McMullan 1 Becca McMullan Malcolm Campbell English 1102 10 April 2012 Call Me, Beep Me, If You Want to Reach Me Electronic

communication—texting, instant messaging and social media—is what teenagers are familiar with and use at their own convenience. I have personally lost friends, gained friends, got into viral fights with my parents and updated them of my whereabouts. Even I felt jealous at times when I would see a girl comment on my boyfriend’s picture. How does electronic communication affect the well-being of teenagers’ parent-child relationships, romantic relationships and peer relationships? How Parent-Child Relationships Are Affected By Electronic Communication My parents use text messaging to discuss family events like dinner or plans. Family members can stay in touch with each other through electronic communication (Coyne et al. 160-161). Parents use this form of communication to discuss mealtimes and other family events (Subrahmanyam and Greenfield 135-136). My parents and I use text messaging to plan when we are going to eat dinner or discuss what we are going to have for dinner. This is convenient for both parties in such a case. For example, I may have already had something to eat, so I could text my mom and let her know so she would not have to worry about waiting until I got home to tell her. Some parents are concerned with their teens using electronic communication. One of the main reasons is that parents believe their teens that stay in touch too often with friends and lack family communication. Kaveri Subrahmanyam and Patricia Greenfield, authors of “Online Communication And Adolescent Relationships”, have done research on how electronic communication

McMullan 2 affects teenagers. The authors stated a working spouse may walk in the door and the children might say “hey”, if anything at all and continue using their electronic gadgets (135). This makes it more difficult for parents and children to have face-to-face conversations with the distractions of electronic communication. This could be taking away from family bonding time. Social networking websites allow for teens to express themselves. Will Lyman, narrator of “Growing Up Online” documentary from Frontline, discusses how a teenager, Jessica Hunter, used Myspace as a way to express herself as her alter ego goth model, “Autumn Edows.” Her parents were unaware of her other identity. Her father claimed he never saw her and she would not eat dinner with them. If her parents were to walk into her room, she would simply change the screen. She felt insecure about herself when she was younger, so she used Myspace as a way for her to build up her confidence. Even though her parents were against it at first, eventually they saw how “Autumn Edows” brought out the best in Jessica and their relationship with her through their acceptance (“Growing Up Online”). Parents may be unaware of what their children are doing online (Subrahmanyham and Greenfield 124). In the documentary, “Growing Up Online”, the narrator mentions how Evan Skinner, a mother of four teenagers, keeps the family computer in the kitchen to keep an eye on them. She admits her kids are “edgy” and they will change the screen whenever they are on Facebook (“Growing Up Online”). Her son, Cam, went to a rock concert, drinking and partying with friends and other people from his school. The video was posted online and his mother found out through an email from another parent. Once Skinner took the issue into her own hands by emailing all the parents, it had a negative toll on her relationship with her son and the rest of the family. Cam would avoid talking about his day at school or sharing any other information with his parents (“Growing Up Online”).

McMullan 3 My parents and I have had a few text fights. Some of them involved me lashing out at my mom for telling me I cannot go out with friends or her getting angry as to why I chose not to come home from school one weekend. Whenever we were angry or would lash out into an argument, it would in some cases continue through several text messages. Now that was an awkward moment when I would walk into the house after sending those text messages. Although, we have been able to keep in touch more through texting. It would come in handy whenever I had to let my parents know where I was, like if I were staying after school or going out somewhere. How Romantic Relationships Are Affected By Electronic Communication Personally, I found it easier to talk to other guys through text messages. I could have time to think of what to say through a text message rather than not say a word in person. Kaveri Subrahmanyam and Patricia Greenfield add that teens find instant messaging easier to use when talking to someone of the opposite sex (125). Teens feel more confident when using this virtual form of communication as a way for hooking up compared to real-life conversations (129). This leaves out the physical challenges of meeting someone new and focuses more on playful banter with text messages. Sarah Coyne, along with other authors have done several studies relating to teenage romantic relationships and how couples can use texting as a way of communicating more throughout the day when they are apart (Coyne et al. 152). Couples that go to separate colleges for instance, can text each other to keep in touch rather than never hear from them at all. My boyfriend and I text each other when we are away from each other. This allows us to remain in contact in a much faster, simpler way rather than just waiting to hopefully bump into each other throughout the day. Although there can be misunderstandings in text messages (Coyne et al. 152). Personally, I have had instances when I may be upset about something and try to hide it from my boyfriend by

