My name is David Grinsfelder, and I’m a 26-year old model living in New York City. I’ve recently started studying for my GRE (I take it on November 6), and I’m looking for some feedback on my first GRE Essay. I’d so appreciate any feedback this community is willing to offer!
Prompt & Essay Below:
Claim: Young people’s tendency to make extensive use of portable devices like smartphones and tablets has hurt their development of social skills.
Reason: These devices encourage users to form artificial personalities and relationships online rather than fully and honestly engaging with the people around them.
Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.
Portable devices like smartphones have produced a new wave of social interactions, not all of which are positive. I agree with the claim that, due to the likelihood that portable devices like smartphones will encourage users to form artificial personalities rather than engaging fully with the people around them, young people’s social skills have been hindered by portable devices.
Smartphones and tablets are an incredible source of knowledge and information, but they do not allow for the kinds of social interactions that develop one’s “real” personality. Although online avatars and social media profiles provide an exciting opportunity to craft (and often, to reshape) one’s presence and image, they are an overly curated version of the people behind the screens. These charlatans may sound and even look like their real-world counterparts, but it is difficult to know if one is engaging with the truest version of a person online. In addition, if the majority of interactions with other people happens from behind a screen, one does not have to engage in the kind of real-socializing that can be crucial to the development of proper social skills. The ability to read body language, listen for verbal cues, or even look in to the eyes of a conversational partner are largely null and void in the online realm, and as young people spend more and more of their time on portable devices, they minimize their opportunities to learn these techniques. In a world where genuine, face-to-face interactions are still vital for professional and personal success, this lack of opportunity to development basic human social skills will have deleterious effects on young people everywhere.
Moreover, young people’s tendency to make use of portable devices like smartphones and tablets to socialize directly interferes with the development more meaningful, in-person relationships. Human beings are, by evolution, social creatures, but developing genuine bonds of connection can be a difficult process. It can be, and often is, much easier for young people to default to the safety of the screen instead of fully and honestly engaging with the people around them, because they can more carefully control how others perceive them in the digital realm. Unfortunately, for those who are not socialized to do the difficult work of making friends and connections in person, it becomes increasingly difficult to break free of the pacifying effects of online relationships. The more that young people allow these digital interactions with friends and strangers to supplant their real world counterparts, the less likely they will be to venture out and develop true, interpersonal relationships.
On might argue that young people’s increasing affinity for smartphones, tablets, and other portable devices provides a net benefit in their lives, because it connects them to far away family members and provides access to a plethora of new domestic and international friends. It does, on occasion, even expose them to new ideas and concepts in online forums to which they would not otherwise have access. However, the increasing popularity of social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok demonstrate that young people’s increasing time online is usually not spent FaceTiming with grandma or chatting with an English-exchange student from Colombia. Furthermore, tablets and smartphones equipped with multiparty online gaming platforms, such as Minecraft or Call of Duty, usually do not foster many meaningful connections, and are even less likely to foster real-world equivalent “friendships”.
While it is true that portable devices like smartphones and tablets provide new opportunities to interface and connect with those outside one’s immediate geographic vicinity, these devices have hindered young people’s development of social skills because they do not allow for the crucial expression of one’s “real” personality, and they also allow online relationships to usurp the importance of engaging with real people.