Finally, I've previously argued that some people may be "cyberasocial," that is, they are unable or unwilling to invoke a sense of social presence through mediated communication, somewhat similar to the way we invoke language -- a fundamentally oral form -- through reading, which is a hack in our brain. I suspect such people may well be at a major disadvantage similar to the way people who could not or would not talk on the telephone would be in late 20th century.
In sum, social media is propelling transitions and disruptions in the composition of social networks. Increasingly, what used to be a given (social ties you inherited by the virtue of where you lived or your familial ties) is now a task (social ties based on shared interests and mutual interest). Surely, there will be new winners and losers. None of this, however, indicates a flight from human contact.
Is there a qualitative loss, then? Maybe. Such a subjective argument cannot be refuted with all the data showing people are just as much, if not more, connected now compared with most of 20th century. My sense is that what qualitative loss there is happens to be less so than many other forms of conversation avoidance. In fact, I can't count the number of times I was disturbed upon entering a house -- especially in Turkey where this is common -- because the television was glaring. Most people use the TV exactly like that -- a conversation killer. At least, if people are texting, they are texting a human being. Similarly, I doubt that anyone has not seen how a person can open the newspaper at the kitchen table to block out conversation.
Take the much-maligned teenagers. What have we done to them? First, we move to the suburbs. So, they can't get around unless they drive (which is pretty dangerous). Parents often only take them to organized activities where the activity -- hockey, violin, debate club -- dominates, not the leisurely social conversation with each other adolescents naturally crave. Or they can hang out at ... shopping malls. I need not say more about soul-killing.
And then when teenagers attempt to break out of this asocial, unnatural, and bizarre prison constructed of highways, no-recess time, and isolated single-family homes by connecting to *each other* through social media, we "tsk-tsk" them on how they don't know how to actually talk, or that they are narcissists because now we can see their status updates. Hint: Not much new going on here except teenage behavior is now visible thanks to technology and everyone else seems to have forgotten what it was like to be that age. And, yeah, mom and dad, sometimes they want to talk to their peers and not to you. That is not new. It's not even your fault. It's called being a teenager. A bit of a pain, perhaps, but the kids are neither the smartest, nor the dumbest, nor the most narcissistic, nor the most non-conversationalist generation ever.