Social Networking as a Therapeutic Device
By: Abby Ngwako, M.Ed.
Colorado Technical University Adjunct Faculty - Psychology
After years of teaching online with my focus on psychology and sociology, it’s interesting to observe how the way we communicate has changed with the growth of the Internet; and more specifically, with social networking. The risks of cyber bullying aside, these new channels have been a positive driver of change.
Consider a study by the American Psychological Association (APA) which contends that blogging can be helpful in treating teens who suffer from social anxiety. This is interesting, since students have frequently told me that expressing themselves online was much easier than they thought. In fact, some students who report difficulty with traditional classroom participation credit the online environment for helping them come out of their shell. “It did not feel the same as in an on-campus classroom,” they said. Particularly not like anxiety-inducing scenarios where everyone is staring and presumably judging each other’s’ answers.
One important aspect of the study was that while the blogs were open to the public, negative posts were removed, so comments were positive and supportive. This made an important contribution to allaying social anxiety. Without such monitoring, we would inevitably encounter such problems as cyber bullying. In an academic setting, I found that most students tend to be more supportive and positive, similar to the study.
That said, one wonders how many of us from older generations would be as brave as the teens in the study to similarly open ourselves up. It’s contradictory, in that blogging is similar to how a diary or journal would work, but with a twist: everyone could read it. Wouldn’t that make a socially anxious person much more so? On the other hand, I can see how it would help to get it out in the open and overcome such fears by practicing in an environment that feels safe, especially to a young generation that grew up with the Internet.
How has social networking influenced the way you communicate? Does the digital environment make you more, or less, comfortable opening up? Comment below, or tell us on Twitter @CTUniversity.
Abigail Ngwako is an adjunct instructor with CTU in Psychology, Sociology and Ethics. She holds a Master of Education with a concentration in Educational Psychology from National-Louis University and her Bachelor's degree from Purdue University in Political Science and Communications. She can be found on LinkedIn.
Source used: American Psychological Association (APA). (2012 January 4). Blogging May Help Teens Dealing with Social Distress. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/2012/01/blogging-teens.aspx
Image credit: iStockphoto