Opinion
Can Social Media Help The Young Overcome Their Social Phobia?
  ·  2020-09-14  ·   Source: NO.38 SEPTEMBER 17, 2020

LI SHIGONG

According to a recent online survey on socializing by Guangming Daily, of the 2,532 people polled, 97 percent reported that they often try to duck socializing in person and are actually afraid of it, claiming that they find it embarrassing to interact with others face-to-face.

This is widely seen as a social phobia, as a growing number of young people are increasingly dependent on social media platforms like WeChat for socializing and are slipping deeper and deeper into a cyberspace life.

On the one hand, some believe social media helps the young connect with others, so that they don't feel lonely, thus messaging apps are spurring them to socialize. On the other hand, others say that overdependence on social media is discouraging young people from seeking face-to-face communication.

Irreplaceable face-to-face communication

Li Danyang (www.gmw.cn): Today, the so-called social phobia among young people is far from reaching the level of a psychological disorder, but it is concerning since it is an aversion to social intercourse.

The younger generation grew up amid a rapid evolution of the way to socialize, so their communication with others presents some new features. Those who were born in the 1990s are used to being alone. Most of them are the only child in their family, and their memories of childhood are often rife with loneliness. The rapid pace of urbanization limited most of them to a small circle in society, depriving them of the traditional bonds between relatives or neighbors. Moreover, some of them had to leave their hometowns very young for education or work. Thus their communication with their family and friends is limited.

Meanwhile, fast upgrading communication technologies and social media platforms, like QQ, Weibo, WeChat and Douyin, have made communication more convenient than ever before, which has also shaped the younger generation, as well as the whole netizen population's communication habits.

In real life, it is not easy for friends to meet up. Even if you all live in Beijing, you may have to wait a long time to get together.

In cyberspace, however, the story is totally different. People can talk to each other at any time. Even if they never meet offline, they can frequently contact each other online.

However, the question is, will online social communication help to effectively relieve social phobia? The answer may be no. Let's look at a common image of a family sitting around a room. No one is talking to others, as they are all playing on their phones or tablets. The same can be seen when classmates gather. The incessant use of social media is throwing the young into greater loneliness. To break this vicious cycle, the only way out is for people to get together face-to-face.

Zhang Yusheng (Beijing Youth Daily): The progress of social networking tools is followed by a decline in socializing capabilities among the young, whose aversion to socializing is not only reflected by statistics but also the common sight of young people glued to their phones everywhere. Actually, most of them are not really suffering from social phobia, they are just anxious about communicating face-to-face with others.

Meeting up, communicating and connecting are normal social activities in the world as old as human history itself. In this era of rapid scientific and technological progress, the younger generation's desire to communicate has not been dampened. On the contrary, their passion is now seen on various social media platforms. Strangers are easily added to friend lists, WeChat messaging has replaced phone calls and red envelopes are sent on WeChat in lieu of attending someone's wedding or birthday party. But at the same time, this overdependence on social media apps has increasingly narrowed the space for the young to conduct in-person communication with others.

There is more than one factor contributing to the young's resistance to face-to-face socializing. One is that they are already used to a simple and monotonous life thanks to their experiences in childhood and adolescence. In addition, as usually the only child at home, they are the focus of their family's attention and care, and thus they don't know how to interact with others outside of their family, even neighbors and other relatives. However, the core reason for their hesitation is that they lack self-confidence and socializing capabilities and skills.

The young must face up to the reality that they have to learn to interact well with others face-to-face or miss a lot of valuable experiences in life. They need to develop a correct assessment of themselves. They can help those in need, which may reveal their value, while bringing them a sense of achievement. The key is that they must attempt to do something in the real world, instead of limiting themselves to cyberspace.

Be aware of overdependence

Hanyelubai (Baijiahao.baidu.com): Virtual social intercourse is very different from real life communication. For example, video communication seems to offer the opportunity to interact similar to face-to-face communication, but the screen prevents people from getting to know the real person on the other side. People can use filters while talking via video, so if they were to come across each other on the street, they may not even recognize each other even though they talk online every day.

Many people have a lot of online friends, but virtual networking is not the same as real-life socializing, since people can still feel lonely. Therefore, those who are struggling with social phobia must go out and meet more people instead of choosing to search for friends online. Cyberspace is virtual; it is quite different from the real world.

Those who resist socializing in person share something in common: They are afraid they may be disliked by others for what they say or do. They fear that every time they are criticized by someone, they will feel they are useless and gradually, they isolate themselves from others.

For this group, the key to surmounting social phobia is to try their best to ignore others' negative assessments of them. They should learn to understand that sometimes those who dislike others actually envy them. This is why it is important for those suffering from social phobia to believe more in themselves instead of in others.

Zhang Xiliu (Baijiahao.baidu.com): To some extent, the popularity of social media platforms reflects widespread loneliness among people. The more the young rely on WeChat groups or similar platforms, the lonelier they may feel in real life. For them, WeChat groups are already alternatives to person-to-person communication. In this sense, although social networking can help to relieve loneliness, addiction to it is dangerous. Some people spend a lot of time on social networking groups, which eats away the time that should be spent on working or taking care of their family. The result is that real-life difficulties and problems begin to mount.

Social networking is a mixed blessing. When it goes hand in hand with real life in a harmonious way, it can help people's daily life, but if people use it as an escape from reality and in-person communication, it can disrupt life and drive users into a narrow corner.

Those who are shy about socializing must return to the real world. Real happiness comes from real life, where people talk to each other and mingle face-to-face and achievements take place in their family life and career. A balance between real life and virtual life is the precondition to achieve most of what one desires. Particularly, the young who work in an office should spend more time outside in nature or with their family and friends, instead of always focusing on the screen.

Copyedited by Rebeca Toledo

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