McMullan 4 texting a short “it’s alright” or “I’m fine” with a few smiley faces here and there. Without me expressing myself physically as I normally would in person, he may not notice something is wrong. Sarah Coyne and other authors she had done studies with address that couples that just started dating may overkill how much time they spend using media rather than talking things out person (Coyne et al. 152). Individuals in a relationship would “. . .express affection towards their partner. . .” and confront them more using the media (160). For instance, an individual that previously got into an argument with their partner may text him or her to release their emotions about the previous argument (160). My boyfriend and I text each other more often than the time we spend seeing each other. This may make it harder for us to confront each other about issues since we do not see each other as often as we would like, so it may have to be resolved through text messages. Social networking websites like Facebook can enhance jealousy in couples. For instance, a girlfriend may see a picture of her boyfriend with another girl that posts heart symbols and “I love you” on the picture. The girlfriend may take that as the friend flirting with her boyfriend and become envious of their friendship publicly displayed online. Tom Meltzer, a man in his early twenties and writer for The Guardian, adds that there can be miscommunication online, but exchanging short responses on a Facebook chat in place of a quality conversation in person can make the relationship more distant. Break ups are terrible, but it only gets worse once your relationship status changes from “in a relationship” to “single” like mine did on Facebook. Once that happened, within several hours, I got texts and Facebook messages from people asking me what happened. As if it was not enough hearing people talk about it, I would see Facebook status’ he made that were directed towards me and people would “like” or comment on them. It was atrocious and not an event I want to experi-

McMullan 5 ence again. This affected how I would maintain friendships with people we were both friends with. I felt awkward being around some of the same people he was friends with. How Peer Relationships Are Affected By Electronic Communication Peer relationships online are similar to clichés or social groups in school when it comes to “fitting in.” Tom Meltzer discusses how Facebook has affected him. Meltzer felt compelled to join Facebook, as he thought of it as “social suicide” if he opted not to (Meltzer). Several years ago he claims “. . .on probably the loneliest week of my life, my newly created Facebook page looked me square in the eye and announced ‘You have 0 friends’” (Meltzer). He views Facebook as an enhancement of old clichés. I understand where he is coming from. I see the same popular girls I would see in school posting thousands of pictures of themselves and updating their status’ on Facebook. Not only would I see them in school, but I would see them on Facebook too, like there was no way to avoid them. Mannerisms exchanged in person seem to diminish over time online. Hilary Stout mentions how a mother, Laura Shumaker, remembers her son writing happy birthday on his friend’s Facebook wall, rather than wishing his friend a happy birthday in person. Personally, when I was younger, I remember when my friends would call me or come to my house just to wish me a happy birthday. Now, Facebook reminds them when it is. Sometimes all I get is an abbreviated form like “happy bday” or “hbd.” Not only are people dependent on Facebook to remind them about such important events like birthdays, even their short, abbreviated responses seem rude and impersonal. There have been instances where I have gotten into fights through text messages. I have lost close friends over text messaging each other. Whenever something would go wrong, I would send long text messages, possibly five or more and vice versa. There were messages full of words

