Social Media and Cell Phones’ Effects on Family
The rate, at which social media and cell phone usage in families has hit unprecedented levels, is a phenomenon that has caught society unprepared. Thus, two factors have led to this eventuality. One of them is the fact that over the years, cell phones have become very affordable and it is now possible to have all family members, who live in the same house, have a cell phone of their own. The second factor is the increased internet connectivity, where more and more areas are now connected to high-speed internet services that are also very affordable (Bruess, 2016). Thus, these factors have led to the usage of cell phones to increase a phenomenon that has brought both positive and negative results. Thus, the positive input of social media and cell phones is that they have improved the connectivity of people through increased exchange of information. However, within a family unit living in the same house, cell phones and the use of social media have been the source of disconnect between family members, while alienation has become quite common (Drago, 2015). Rarely are the family members now involved with one-on-one communication since they are heavily engaged in social media via their smartphones. Therefore, this disconnect has seen some children argue that their parents are more concerned about their social media accounts and communication than their children. Moreover, with the decreased personal communication within families, cell phones and social media have jeopardized the unity of many families. Therefore, there is the need to have a precise understanding of the effects of social media and cell phones among family members residing in the same household if one-on-one communication is to be restored. Technology is here to stay, and therefore, realizing a balance between the use of cell phones as well as social media and the promotion of increased personal communication within a family remains the best approach if the level of communication between family members is to be improved.
The paper aims at demonstrating how the use of cell phones and social media has affected the degree, to which family members engage with one another regarding the much-needed personal communication. This will be done through a detailed overview of major themes on the topic that will be supported by the current literature in the field of communication. After analyzing the literature at hand, potential gaps that need to be filled to create the required balance will be identified and outlined in the form of directions for future research to follow. The paper culminates with a conclusion, where the major highlights of the analysis will be captured.
Overview of Themes
Cell Phones and Social Media in Family Equals Increased Alienation
The increased usage of cell phones and social media has led to family members spending more time on themselves even in the presence of other family members. Such a state of things is mostly caused by the fact that when people are engaged in social media via their cell phones, they become immersed in the digital world to such an extent that sometimes, they lose touch with their environment. According to Drago (2015), the new technology in the form of cell phones has become so deeply rooted in people’s lives that it has slowly taken over face-to-face communication. This sentiment is also supported by the findings of Chambers (2013) who has found that the use of cell phones and social media, if not managed properly, can lead to family members losing personal connections. Surfing the internet with one’s cell phone, or being engaged in conversations on social media is so engaging that one becomes cocooned in their space, which ultimately leads to increased alienation of people within a family.
This effect of increased alienation, brought in the family by cell phones and social media use, has prompted Singer and Singer (2012) to argue that face-to-face communication in families has halted, thus leading to a reduced interdependence between the members of a family. The authors further assert that the lack of personal connection, caused by cell phones during family time, is also the factor behind increased tension in the family since people are rarely there for one another emotionally (Singer & Singer, 2012). Graham (2014) confirms this phenomenon with the finding that not only has social media compromised communication within families, but it has also led to children engaging in avenues that their parents have no understanding of, which has also caused increased fear among them. Therefore, it is clear that with the increased use of cell phones and social media, families are less involved in personal communication since they are heavily rooted in the new world of technology-assisted communication.
Cell Phones and Social Media are a Threat to Socialization Within a Family
The health of any family in terms of closeness among its members depends heavily on the level of socialization, taking place in the family. Thus, Lamanna, Riedmann, and Stewart (2015) point out that the strength of any family is proportionate to the level, at which its members interrelate with each other when communication is critical. On the contrary, the increased usage of cell phones and social media has brought a huge barricade to communication within the family. Thus, many families have experienced significant shifts in communication since their members prefer to be engaged in social media as they can find relatable discussions there (Vangelisti, 2013). These sentiments are shared by Rudi, Dworkin, Walker, and Doty (2014) who argue that despite the positive inputs that technology has brought in communication engagements, caution should be applied when integrating social media and cell phones in families since, if they are excessively relied upon, the socialization among family members is lost easily.
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Similarly, Rudi et al. (2014) indicate that the use of information technology has become rampant among families in the USA, yet little is known about its impact on the family setup. This is an indication of the threat that social media and cell phones pose to the level of socialization within a family since society does not know anything about the best guiding strategies in ensuring that the use of modern technologies of communication does not affect family socialization. Moreover, according to Lamanna, Riedmann, and Stewart (2015), the perpetuity of strong family relationships heavily depends on the presence of constructive criticism, which is heavily availed through socialization. However, the authors are an assertion that with cell phones and social media usage, rarely are families engaged in healthy socialization since they have fallen victim to this new technology-based trap of communication (Lamanna, Riedmann, & Stewart, 2015). Thus, it is clear the use of cell phones and social media in families has led to family members being engaged more in their gadgets rather than conversing with one another, which threatens the basis of any family – unity, and socialization.
