How Does Social Media Affect Social Skills

As a social psychologist studying the effects of technology on human behavior, I have observed a troubling trend. While platforms like Facebook, Inst… As a social psychologist studying the effects of technology on human behavior, I have observed a troubling trend. While platforms like Facebook, Insta…

As a social psychologist studying the effects of technology on human behavior, I have observed a troubling trend.

While platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat have enabled us to stay connected with more people than ever before, they are simultaneously eroding our ability to interact face-to-face.

With every new social network and communication tool, we have traded in-person social interaction for virtual relationships and shallow digital connections.

We are losing the ability to read social cues, engage in meaningful conversations, establish true intimacy, and resolve interpersonal conflicts without hiding behind the veil of technology.

This societal shift is detrimental to both individuals and communities.

In this article, I will explore in depth how social media is making us less social by weakening our social skills.

The impacts are far-reaching, but by understanding them we can make better choices about how we shape technology to serve us rather than control us.

Introduction: Social Media's Impact on Social Skills

Social media has revolutionized how we communicate and stay connected with friends and family.

However, increased social media use may negatively impact the development of social skills in both children and adults.

Social Cues and Nonverbal Communication

Social media primarily relies on text-based communication, limiting our ability to interpret social cues like tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

These nonverbal signals are critical for navigating relationships and conversations in person.

Excessive social media use could impair our ability to understand these cues, making in-person social interaction more difficult.


Social media also reduces empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others.

It is easier to be cruel or insensitive when we don't see the direct emotional impact of our words.

This lack of empathy and connection can breed loneliness, anxiety, depression and other issues.

Distraction and FOMO

Social media distracts us and fuels a fear of missing out (FOMO), constantly tempting us to check updates and like or comment on posts.

This distraction and need for validation reduces our ability to be fully present with others in person.

We may find it difficult to put our phones away and focus on face to face conversations.

While social media has its benefits when used constructively, we must be aware of its potential downsides.

Moderation and balance are key.

Make time to connect with others in person, learn to be fully present, and practice empathy.

Our social skills depend on it.

Social media should enhance our lives, not dominate them.

The Rise of Social Media and Decline in Face-to-Face Interaction

The rise of social media has led to a decline in face-to-face social interaction and communication.

As social media platforms have become increasingly popular, people are spending more and more of their time online and less time engaging with others in person.

reduced in-person social interaction

In today's digital world, it's easy to go an entire day without having a meaningful in-person conversation.

People can connect with friends on social media, chat via instant messaging, and email colleagues at work all without leaving their homes or offices.

While technology has made it more convenient to stay in touch virtually, it is no substitute for face-to-face interaction.

Nonverbal communication like eye contact, facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language are lost when communicating electronically.

Fear of Missing Out Drives Social Media Use

The fear of missing out, also known as FOMO, is the uneasy feeling that your friends or peers are having rewarding experiences that you are absent from.

FOMO drives people to constantly check social media to see what their friends and followers are up to.

The more time people spend on social media, the less time is available for in-person social interaction and engagement.

Impact on Social Skills

Excessive social media use and lack of regular face-to-face interaction can lead to the deterioration of social skills over time.

Engaging with others in person requires skills like active listening, empathy, negotiation, cooperation, and conflict management.

These skills are best developed through real-world practice and interaction, not by posting, liking, and commenting on social media.

While social media has its benefits when used constructively, it should not come at the expense of real-life social interaction and relationships.

Make an effort to disconnect from social media and connect with others in person.

Your social skills and relationships will thrive as a result.

Reduced Ability to Communicate and Connect in-Person

As social media platforms have become more prevalent, our ability to effectively communicate in person has declined.

Face-to-face interactions require a diverse set of social skills that are not exercised when we spend the majority of our time connecting online.

Loss of Nonverbal Communication Skills

A large portion of communication is nonverbal, including eye contact, facial expressions, posture, and gestures.

These cues are absent from social media interactions and text messaging, depriving us of the ability to interpret them.

As a result, we are losing our innate ability to understand nonverbal communication and connect with others in person.

Fear of Uncomfortable Conversations

Social media allows us to curate our image and avoid undesirable interactions.

We can filter who sees our posts and choose not to engage with those who upset us.

This selectivity breeds a fear of confrontation and discomfort with in-person communication where we cannot as easily avoid difficult conversations.

We must relearn how to navigate challenging discussions to build meaningful relationships.

FOMO and Distraction

The fear of missing out (FOMO) perpetuated by social media causes anxiety and distraction, even when we are engaged in face-to-face conversations.

We have become accustomed to constant updates about the lives of friends and family and compare ourselves to the curated images of their social media profiles.

This unhealthy fixation with what others are doing online frequently diverts our attention from the present moment and person in front of us.

We must make an effort to be fully present to reconnect with others.

