Thursday, October 30, 2014

"The very well connected: Friending, bonding, and community in the digital age," Blog Response

In the article The very well connected: Friending, bonding, and community in the digital age by Craig Watkins, he starts with the question: are young people more comfortable with technology today than they are with humans? This question was prompted after witnessing his young cousin spending most of her time on her phone instead of interacting with others at a family party-a concept referred to as “absence-in-presence.” Throughout the article however, Watkins accepts that young people’s interactions are changed by the use of technology, which leads him to propose a more important question: do innovations in technology alter the quality of interactions, personal relationships, and how we experience community? Surprisingly, there was no evidence to support this case. Watkins conducted several surveys of teens and young people in their 20’s and concluded the following: young generations use the digital media to “fortify rather than forfeit their off-line relationships.” Though abrupt and short in communication as they may be, online relationships still express a sense of intimacy that conveys the message that people still care about one-another. People also did not prefer to engage in online rather than off-line relationships. Overall, Watkins concluded that young peoples’ commitment to technology is driven by their commitment to each other and a desire to stay connected to acquaintances and close friends; digital technology is simply a means to satisfy this.

As sound as Watkin’s argument is, I have a question that has risen from several different experiences: if young people use digital technology to fortify their relationships with close friend or family, why is it the case that when they get together, they are still stuck to their phones surfing the web or just scrolling through their Facebook newsfeed?  This question almost leads me to conclude that some young people may value digital technology as a form of entertainment rather than spending time with their close ones. This conclusion is supported by a study summarized in the article, “ Viewpoint: Why social media are destroying our social skills,” in which it was found that when given the opportunity to have an offline interaction with someone, 11%  of people still chose to interact online instead[1].

Watkins also claims that most young people use social media as a means to fortify existing relationships. This claim is subject to scrutiny because people being born into this digital world will not even have the opportunity to fortify existing relationships if all they know are online relationships. This argument is supported by MIT research psychologist Sherrey Turkle in the article, We never talk anymore: the problem with text messaging, in which her findings claim that young peoples’ interpersonal skills are not fully developed; spending large amounts of time online will hinder the formation of off-line social skills and thus the ability to form offline relationships [2]. So how will online media reinforce non-existent offline relationships? While Watkins’s article brings up good points, he is overlooking other factors that may contribute to someone’s use of technology and how it affects their sociability.

[1] Fowlkes, J. (2012, October 11). Viewpoint: Why social media are destroying our social skills. USA Today. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from
[2] Klugger, J. (2012, September 6). We never talk anymore: The problem with text messaging. CNN. Retrieved October 27, 2014, from

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