Are Teens Hiding Behind The Screen?

By Guest Author Jonathan Nielsen

picture of doll sitting in empty stadium“R U 4 real?” The use of phrases like this demonstrate how technology has managed to merge itself with the social life of teenagers in the form of instant messaging, text messaging and social networking sites such as Facebook. A little observation will tell anyone that a large percentage of a teen’s time is spent texting on his or her phone or chatting online. With so much time devoted to these activities, researchers want to know if there are any side effects.

Pierce set out to examine the effects that teen usage of these technologies might have on their social life. She conducted a study that sought to determine if there was a relationship between recent social technologies and shyness among teenagers. In the study, 280 teenagers answered survey questions regarding how much time they spend on socially interactive technologies such as text messaging, instant messaging, and social networking sites. In addition to finding out how much time teenagers spent on these technologies, the survey also asked questions regarding each teen’s feelings toward face-to-face communication.

The results revealed a clear connection between social introversion and the socially interactive technologies. Those who disliked personal communication were more likely to use socially interactive technologies. This suggests that these new technologies are providing shy individuals with a comfortable means of communication, while replacing any opportunities that these individuals may have had to get over their timidity by practicing face-to-face communication. Lastly, the author concludes that since these technologies are relatively new, society has yet to discover all of the possible consequences.

With the results of this study in mind, it is crucial for teens to evaluate their personal use of these technologies. Do they substitute personal time with friends for time on Facebook? Do they text their friends more than they call them? Are they using these technologies as a way to avoid their social anxieties? As foreign as these problems may be to parents and teachers, the answers to these questions are important to a teen’s future success in life. Face-to-face communication is vital in the workplace, and many teenagers may not be properly developing the necessary interpersonal skills; therefore, these questions must not be avoided. All of this is to say that teenagers must come to realize that they are an experimental generation– No other generation has grown up using these social technologies, and the consequences of these technologies are poorly known.

Pierce, T. (2009). Social anxiety and technology: Face-to-face communication versus technological communication among teens. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 1367-1372.

Reading Between the Lines: What Our E-mails Say About Our Near and Far Relationships

By Guest Author Elizabeth Worlein

As a busy woman, a girlfriend in a long-distance relationship, and friend that is hard to reach by phone, I have wondered how my use of technology impacts my relationships. What does my use of e-mail say about my relationships with my friends, my romantic partner, and my family?

Johnson, Haigh, Becker, Craig, and Wigley attempt to answer this question in a recent study. Two hundred and twenty-six college students submitted their personal e-mail messages that they received in one week. The researchers examined how the e-mails maintained the students’ relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners. The researchers also examined how relationships were maintained between people that were geographically close, and those that were long-distance. Researchers observed five main behaviors people exhibited to maintain their relationships in the three types of relationships:


  • Openness (sharing your experience, feelings, etc.)
  • Social Networks (references to events, school, or other relationships)
  • Positivity (e.g. “Have a great day!”)
  • Assurances (e.g. “I love you.”)
  • Joint Activities (e.g. “See you Monday!”)


  • Openness
  • Social Networks
  • Positivity
  • Joint Activities
  • Miscellaneous (Sign-offs, emoticons, etc.)

Romantic Partners:

  • Assurances
  • Openness
  • Positivity
  • Social Networks
  • Referring to cards, letters, or calls

This study illustrates that through the use of e-mail, we can continue to maintain our relationships when we are not face-to-face. What we communicate over e-mail, such as assurances or positivity, is similar to what we use to maintain our relationships when we are face-to-face with the person. The results indicate that our interactions over e-mail are not very different if we are near to or far away from the person.

What does this study’s finding say about our relationships?  Perhaps what we are communicating illustrates what we value in that relationship. For example, we may maintain friendships and family relationships to talk about our everyday experiences. For our romantic partners, we seek to communicate the importance of our relationship through assurances and openness. From all of these relationships, we are seeking positivity and openness, among many other values. Nothing radical happening on e-mail compared to any other venue–just another venue upon which to share the human condition.

Johnson, A., Haigh, M., Becker, J., Craig, E., & Wigley, S. (2008). College Students’ Use of Relational Management Strategies in Email in Long-Distance and Geographically Close Relationships. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13, 381-404.