that how I am online or in chats with people, that I'm pretty much that way in person, too. I don't know that I'd immediately feel at ease with these anonymous friends I've made online were we to meet in person, because, at the core, there is a shyness that creeps in.

I second Nan's thoughts, too. Will kids who have never not known life without the Internet find they don't need human contact when they can get and do everything online?

Very interesting thoughts this subject raises.

Desmond Jones said...

I just came across a weird/creepy bit of economic forecasting, and it seems to fit in this context. . . Depends (the adult diapers) stock is forecasted to rise. . . why? Because of the large number of aging baby-boomers?

Uh-uh. . .

Because of video gaming!

Ack!