Recently I attended an alumni/ current student event at my undergraduate college. My main reason for going was to see some of my fellow classmates who had just recently graduated. After I had time to reconnect with some good friends and learn what types of interesting things they were doing, I started to notice the current students and how the group mentality was functioning in this social outing. Then I remembered how I was invited to the event. American society has always been geared toward the intrepid individualist, the venturing entrepreneur who sought to pull him/her self up ‘by the bootstraps’. We are a nation of individuals who happen to form groups with common goals. The main function of these groups in higher education is mainly social. It’s easy to see how people with common interests flock together and develop a relationship. However, in a society build upon the individual, is the group ideal becoming hollow? It was an electronic invite via a certain social site. The concept is to bring together people in a new and never-before done way. It serves a very unique purpose and certainly does help bring people together, like it did for my event, but it also has a side effect. It partially works against the group that it claims to bring together. In our new era of continual communication and constant connectivity the primary target group has been becoming younger and younger people. Now, nearly all college students have cell phones and memberships to social networking sites. The problem is that these things can be extremely isolating and lead to underdeveloped social skills and emotional intelligence. I can message 500 of my closest friends, comment on pictures, and even instant message, all without any real human contact. Why call up my friend when I can just post a quick comment? Why engage in a conversation when a quick post will do the job? In a college it is a double edge sword. In a virtual community that, in reality, has people all within very close physical proximity, an event can be thrown together in a flash. Unfortunately, in RSVP terms, ‘No” means no, ‘maybe’ means no, and ‘attending’ means possibly, but probably no. Connection has a new definition, one that can be artificial. What happens when these ways of interacting with others take precedent over traditional human interaction within the social group? I am nervous at how future generations will learn social skills. It’s a slippery slope, and one that should be walked on with very careful steps. I had just pulled in to the parking lot of our reunion event. I had plans to meet up with one of my friends who I hadn’t seen in a few months. I sent him a text message: “Hey! You here yet?” A few minutes go by. “You around buddy?” I got tired and realized how ridiculous my waiting actually was. I got out, walked over to the main area of the event and, sure enough, my buddy was there with a small of friends. It was good to be with them all again.
Matt Krauze is a counselor in training at Seton Hall University. He has interests in counseling in higher education as well as college student development and gender studies.