Social Media and Cell Phones Have Brought Increased Mistrust in Families
Trust is cultivated through the increased understanding of one another. Moreover, mutual understanding is a product of the consistent interaction of people. However, with the increased use of cell phones and social media in families, this needed interaction disappears quickly since family members find the needed interactions online, on social media. Moreover, now, children are quite heavily involved in social media, and they find it easier to open up to strangers online rather than to their family members.
Thus, in their research, Child and Westermann (2013) discovered that not all children are comfortable accepting friend requests from their parents since they fear the reason behind such motives. This is a typical illustration of how trust among family members has been ruined due to the reduced one-on-one communication, consequently leading to these members developing low confidence in trusting one another. Moreover, according to Vangelisti (2013), cell phones and the involvement in social media by family members have led to the emergence of a secretive culture, where personal space is highly valued. Mistrust in families often emerges where it is uncommon to find family members open with one another on the issues that they can easily discuss on social media. As a result, if nothing is done to combat this problem, conflicts can become common between partners as well as between parents and their children when their level of mistrust becomes untenable (Bruess, 2016). All these levels and the nature of mistrust emanate from the fact that the use of cell phones and social media has made it harder for family members to engage in communication that helps them build stronger bonds.
Cell Phones and Social Media are the Source of More Harm than Good in Family Communication
Cell phones and social media have indeed brought a huge positive input to the way family communication is done. Thus, they have helped family members, who live apart, keep in touch, which would not be possible if this technology were absent. However, according to Perse and Lambe (2014), cell phones and social media have also been the source of unhealthy ideals within the unit family. The argument is that through such avenues as social media, the basic pillar of the family, which is socialization, has been put into jeopardy.
Similarly, Bruess (2016) argues that technology in the field of communication and, particularly, in a family has led to children being acquainted with many evils, including extremism. Moreover, a good illustration of how much cell phones and social media have killed communication within a family is how parents can be surprised sometimes to find their children engaging in terrorist activities. Society’s stability starts from the family unit, and thus, any factor affecting the stability of a family leads to the instability of society in general. At the same time, Perse and Lambe (2014) claim that the greatest threat to family stability is the increased loss of unity due to the reduced level of personalized communication among the family members. Consequently, it is clear that despite the help of cell phones and social media in bringing many people close, technology has become the cause of instability for family members, living under one roof. Moreover, it has led to an increased feeling of negligence, and sometimes, little to no communication is needed in the socialization process, which is the key to continued healthy relationships among family members.
Directions for a Future Research
The analysis of literature points to the fact that cell phones and social media have suppressed the level of family communication. Therefore, further research needs to be directed towards identifying what makes family members neglect personal communication and choose to use their cell phones and social media instead. The feedback will be crucial in empowering society on how to reignite family communication in this new environment. Technology in communication is the new norm, and thus, families must realign accordingly to enhance one-on-one communication (Vangelisti, 2013). Another challenge is seen in the fact that parents have found themselves helpless when it comes to managing family communication in this new era of technology. Thus, more research to identify the best practices that parents can use to safeguard the stability of their families through improved personal communication is important. Further research on the topic at hand needs to be conducted to empower families to improve the rate and level of personal communication since it is the basic demand if communication technology is to conform to the demands of a healthily communicating family. At the same time, more research is needed in the area of developing comprehensive markers that will help family members identify the presence of uncontrolled usage of cell phones and social media on other family members. This will be helpful in the formulation of personalized checks and balances when it comes to their usage, thus safeguarding family communication. Therefore, the recommendation should be made that additional research on cell phones and social media usage be made family-centric, where the primary goal will be to get information on different ways of empowering all family members on the best methods of using this technology.
Cell phones and social media have affected negatively the ability of many families to engage in healthy interactions amongst themselves. It is increased mistrust, loss of personal dependence, alienation, and loss of family socialization, while these are essential elements of family stability. The paper has elaborated that beyond helping distanced family members stay in touch, cell phones and social media have brought great instability to families since members rarely dedicate enough time to listening to other members’ challenges. Moreover, in appreciation of the challenges that families face as a result of using cell phones and social media, one should state that more research should be geared towards empowering family members on the best way of managing this technology and developing healthy family communication. Consequently, the primary direction that needs to be followed is the one that appreciates the challenge of communication while recognizing the fact that communication technology is here to stay and nothing can be done about it.
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