I’ve been reading articles online lately arguing that social media is improving communication (as well as being told so in a couple of online webinars I attended).
For the most part SM is incredible…Twitter has saved me quite a few times when I’ve been out and about, using my smartphone and coming across a great article that I want to save, but don’t feel like hassling through all my saved bookmarks on the tiny screen: I just Tweet myself, then I can read the item in its entirety on my much-larger computer screen when I get home (tho I still think that tweeting is best served as a tool for cursory discussions until you can get to a different medium, unless you have a great code system that abbreviates all words…but that skill belongs to a relative who worked as a cryptologist for the NSA, not me :-)).
Blogs are great because, like here at WordPress, you can build a pretty website, upload files, and garner comments, as well as comments to comments, in a fairly easy-to-use interface (although some WP tools that allow you to really control your website do take some technical skill to invoke).
In terms of people with disabilities, SM seems a great communication equalizer for most people. Since Dragon Naturally Speaking is available in iOS and Andriod app form (Dragon Go!), people who needs this tool to write text are no longer tethered to their home machines. Similarly, some brilliant engineers at Georgia Tech have developed an input system that turns an iPhone’s touch screen into a braille soft-touch keyboard. There are other apps, like Everyware’s TypeInBraille app, as well as an another version developed at Stanford . Not only do they work from within your iPhone (Android apps are soon on the way!), they’re much cheaper. How freeing is that?
But all these benefits mean nothing if you have poor communication skills: if you’re a bad communicator, having techy tools isn’t going to make you better. So no, I don’t think SM makes us better communicators: it just gives those who are good at communication more outlets to use, and the ability to reach exponentially more people at a single time (because people can follow your blog, your tweets, etc.) For people who don’t communicate well….your local librarian can help you find some great books and online sources to help!