Is Interpersonal Communication in Danger in the Digital Cosplay Age?


When is the last time you picked up the phone to do anything, or had a meaningful conversation with someone? When it comes to interpersonal relationships with others, communication is key. Being present and in the moment is the most important factor in sustaining interpersonal relationships. It actually doesn’t take much work to sustain an interpersonal relationship with others, however in the digital age, we make it so hard to develop these connections. Interpersonal relationships are endangered, and at risk of becoming extinct. Some blame technology and the digital age, while others believe technology helps build these relationships. No matter where you stand, it’s quite evident that one on one communication has diminished with the digital age. With the ever-increasing use of cell phones, tablets, and the internet, there may be a day when we no longer actually have to speak to each other using our body language and face-to-face speech.

It all started with the invention of the telephone in 1876, when inventor Alexander Graham Bell made his first call, stating, “Mr. Watson, come here.I want you”. The invention of the telephone was vital to communicating with people easily without having to go anywhere to meet them face to face. Even though there was a distance, people still built meaningful relationships and were able to maintain them with phone contact, being our voice and emotions can be heard through a telephone line. In my opinion, this was great for society and I don’t think it took away from interpersonal relationships at all. If anything, it helped build upon them, being it allowed people more time to get to know each other. You can call someone anytime, whereas you may not have as much time to meet with them in person. The telephone also helped businesses thrive and accelerated us through the modern age. Eventually rotary phones became a thing of the past and touchtone phones were invented in the 1960’s. Making it quicker to dial, people were rapidly adopting this technology. Without the invention of this analog technology, the digital age would not be possible.
Just 13 years later, in 1973, the first cell phone call was made by Marty Cooper. Cell phones are also another vital invention pushing us into the digital age. This eliminates the need to be tied down to a structure to make a call. This freedom to move about while speaking to others across long distances also has one major flaw. Distractions. Ironically enough, Marty Cooper stated in an interview with 60 minutes “that when he made that first cellphone call in Midtown Manhattan, he walked into the street and narrowly missed getting hit by a cab” (Source). The fact that Cooper got distracted on his first call and almost lost if life is very telling of the age we live in today 50 years later. This was even before texting was added to cell phones in the 90’s. By the 20th anniversary of texting, according to, “an outstanding 8 trillion text messages are sent a year”. So this is basically 8 trillion more distractions that have the potential to take away from our interpersonal relationships and distract us.


What’s the problem now?

The biggest detriment to interpersonal relationships in the Digital Age would be what I like to call, the “Me” aftereffect that our addiction to these devices caused. With social media, people can post pictures of themselves at any time very quickly. Likes, loves, and emojis have taken the place of real emotion, and offer quick validation. This builds our egos and become a desire that is never fully satisfied. It’s quick euphoria that constantly needs to be fed, like an addition.  Social media posts have actually become a form of social currency used to develop credibility among peers. In fact, Dr. Stephanie J. Tobin conducted a  research experiement where Facebook users were divided into two different groups. One group posted status updates frequently, and the other did not. As a conclusion, she found that users from study 2 revealed that  “receiving feedback on status updates affects need fulfillment”. At the same time, participants in group 1, which was the non-feedback group, experienced lower senses of self-belonging. This ability to get social acceptance so quickly without having to put in the work of old-fashioned communication is taking the place of the real and intimate moments with people.

How does this relate to cosplay?
There are a lot of things being done to strengthen and promote interpersonal relationships without eradicating technology. The art of cosplay, which is a performance art in which people wear costumes depicting a certain character, is my favorite way of overcoming my social anxiety and building interpersonal relationships with others. The most memorable experiences I have were at cosplay events, and not behind a computer or cell phone screen. The majority of interactions at cosplay events are personal and face to face. I think that the fact everyone is dressed up in character makes it easier to have conversation because there is always something to talk about. You are also in an environment full of others who may have the same anxiety when it comes to meeting people, so there’s a predisposed mutual understanding of one another. The cosplay community has greatly contributed to bringing back interpersonal communication to society.

Has the cosplay community lost the art of sustaining interpersonal relationships?

Some think so. I have heard many complaints of how the culture has become a “popularity contest” where cosplayers are competing for likes and there’s no real connection building anymore through social media. On the other hand, I have heard that cosplay promotes these connections through conventions and planned events like photo-shoots and parties. People love to feel acceptance. I think the instant gratification by seeing likes and comments adds to that acceptance. While a lot of cosplayers really appreciate the support, others claim that there’s no real substance to this, being the person will often not reply to the comments, or be active in the community elsewhere other than self-promotion.

Ultimately, I believe that cosplay isn’t to blame, as we have lost the art of active listening, and it is up to us to control how we develop these interpersonal relationships in the digital world while staying human. All hope is not lost!

What do you think?









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