It occurred to me last night why social networking sites are so popular with teens. Like the way we're trained to click here and there on the web itself, the key may not be in what SNS adds, but instead the key may be with its lack of penalty. Studies by Deborah Yurgelun-Todd at the McLean Hospital Neuroimaging Center are showing that adolescent brains are not fully developed to interpret emotion from visual cues, which could mean that the online experience for them is just as good as face to face.
Adults tend to rely on the gestures and sounds associated with a response as much as the actual words. This makes it more work for us to convey emotion via e-mail, text messaging, IM, and SNS than in a face to face meeting.
The latest generation will likely be better at expressing emotion online than most currrent adults, but their natural development should steer the ship toward a healthy combination of online and face to face interaction.