Consider the many forms of media a person engages with on a daily basis. Within the span of a few moments, one might receive an urgent email, hear a Billboard-topping song on the radio, and respond to a text message composed of nothing but emojis.

Media defines communication and can deliver messages through any number of channels, including text messaging, social media, and, more recently, video conferencing. For better or worse, media is altering our interactions and perceptions of the world around us. Join us as we explore media’s effect on communication.

Video Conferencing

The unprecedented number of employees shifting to remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated cloud-based video conferencing that allows teams to collaborate from the comfort and safety of their homes. Professionals working from home are likely all too familiar with one of the more popular video platforms, such as Zoom, Skype, or Microsoft Teams. Don’t get us wrong — these platforms are incredible tools allowing professionals to collaborate with team members they may have never met before, but are they a substitute for in-person interactions?

Not according to The New York Times. They report that disruptions during video conferences such as blurring, jerkiness, and out-of-sync audio can lead to feelings of anxiety, isolation, and — the scourge of college students — burnout. Over time, the strain of making sense of chaos takes its toll. Humans are attuned to reading facial expressions, especially the minute muscle contractions that allow us to pick up on emotions. Communicating through video conferencing alters our perceptions, preventing us from engaging in facial mimicry and empathizing with others. The self-consciousness that can often arise during video calls can also distract from key communication signals, as we tend to spend more time staring at ourselves than anyone on the call.

Text Messaging

Texting has become the gold standard of communication, as text message chimes have become an overwhelming substitute for anxiety-inducing telephone rings. It’s easy to see why. A single-word text can sometimes effortlessly convey a message. Imagine the sheer number of text conversations that have been punctuated with just an “lol.”

Text messages could be doing more harm than good, however. Reducing interactions to a few choice words on a screen can lead to misunderstandings and curtailed conversations. Engaging in a text conversation doesn’t require us to make eye contact or consider another person’s thoughts and feelings. Essentially, texting is lazy. Writing a letter, sending an email, making a phone call, or meeting someone all require far more effort, and when communication demands little to no effort, relationships can suffer.

This isn’t to say that texting isn’t convenient or that it’s somehow killing language. Research has shown that texting can improve children’s phonological awareness and reading skills. However, consideration should be given to how we communicate with people outside of a string of text messages. Notifying someone you’re late via text, though considerate, could come off as rude if you don’t bring it up in conversation.

Emojis and Emoticons

Emojis and emoticons are visual forms of communication that have spread to our text messages, emails, and social media posts, which only makes sense: Images are a universal language. By referencing the intended emotion conveyed by a message, emojis and emoticons allow people to provide nuance to their communication that is normally lost outside of face-to-face interactions.

Emojis and emoticons are not without their drawbacks, however. They can carry different connotations across cultures, and like text messages, they can fail to convey a message’s intended meaning. Not to worry, though. A confusing string of emojis won’t lead to any serious consequences — that is, unless it’s seen by an attorney. A review of American and European legal cases found that emojis are considered “the first step in non-verbal digital literacy with potential evidentiary legitimacy to humanize and give contour to interpersonal communications.” This is further proof that media, regardless of the form it takes, has an incredible impact on how we interact with one another.

Social Media

The vast majority of Americans have adopted social media, with about 72% of U.S. adults using online platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. Grabbing our phones and scrolling through feeds has become a part of our daily routine. Uploading a picture or liking a post is a way to engage with our community and reach friends and family, regardless of their physical distance.

There’s a prevailing concern that social media leads to social displacement: the idea that time spent online takes away from time spent socializing. A study on social media habits, however, found that participants spent the same amount of time socializing whether or not they abstained from social media. We tend to interact with our loved ones through many modalities, including the forms of media mentioned above. There are certainly reasons to be concerned about social media, not the least of which is lack of privacy, but it has yet to stop us from communicating.

Master the Many Forms of Media

Far more than a momentary distraction, the many forms of media that surround us are changing the way we perceive and interact with one another. Professionals who are able to communicate and collaborate across media platforms are invaluable in practically any industry, which is why The University of Texas Permian Basin offers an online Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

Our online BA in communication program takes an in-depth look at the theories of communication and how they can be applied in everyday life, especially in professional settings where success often hinges on effective messaging. Through its exploration of crisis, interpersonal, and oral communication, our program can prepare you for numerous positions associated with communication, such as public relations professional, social media manager, or media specialist. Thanks to our program’s entirely online and asynchronous format, you can continue working in your current position while pursuing your degree. Join our online program to develop the knowledge and skills needed to navigate challenging workplace situations and facilitate workplace harmony.

Ready to become a UT Permian Basin Falcon? Apply now to our online BA in communication program to accelerate your career and become a more effective communicator.