Smith: Communication technology is dumbing down our interactions

As I sit and wait for one of my classes to start, I look around and see 10 kids typing on their laptops, undoubtedly browsing Facebook, while the rest of them race their thumbs, wildly texting their friends and significant others.

No one speaks. The professor walks in and immediately starts up his laptop to begin a PowerPoint presentation. What's wrong with this picture? Almost nothing. Technology is a beautiful thing that has advanced this world further and faster in the past 10 years than ever before.

I often find myself wondering, though: Is technology ruining the social and interpersonal skills of people both young and old? We communicate through electronic media - most commonly texting - and Facebook is an effort-free way to make new friends. Phone calls are almost obsolete, and the era of writing letters is practically over.

If someone is interested in another person, all they have to do is look at his Facebook profile and see that the person's favorite band is Sublime and his interests include "girls, hangin' with friends, eating and video games." Scroll back to the top and his page reads "Relationship Status: In a relationship with [insert someone you will never meet in your life]" but what does that matter? You basically know everything about this person, so why not check out who they're seeing? After completely stalking this person, the next time you see him you'll have nothing to say because you know everything about him from creeping on his profile. We've all done it, and I know that every time I do it, I die a little on the inside in realization that my social life has boiled down to using a simple search engine.

Kids are glued to their cell phones, and most say that they can't imagine life without their trusty mobile devices. The value of family relations is disappearing and the dependence on technology is disheartening. It's hard to imagine the world before we all owned cell phones. Those times seem so distant, and some think it would be impossible to live like that today. Indeed, cell phones are a great invention, and texting helps people to communicate faster than ever, but can you really get the full effect of a conversation by reading abbreviations and emoticons? Sure, those smiley faces are cute and often make me awkwardly smile to myself, but wouldn't you rather hear the person talk instead of typing every word to him?

We all say it's awkward to talk on the phone or to meet up in person, but that's only because we've become used to communicating through texting. It really is easier than talking on the phone, but this kind of communication can have long-term effects on social skills. Texting and Facebook are brilliant inventions but should never be the only means of communication.

Do we have the ability to live in this world and maintain our social skills without relying on cell phones and Facebook? It's possible, but it would take quite a bit of repair work.