Another common assumption is that the development of virtual social interactions based on the ideal self, is not reflective of how real people will interact with you in the real world and therefore could potentially give the individual a false sense of confidence, regarding their ability to appropriately interact in the real world. Yet, many would also argue that confidence is the most attractive social attribute, almost regardless of other appearance factors. Lastly, many assume that the development of social skills online, where it is relatively easy, will create a whole body of social isolates that do not interact in the real world because it is too difficult in comparison. So, as you can see the debate regarding social skills development and SMS is still highly fractured and remains to have a clear direction for either research or reality.
Like any other aspect of human functioning there are both positives and potential negatives that pertain to this question. Basically there are two general schools of thought, one being that the social skills of the individual are actually improved by interacting in the virtual world, as a sort of trial for the real world and as a way to gain social skills if one is say to shy in the real world to interact in a meaningful manner. While the other camp believes that the virtual world, with its anonymity and social isolation hinders individuals who at any given developmental stage should be out seeking real human interaction in the real world. Though the research consensus is that there is a great deal we do not know about the effects of SMS on human social skills, in youth and as adults and that greater understanding of both the positive aspects of such pastimes and the negative aspects of such pastimes is crucial to a greater understanding of how such media can be embraced and/or rejected by the broader community. Possibly even how SMS formats might be tailored to better meet the needs of a learner, be it a learner in literacy or any other educational goal, including but not limited to social skills.
Review of Literature
James Paul Gee, a pioneer in research associated with internet media, approaches the subject from the perspective of a scholar seeking to understand and celebrate the manner in which this new form of human interaction can help the human race to progress and prepare for the future. So much so that he addresses the exponential draw of SMS, virtual worlds and massive multi-player online games (MMOGs) as a research topic worthy of analysis for the sake of how it can teach educators how to better engage the student, especially in issues of literacy. Gee embraces the idea that developers and game makers are clearly at an advantage for seeking engaging tools as they are marketing a product, unlike schools, and cannot fail without censure, as failing to engage people is the recipe for never having a format or game launched, produced, marketed or in the worst possible case scenario never making it to market. (Gee, 2004, p. 114) Engaging young people, will in most scenarios, teach them something and it is of the greatest import, according to Gee that the teaching be valuable. Gee would then say we should embrace this medium and utilize it to its fullest potential to engage children in learning. (p. 46)
Gee also touches on the subject of social skills as a secondary demonstrative aspect of perception in a social environment, through literacy and thought, claiming that there is little known about such issues as specialized skill formations, such as those utilized by a group. (p. 3) In so doing he creates the beginning of a long set of questions about specialized groups of online inter-actors and the need for greater understanding of the effects of virtual interaction (p. 157). These questions are demonstrative of those that will likely continue to be explored extensively in the coming years as SMS and other virtual communication and connectivity formats continue to grow and evolve in an organic manner, with the input of both developers and SMS members.
In Zibit and Galarneau's 2006 article entitled Online Games for 21st Century Skills, the authors mirror the ideas of Gee going as far as to boldly state that the virtual world, and specifically online gaming and SMS communication is the future of all education as we know it. (p.4) The work then goes on to specifically address several aspects of online gaming and SMS that teach skills the authors deem are crucial for interaction and knowledge attainment in the real world of the future. The authors argue that the skills needed for the 21st century include critical thinking, teamwork, problem solving, collaboration, facility with technology, information literacy as well as a few other things that the authors claim to be well taught by the virtual media today. The researchers claim that in fact lessons are taught in a more natural manner to the learner in the virtual world as such lessons are fluid and organic and learner driven in a manner that is much less common in standard curriculum or in real social interactions, with their massive social mores and expectations. The learner must achieve a goal, a goal that gives them instant incentive to learning, such as gaining access to new functions of the game or the next level of learning or in the case of SMS greater connectivity and better ability to seek and find information they desire. (p.5)
In a more general assessment of online education a salient point is made with regard to the value of the online education experience:
One of the goals of any teacher is to help students to view the world in ways dramatically different from what their experiences and biases would otherwise filter their conceptualizations. Online learning can be pivotal in this quest if we embrace the media and utilize its full capacity. (Bataineh, Brooks & Bassoppo-Moyo, 2005, p.285)
Given the opportunity to change the manner in which any individual sees the world, especially in knowledge seeking would seem to be a tailor made goal of the online SMS and virtual communication settings as well as in online gaming.
Williams, Ducheneaut, Li, Zhang, Yee, & Nickell, are seeking to understand the manner in which online gaming, and specifically within the context of the most popular MMOG, World of War Craft, create socialization within the game. The above work constitutes a culmination of research regarding the interactive social aspects of the game's collective organizations or guilds. The interesting thing about MMOGs as apposed to SMS is that such sites allow a significant amount of personal imagination as well as a relatively strict adherence to social rules, in much the same manner as real lived experiences, where as SMS can be more fluid and the standards and rules of real interaction, presumably with people one already knows is adhered to. The work would be furthered by assessing how such interactions effect outside socialization, but clearly develops the idea of an internal and exclusive social order, that dictates social interactions and to some degree creates outside relationships, between peoples in various locations and even in some cases real life roles. (2004, p.340) From these interactions relationships build where as SMS interactions are often the development of social networks that already exist and build on existing standards within them. Yet, the manner in which individual users communicate using SMS sites can overstep the boundaries of social networks. For instance posting information about ones personal life on an SMS that does not fall into the realm of acceptable for work, school, family or even church social networks can and often does create conflict. While some might report that such conflicts are limited and play out rather rapidly others would argue that the seeds of such issues can and do cause conflict that spreads into real life. For young people a good life lesson may be broached when he or she posts information about themselves, their desires or their actions that is not appreciated by their elders, a mildly flirtatious photograph or a side comment to a friend that might not be appropriate for their parents or grandparents to see or read can open a line of communication, while it could also result in a loss of privileges or trust. Another possible scenario might be much more serious, where an adult employee posts or affiliates with an organization that posts racist ideologies and such information is shared with coworkers and a conflict ensues directly between these coworkers via the SMS which results in discharge from a job. This would be a hard lesson to learn, and might be a totally unexpected, yet plausible result of free expression in an SMS. The personal and even legal aspects of these scenarios, likely playing out on an…