Electronic Communication and Changing Norms of Interaction Between Generations
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Modern technology and the media are extremely powerful when it comes to communication sometimes in a positive way and other times in a negative way. This study examined how increasing reliance on electronic communication (e.g. texting, Facebook, instant messaging) is changing the norms of human interaction. Erving Goffman’s taxonomy of social interactions is directly relevant to this topic. Durkheim and Toennies predicted that face-to-face “primary” interactions would be replaced with more impersonal interactions in higher technology societies. This thesis involved an in-depth study that used data that was collected from an anonymous survey (See Appendix A). This survey was developed with the assistance of professional teachers at a Midwest K-12 Charter School, none of whom participated in the current study. This survey was designed to reach the opinions of a larger population. Two groups were surveyed; an 18 to 35-year-old group and a 45 to 65-year-old group. The participants’ anonymous responses were then analyzed to determine if age and gender made a difference in the four primary questions included in the survey. This study also looked at whether people altered their private vs. public personalities when using electronic communication. The survey was administered at a large local church in the Midwest over the course of one weekend where five masses took place between Saturday and Sunday with all 120 survey participants being 18 and over. A 5 point Likert Scale was used for the survey question responses. This convenience sample represents a very diverse population including participants from low, middle, and high incomes. The survey responses were collected the following week from a locked box in the back of the church by the investigator so no participants would interact with the investigator when filling out or turning in the survey. The investigator was not present until after all services had been concluded and all participants had exited the church. The data analysis using t-tests and an analysis of variance (single factor) ANOVA, showed that younger generations perceive electronic communication as having a positive outcome, while older generations perceive electronic communication as having a negative outcome on social interactions through electronic communication device conversations. The investigator also found that while a person’s gender does not affect how confident they are when communicating electronically, a person’s age range does affect how confident they feel.