Must It Be Social Media vs. Social Competency?

Recently I read a great article, from the SA Collective, Tech Generation: Don’t Just “Deal With It”, by #sachat peep @jakegoldblum1, and I couldn’t agree more with him. I’ve also been preparing for my first ever conference roundtable that I’m co-facilitating with my former Grad School Mentor on social media in student affairs. And finally I’ve been hearing some…interesting stories from colleagues across the area about the social graces or lack thereof of students. So amidst all of this, I’ve been thinking a good deal about social media’s influence on social competency.

In conversations, I’ve often heard that it is horrific how our succeeding generations have been raised on computers, the internet and apps and that social media is destroying their social competencies. While there may be some validity in this all encompassing condemning statement, it drive me nuts. First, it generalizes an actually bright, dedicated and hungry generation into a simple minded conglomerate of drones. Second, it is creating a platform area where complaining and talking about the problems outweighs the actions to improve them.

For me, in terms of growing up on computers, the internet, and apps, there really isn’t anything bad about that. It kinda reminds me of Rey Junco and his analogy that they (the younger generations) have smart phones and older generations had their televisions, radios and newspapers. To me, what does it matter what platforms they use to be social and communicative, so long as they are? And let’s be honest, they are probably interacting and conversing more about issues locally, nationally and globally than we ever were even in the 90s.

And I’m not sure that social media and technology are destroying their social competencies. Take a look at the basics of social competence. At the bare bones it is how a person interacts with others and society. Reading through some basic research of social competencies, several general competencies include; 1) the ability to regulate emotions, 2) knowledge and experience of social interactions and 3) understanding social situations and customs. With these as a basic foundation, I have to ask,  are the younger generations not learning how to regulate their emotions on social media? Are they not becoming knowledgeable of nor understanding social interactions and customs over social media platforms?

Personally, I think they are. I do relinquish that, yes, there are some interactions they must learn in person, such as dinning etiquette, shaking hands, etc. However, let’s be honest, its more often easier to read about these customs online and then apply them to the physical world, rather than trial and error them in person, which could lead to misunderstandings, false claims of prejudice and insensitivity.

Courtesy of

So with this thinking, I have a plethora of ponderings:

  • Perhaps its not that the younger generations are growing up on technology and therefore directly destroying their social competencies. But rather maybe its that they don’t know how to translate their social competencies from online to the offline world and vice versa?
  • Perhaps there is a need to have separate expectations and/or competencies for our online interactions and offline interactions?
  • Perhaps we need more education on the difference between personal and professional social competencies online, similar to what we do offline.
  • Perhaps a new perspective to have is HOW are we using technology social media platforms to create socially competent generations
  • Perhaps we need to consider how we, as the older generations, are helping to show a BALANCE of online and offline interactions?
  • Perhaps its a shift in approach; more “whats a good balance” and less “that’s wrong” or “that’s not what MY generation did”.
  • And finally, perhaps a big one is who is responsible for defining social competence for the future generations and what does future social competence look like? (Meaning, I bet the professionals of the 1800s are rolling in their graves seeing us text each other from down the hall rather than physically go to them, and are probably calling us socially incompetent because of it.)

A few ponderings for us to consider. Perhaps some are substantive while others are just that, ponderings, but I think that they are all valid perspectives to at least take into consideration as we continue to learn about this medium, its influences and how to best utilize it for the betterment of society and human kind. (As well as to help our students graduate and attain careers). 🙂

Until next time

Peace, Love and Pandas!

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

One thought on “Must It Be Social Media vs. Social Competency?

  1. Brain THANK YOU for writing this. I couldn’t agree more. I actually have a blog post written/scheduled on this very topic. I’m glad I’m not alone in my perspective on it. I really like the direction you took with it to…. online versus offline expectations. They’re different.

    They’re also changing too. What may seem “rude” or “strange” now may not in 50 years. So has been true throughout history.

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