R U FRIENDS
Psychologists are learning more about how
teen friendships are changed by social
networking and text messaging.
BY AMY NOVOTNEY
As the parents of most teenagers know, today’s two- hour telephone calls with friends are often now conducted via marathon text messaging or Facebook
sessions. And that cultural shift has psychologists asking lots
of questions: What happens to adolescent friendships when
so much interpersonal communication is via text? Or when
fights between best friends explode via Facebook for all to see?
And can “OMG — ROTFL” (“Oh my God! I’m rolling on the
floor laughing!”) via text really convey the same amusement as
hearing the giggles of a best friend?
So far, the answers to those questions are mixed. Margarita
Azmitia, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of
California, Santa Cruz, who studies adolescent friendships, is
among those who contend that these technologies have only
changed some of the ways teens interact. Today’s youth still
count the friends they see and talk to every day among their
closest, she says.
trust, remain the same,” Azmitia says. “Technology has just
changed some of the ways kids can be friends with each other.”
Other psychologists, however, say today’s ways of
communicating can change the message, and wonder what
effect that has on adolescent friendships, and even teens’
social development. For example, instead of learning how to
handle the give and take of conversation — one of our most
basic human attributes and a connection we all crave — teens
instead are crafting and often constantly editing witty text
responses, says Massachusetts Institute of Technology social
psychologist Sherry Turkle, PhD.
“We’re losing our sense of the human voice and what
it means — the inflections, hesitations and the proof that
someone isn’t just giving you stock answers,” says Turkle,
whose book “Alone Together” (2011) is based on 15 years of
research and observation of children and adult interactions
with technology. “That’s a radical thing to do to our