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Social Media and Culture Shock

I recently came across a blog that explained why CEO's benefit from studying or living abroad at one point in their life. After just returning from a study abroad trip myself, I believe everyone can benefit from such an experience. We all know the business world is becoming more and more globalized. In order to keep up with this globalization and be able to effectively communicate in the field, an understanding of other cultures is crucial. In most environments, especially a working one, communication skills are imperative. In my opinion, social media may be hindering these skills, but it doesn’t have to...balance is the key.

The number of students studying abroad continues to grow each year. In fact, many colleges and universities are requiring it. These students are our future leaders, employees, co-workers, etc. What is interesting to me, is the affect media has on these students living across the world.

I was sitting in a small, crowded classroom in Rome, Italy, when the “communication conundrum” was brought to my attention. Our guest speaker, a travel writer who is also a professor at the John Cabot University in Rome, was telling us about his journeys across the world. He said the biggest change for him is the amount of "culture shock" students experience today. Now what exactly is "culture shock" you ask? There are plenty of definitions, but Google's first result would be something like, "an experience a person may have when one moves to a cultural environment which is different from one's own." This experienced traveler was confused as to why this term was just recently starting to surface. He said he had never heard of such a term back in his travel days. Interestingly enough, it was mainly his American students that came to him with this issue. So, why are American students experiencing “culture shock”? One answer, I believe, can be found when scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter. In general, social media may be at the root of this communication conundrum.

Now what influences, or perhaps enhances, this feel shock? Social media creates this feeling of connectedness and always produces a need for one to stay connected . It makes it hard for one to "unplug" and fully immerse into another culture. Communication is extremely important in order to connect with others. Real face-to-face encounters are becoming extinct. There are studies that suggest excessive social media use can limit one's ability to truly connect and communicate with others in person. Face-to-face interaction becomes screen-to-screen interaction.

I am not saying all aspects of social media are terrible. I use my fair share of social media as well, but I also know the importance of face-to-face communication. Throughout our trip we had to blog, take pictures, and interact with people...a nice balance of social media and personal interactions.


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