The next time you go to the park or maybe out to eat at a restaurant, take some time to look around you. What do you notice? Pay particular attention to the other people around you. How many of them are engaged in face-to-face conversations? On the other hand, how many of them have their heads down using a smartphone or tablet?

Advances in technology have brought us to a curious point in time. Thanks to smartphones and the Internet, we're able to text, email, tweet, and update statuses on the fly all throughout the day. In many ways, we're communicating more than we ever have in the past.

Experts argue, however, that the types of communication made possible by modern technology have come at the expense of real, face-to-face conversations. Even though we're connecting more than ever, the exchanges aren't as deep as in-person conversations. Electronic interactions are typically shorter than spoken conversations, and important signals such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice are lost in texts and emails.

Do we really spend that much time on electronic devices, though? Researchers have found the answer is yes. According to a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, today's young Americans (ages 8-18) spend more than seven-and-a-half hours every day on electronic devices, such as smartphones, televisions, computers, and video games. Because it's common to multitask on devices, such as texting and listening to music while playing video games, there's an average of 11 hours of media content in those seven-and-a-half hours.

So what's the big deal? Many experts have noted that a reliance upon electronic communications can have a negative effect on social skills and writing skills. This can make it harder to maintain healthy personal and professional relationships as an adult.

While digital communications teach certain skills and habits, face-to-face conversations teach other skills that are important for our overall well being. Real-life conversations can turn a bad day into a great day with just a few simple words. When you're sad or lonely, a smile and a few kind words from someone can make a huge difference.

How can we be sure we don't lose the art of conversation? Experts urge people to unplug more often. Set aside time without electronics to share face-to-face conversations with friends and family. Maintaining a healthy balance between on-screen and off-screen discussions will make you a better communicator in all areas of your life.

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