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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

'Social intelligence' & youth

People's "social intelligence" is impaired when they socialize online. In "real life," our socializing is equipped with what author Daniel Goleman calls a "face-to-face guidance system" that gives us "a continual cascade of emotional signs and social cues" when we interact. It's what helps the interaction go well, so that nobody gets hurt or makes a gaffe. Take the face-to-face part out, he says in a commentary in the International Herald Tribune, and what we've got is "disinhibition" - psychologists' term for "the many ways people behave with less restraint in cyberspace." It's what explains bullying, harassing, or just rude behavior online. Obviously, it's not just a challenge only for young socializers, but especially for middle schoolers – before driving, when so much out-of-school socializing happens in streams of instant messages and social site comments – the amount of online socializing (and adolescent spontaneity) can compound the social risks.

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