While social media is not inherently harmful and provides a means of staying in touch with distant friends, we must be aware of its effects on our social skills.

Making eye contact, truly listening without distraction, and engaging in difficult conversations are skills that require practice.

By balancing screen time with real-world interactions, we can maintain meaningful relationships and rediscover the art of personal communication.

Overall, social media should complement rather than substitute human connection.

Our social skills depend on it.

Social Media Leading to Social Isolation and Loneliness

Social media has fundamentally changed how we interact and connect with one another.

While social platforms offer opportunities to stay in touch with friends and family and meet new people, an overreliance on social media can negatively impact our social skills and lead to feelings of isolation or loneliness.

Less Face-to-Face Interaction

Social media has largely replaced in-person social interaction and conversation.

Rather than meeting up with friends or calling to catch up, we often default to liking posts or sending quick messages.

This lack of face-to-face interaction can stunt the development of important interpersonal skills like active listening, empathy, and conflict resolution.

Spending less time with others in person also means fewer opportunities to read body language and social cues.

Fear of Missing Out and Social Comparison

Social media exposes us to curated highlights of our friends’ and peers’ lives, which often appear more exciting or glamorous than our own.

This can lead to feelings of envy or inadequacy in comparison.

The fear of missing out on social events or experiences may also drive excessive social media use and detract from real-world social interaction or relationships.

These factors contribute to increased rates of anxiety, depression, and loneliness, especially in teens and young adults.

Digital Distraction and FOMO

Constant connectivity via social media means we are always distracted and anticipating the next notification.

This fractured attention span impacts our ability to connect meaningfully in person.

We become accustomed to shallow forms of communication and lose patience for deeper conversations or listening without distraction.

The fear of missing out also keeps us constantly checking our devices, even when spending time with friends and family in person.

This behavior is disrespectful and damaging to real relationships.

While social media is here to stay, maintaining strong social skills and nurturing in-person relationships is vital for wellbeing.

Making an effort to limit social media use, engage in more face-to-face interaction, and be fully present with others can help mitigate the effects of social media on social skills and overall happiness.

Strong interpersonal relationships will always be more fulfilling than likes or shares online.

Impacts on Emotional Intelligence and Empathy

Social media has fundamentally changed how we communicate and interact with one another.

While it has enabled us to connect across the globe, it also appears to be impairing our ability to connect on an emotional and empathetic level.

Impacts on Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence refers to our ability to perceive, understand, and manage our own emotions and the emotions of others.

Constant social media use, especially at a young age, may stunt the development of emotional intelligence.

When we spend more time interacting online versus in person, we have fewer opportunities to pick up on subtle emotional cues like tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

These cues are critical for learning how to understand and relate to the feelings of others.

Social media also provides a veil of anonymity that can embolden users to be less considerate in their communication.

It is easy to forget there are real people with real emotions behind the screen.

Cyberbullying is a prime example of how this anonymity can lead to cruel behavior online that most would not exhibit in person.

Repeated exposure to callous communication on social media may desensitize us over time and promote a culture where such behavior is normalized and empathy is diminished.

Impacts on Empathy

Closely related to emotional intelligence, empathy refers to our ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

There is concern that social media may reduce empathy in several ways.

When we spend more time engrossed in the carefully curated posts about the lives of others, we may make unrealistic social comparisons that generate feelings of envy or inadequacy.

This can shift our focus inward and make us less attuned to the struggles of our peers.

Social media also provides a platform for "slacktivism," where people show support for social causes by liking or sharing online posts but take little meaningful action.

This superficial support of issues may give the illusion of empathy without much genuine understanding or concern.

Researchers have found evidence that those who engage in slacktivism tend to score lower on measures of empathy.

While social media is not solely responsible for impairing emotional and social skills, it likely plays some role.

Finding balance in our use of technology and making an effort to connect in person may help foster these skills that are so vital for well-being, relationships, and society.

Consciously using social media to spread kindness and bring people together, instead of divide them, can help create positive change.

Difficulty Interpreting Non-Verbal Cues and Body Language

As social media has become increasingly prominent in our lives, many people have developed an over-reliance on electronic communication at the expense of in-person social interaction.

This has significant implications for the development of social skills, particularly the ability to read non-verbal cues and body language.

Difficulty Interpreting Non-Verbal Communication

A large portion of human communication is non-verbal, including body language, facial expressions, eye contact, and tone of voice.

These cues provide context and nuance to spoken words.

However, social media primarily relies on written communication, limiting exposure to non-verbal signals.

This can make it more difficult to interpret body language and facial expressions in person.

For example, someone may seem friendly and enthusiastic in their social media messages or texts but appear unengaged or distracted when speaking face to face.

The discrepancy between the digital and in-person personas can be jarring and lead to misunderstandings.

Repeated interactions via social media may foster an expectation that all communication will be explicitly detailed in writing rather than implied through non-verbal means.

