Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 108

consequences for an individual’s social skills and interactive abilities. These negative consequences can directly affect the U.S. Army because it relies heavily on interpersonal communication and relationships when conducting operations. The Army is organized to maximize the effectiveness of cohesive teams so they can achieve their objectives. The force’s emphasis on the team dynamic is understandable because only through teamwork can it accomplish its fundamental mission—to protect and defend the Nation and its interests. Army leaders need to carefully manage various skills, personalities, and emotions in the stressful circumstances that soldiers are likely to endure so they can protect their people and accomplish their assigned missions. This means leaders should give priority to communication technologies and techniques that enhance interpersonal relationships. They must never allow technology to supplant those relationships. Leaders should emphasize the use of active communication channels as the bedrock for unit cohesiveness, developing interpersonal relationships, and accomplishing missions. For the purposes of this article, active communication channels are those most likely to deliver a message immediately to its intended recipient and to elicit immediate confirmation that the recipient has received and understood it. Active channels (e.g., face-to-face) tend to facilitate prompt, interactive feedback for establishing context and clarifying the message because the sender is more able to require the attention and feedback of the receiver.1 At the other end of the continuum, passive communication channels (e.g., text messaging) are those less likely to provide prompt reception and confirmation of the message because they require less attention from the receiver. Communication Technology Research Advanced communication technology (such as the Internet, social media, e-mail, and text messages) has been a topic of psychological and sociological research for at least twenty years. Many researchers explore the effect technology has on social skill development and the social well-being of children and adolescents. A research project called the HomeNet Project (a study of how families use the Internet) demonstrated that Internet use correlated with a decline in social 102 well-being among ten- to nineteen-year-old participants.2 Authors Kaveri Subrahmanyam et al. cite research from David Krackhardt that supported the theory that social relationships created online provide less support than those developed face-to-face.3 Additionally, the HomeNet project results demonstrated that online communication correlates with loneliness and depression when involving “weak-tie” relationships.4 Weak-tie relationships are formed through online communication, without prior connections between the acquaintances. The relationships are deficient in supportive interpersonal interaction. The HomeNet data showed these patterns over one- and two-year studies; Subrahmanyam et al. maintain that more research is needed into the long-term effects of Internet use on social relationships and well-being.5 Other research has yielded a disturbing association between antisocial personality traits and social media use. For example, Laura E. Buffardi and Keith Campbell conducted a study of narcissism and its relationship to the frequency and content of a person’s social media site (such as a Facebook page, which is a primarily passive communication channel). The research took self-reported narcissistic ratings of webpage owners and compared them to the ratings of an unbiased observer for narcissistic traits. Higher narcissism ratings correlated with higher levels of activity in the online forum as well as more self-promoting content.6 While a causal relationship between social networking sites and narcissism was not established, the correlation is worth noting. Lt. Col. Joe Doty, U.S. Army, retired, and Master Sgt. Jeff Fenlason, U.S. Army, discuss the problem of extremely narcissistic leaders in a 2013 article in Military Review.7 Citing leadership research, they assert that toxic leaders tend to exhibit excessive narcissistic traits. When toxic leaders exhibit extreme narcissism, they negatively affect relationships within the team. The implication for communication is that leaders who communicate mainly through passive communication channels might tend to be satisfied with promoting their message to as many people as possible, rather than ensuring that any one recipient understands it in depth. At a minimum, if leaders are emphasizing social media or other passive communication channels, they likely are not developing effective communication skills or interpersonal relationships. On the other hand, any November-December 2015  MILITARY REVIEW