What is face-to-face communication?

Technology has changed how people communicate. But has technology changed things for the better?

By Brandon Koebel

Have you noticed that millennials would rather text a friend sitting in the same room than have a face-to-face conversation? What happened to the “good old days” of talking with friends, catching up after the weekend, or simply hanging out to catch up? Technology and social media happened.

What happened to “let’s meet up for a coffee?”

The widespread adoption of technology and social media platforms has ruined face-to-face communication. No longer is it necessary to pick up the phone and talk with someone – text messages have taken the place of phone calls and Snapchat and Facebook have replaced the need to get together with friends in order to share what is happening in life. No longer is it necessary to walk across the office to ask a colleague a question. Instant messaging allows colleagues to share information, collaborate on tasks and get instant updates on important information. Our world has changed rapidly, but has it changed for the better? Perhaps the loss of face-to-face communication will have negative effects on society. Sherry Turkle explains that some of the things we now do with our devices would have been considered odd only a few years ago.

What are the consequences of changing communication methods?

Emily Drago explores how technological advancements have altered individual communication. Drago’s study found that while 62% of study participants utilized technology while in the presence of another individual (texting, talking, listening to music), and 74% of study participants agreed or strongly agreed that it bothered them when a friend or family member utilized technology while spending time together. 92% of study participants agree that technology has negatively affected face-to-face communication.

Social anxiety has been linked with increased use of online communication (Pierce, 2009). It appears that those who utilize technology as a primary means of communication experience greater discomfort when talking with others face-to-face.

While online and technology-enabled communication is valuable in the 21st-century workforce, a 2014 Skills Gap Study completed by the Four County Labour Market Planning Board revealed that employers continue to seek employees with strong verbal communication, social and interpersonal skills.

Next Steps

Debate swirls around the topic of face-to-face communication. While some (like Professor Paul Stoller) argue that technology has created an, “increasingly large group of ‘educated’ university students who appear to be ignorant of the world in which they live,” others suggest that digital communication is a necessary and critical aspect of life in the 21st century. Personally, I feel that technology is robbing our youth of the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas out loud. Face-to-face communication remains a critical skill for a wide cross-section of careers. The ability to put forth a well-supported idea and to respond to criticism by peers or colleagues cannot be replaced by an online virtual platform. We cannot let our technology-enabled society suggest that one line answers are sufficient to explain the complexities of the events which we encounter.

Other Resources

6 Reasons to Communicate Face-To-Face

Why Face-To-Face Meetings Are So Important 

Author: bkoebel92

Brandon Koebel is passionate about making a positive difference in the lives of youth. He is a secondary math teacher in Ontario and is currently working towards his Master of Education degree with a focus on education and digital technology at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (Oshawa). Brandon is particularly interested in meaningful mobile technology integration. Brandon serves as Vice Chair on the Hanover and District Hospital Board of Governors, and was previously a Governor at Trent University. In his spare time, Brandon enjoys water skiing, swimming, CrossFit and running.

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