This can negatively impact the ability to intuit meaning from gestures, eye contact, and tone.

Some research has found that increased social media use, especially at a young age, is associated with poorer ability to recognize emotional expressions and identify non-verbal emotional cues.

While social media offers many benefits, it is no substitute for in-person social interaction and the skills that come from reading body language and learning to navigate conversations in real time.

Moderating technology use and making an effort to engage in face to face social interaction can help prevent these skills from deteriorating over the long run.

In summary, excessive social media use can limit exposure to non-verbal communication and make it more difficult to accurately interpret body language and social cues in person.

However, a balanced approach that incorporates both online and in-person interaction may help mitigate these effects and support the development of emotional intelligence.

Achieving this balance is key to maintaining meaningful relationships and connections in an increasingly digital world.

The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and Its Effects

The fear of missing out, commonly abbreviated as FOMO, is the uneasy feeling that others are having rewarding experiences from which you are absent.

FOMO is a byproduct of social media use and has significant negative effects on social skills.

Distraction and lack of presence

When experiencing FOMO, people become distracted and less present in their current situation or interactions.

Their attention is focused on what others are doing or experiencing, rather than engaging fully in their own lives.

This constant distraction and comparison to curated social media posts prevents authentic human connection and the development of meaningful relationships.

Difficulty with empathy

FOMO also makes it difficult to feel empathy towards others.

When preoccupied with what you may be missing out on, it is hard to listen without judgment and understand another’s perspective or experiences.

Empathy is a crucial social skill that allows us to build trust and bond with others.

Without it, relationships remain superficial.

Decreased self-esteem

Exposure to carefully curated posts about the lives of others often leads to upward social comparisons that negatively impact self-esteem.

Feeling that your own life does not measure up in comparison to what you see on social media creates feelings of inadequacy, jealousy, and self-doubt.

Low self-esteem in turn makes social interaction anxiety-provoking and less enjoyable.

Addiction and poor well-being

FOMO can become an addiction, as people constantly check social media for updates about what others are doing.

This addiction, like others, negatively impacts well-being and life satisfaction.

Time spent engaging with social media replaces time spent exercising, socializing in person, engaging in hobbies, or other activities that enrich life.

Breaking this addiction is difficult but necessary to overcome FOMO and improve social skills and well-being.

In summary, FOMO has significant detrimental effects on social skills and well-being.

By cultivating presence, empathy, self-compassion and life balance, FOMO’s influence can be reduced.

Doing so will allow for more authentic social connection and improved social skills and satisfaction in life.

Tips for Balancing Social Media and Real Life Interactions

To balance social media use and real life social interaction, I recommend the following tips:

Limit Time on Social Media

I make an effort to limit the time I spend scrolling through social media each day.

While social media can be an easy way to stay connected with friends and family from a distance, too much use can be detrimental to face-to-face relationships.

I aim for no more than 30-60 minutes of social media use per day so I have more time to connect with others in person.

Make In-Person Plans

Instead of just interacting with friends online, I reach out to schedule real life meetups like grabbing coffee, dinner, or drinks.

Seeing others face-to-face allows for deeper conversations and strengthens bonds in a way that social media alone cannot replicate.

Even if it's not possible to see each other in person often due to distance or schedule conflicts, making the effort to coordinate video chats instead of relying solely on social media messaging makes a big difference.

Be Present When Socializing

When spending time with friends or family in person, I make an effort to be fully present.

This means limiting distractions from social media and mobile devices.

Putting away my phone and other electronics allows me to give others my full attention, pick up on nonverbal cues, and engage in more meaningful discussions.

Being present in the moment leads to stronger connections and more enriching interactions.

Share Experiences, Not Just Updates

On social media, it's easy to share quick updates, photos and snippets of life events.

However, the most valuable social interactions are often when sharing full experiences with others in real time.

I find that reserving some life experiences to share in person, rather than broadcasting everything on social media, makes those interactions more special and helps to strengthen bonds with close friends and family.

Finding the right balance of sharing on social media and in person is key.

With some conscious effort and moderation, it is possible to balance social media use and real life social interaction.

Making social connections a priority and focusing on in-person interactions when possible leads to healthier relationships and an overall sense of wellbeing.

While social media has its benefits when used constructively, real life social interaction is vital for individual and societal happiness.

With practice, balancing the two becomes second nature.


In conclusion, while social media has enabled us to connect with more people than ever before, it is crucial that we do not let it replace in-person social interaction and the development of social skills.

Social media should supplement rather than dominate how we communicate and build relationships.

Make the effort to put down your phone, look up from the screen, and engage with people face to face.

Social skills are best developed through practice, active listening, empathy, and sharing experiences together in real time.

Our ability to connect with others is what makes us human, so make real social interaction a priority in your life.

Though convenient, social media is no substitute for the relationships that truly matter.

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