McMullan 6 with complete anger and frustration, words that hurt enough to make me feel isolated and miserable. I would cringe when my phone would vibrate. Online communication can allow shy kids to come out of their shell and socially interact with others. Hilary Stout adds that Robert Wilson claims his son, Andy, was teased jokingly by his friends on Facebook. Wilson suggested his other son, Evan, who is more introverted, create a Facebook account. He believes his son is now developing social skills he did not have. He noted Evan was talking to a girl from his former school (Stout). I have been able to keep in touch with my friends through text messaging and Facebook. An old friend of mine I met several years ago sent me an email several months ago and added me on Facebook. We talk to each other every now and then. She mentioned that I could come visit her whenever I would visit Myrtle Beach. Another friend of mine that lives in Pennsylvania and I keep in touch through text messaging. She may come visit me this summer. Tom Meltzer does admit there are some advantages to social networking sites like Facebook. New topics are spread fast and efficiently, like his example of Michael Jackson’s death. Facebook also makes it easier to remember friend’s birthdays (Meltzer). Skype allows people to keep in touch with each other through a video chat where each person can be seen while having a conversation at the same time. Electronic communication provides people over long distances the ability to stay in contact with each other, stay up to date with friends and family, and be aware of news topics. Conclusion - My Final Thoughts What ever happened to the old days? I remember hanging out with my friends in my neighborhood every day after school. Now, all we do is text or Facebook each other. This is convenient, but is it always necessary or beneficial? It is easy and fast whenever I am in a rush. However, the

McMullan 7 more I think about it, sometimes I do not feel as close as I normally did with people I interacted with in person. Text messages are easily misread and the amount of privacy I used to have seems to have blown straight out the window. People can simply look over your shoulder and read what you are texting or typing on a Facebook message. Facebook relationships and interests are displayed and people use that as a way to know more about you as a person. What ever happened to simply asking someone, “What are your hobbies?” Facebook has that under control; there is no need for you to ask that in person. What about flirting with someone? There is no need for that in person, there is always texting and Facebook chat, so even when that girl says “no” to you asking her to prom, there is no need for that kind of public let down at school. What about friends that moved and live far away? Facebook and text messaging has allowed me to keep in touch with them rather than part our separate ways. The more I thought about how electronic communication affected teen relationships; the more I realized the importance of face-to-face social interaction. Without verbal and social cues, there will more likely be misunderstandings (Coyne et al. 152). As I look back now, I wish I would have talked things out with my friend. I feel like there is more to be said from both parties and we might have misread each other when we were texting each other. There were never any face-toface conversations whenever we got angry, which might have been an a more effective way to communicate that way we could read body language to determine what to say next without being too offensive. Eventually, my former boyfriend and I talked things out face-to-face, which made the conversation much easier. I could tell he felt uncomfortable by the way he would slouch or look in a direction opposite from me. Face-to-face social interaction helped us communicate without simply

McMullan 8 avoiding a question like you could through a text or Facebook message. Electronic communication does have its advantages, but sometimes it can be oppressive or discomforting. These forms of electronic communication have allowed me to stay in contact and remain close to friends and family. On the other hand, it has brought me apart from some of them. My opinion is that electronic communication can be beneficial, but there is a limit to how often it is used. Yes, it is convenient when talking with friends that live over long distances or texting your parents to tell them you are going to be late for dinner. However, it is not needed when communicating with friends that live close by or right next door. It is not necessary to text your parents that your going out for the night when they are downstairs. Electronic communication is nice to have, but too much can take away from social interaction needed to maintain relationships with people that allow for physical and verbal expression that text messages and Facebook chats do not have. As long as electronic communication is not extensively used when it is not needed, then it can provide teenagers with the chance to keep those that are physically far away close and allow them to remain in touch with them.

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Works Cited Coyne, Sarah, et al. "I Luv U :)!: A Descriptive Study of the Media of Individuals in Romantic Relationships." Family Relations 60.2 (2011): 150-162. Education Full Text (H.W. Wilson). Web. 17 Feb. 2012. “Growing Up Online.” Nar. Will Lyman. Frontline. PBS. WGBH, Boston. 28 Jan 2008. Web. 26 Mar. 2012. Meltzer, Tom. "Social networking: Failure to connect." Guardian. The Guardian. (2010): n. pag. Web. 17 Feb.2012. Stout, Hilary. “Antisocial Networking?” New York Times. The New York Times. 30 Apr. 2010. Web. 12 Feb. 2012.

McMullan 10 Subrahmanyam, Kaveri, and Patricia Greenfield. "Online Communication And Adolescent Relationships." Future Of Children 18.1 (2008): 119-146. Education Research Complete. Web. 17 Feb. 2012.