Half of all Facebook users log on to the social network everyday. It’s clear that social media has become a major part of people’s lives and an important factor in how we make and nurture relationships. Therefore the question of what effect social networking sites, mainly Facebook but also newer platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, are having on real world relationships?
Researchers are now spending a lot of effort in understanding how heavy use of social media might impair people’s performance at work, in school and in family and social relationships.
Rise of the Selfie Generation.
Social networks like Facebook grew in popularity as a way of using the internet to connect and stay updated on the lives of your friends and family. Originally designed to connect people who already knew each other, most people especially the social media native generation of millennials, use it to form connections with people they don’t know.
Although communication in real life is on the decline, most people believe that the quality of their relationships is even better as a result of being constantly connected online. But how does social media impact the quality of friendships among members of this generation?
The rise of social media is correlated with the rising levels of narcissism, self(ie)-obsession and online harrassment in our society. For social media users, the need for acceptance is met through the number of likes, followers, or messages they can get from people they don’t even know. Self-esteem among social media users depends upon the quality and level of validation and engagement they receive. The time people spend on Facebook has spawned a huge business market to take advantage of online behavioral data. It has become a key objective of any digital marketing agency to target customer’s obsessive use of social media platforms.
Sexologist Nikki Goldstein speaking in the Daily Mail says that “Often it’s the people who post the most who are seeking validation for their relationship from other people on social media.” “The likes and comments can be so validating that when someone is really struggling, that’s where they get their up from – not the person making the gesture, but what other people say about it.”
Dr. Astrid Carolus, Media Psychologist, however, warns that while the quality of the relationship may seem to be improving in a forward pathway, people are losing the ability to evaluate their relationships objectively. “Under certain circumstances, people perceive online communication as ‘hyper-personal communication’ and thus they can misread and over-interpret the message on social media. We feel especially close, we blind out the negative, focus on the possible positive intentions behind a message and over interpret.”
Social Media Addiction poses a danger to relationships
Among the dangers of excessive social media usage poses is of healthy relationships getting damaged or ended by an addiction to social sites. Social media addiction can damage relationships by leading to unfaithful behavior or extra-marital affairs. situations where people have nothing to talk about in real life social situations because of knowing everything through each other’s social media feeds.
It’s aso become common behavior for couples on vacation to spend more time on taking photos and put them online to watch for likes and comments, instead of being with their partners. This lack of importance given to real-world interaction erodes our ability to to have genuine reactions to real events and situations.
Emerging research has showed that when people stop having offscreen interaction, it results in the loss of empathy. Anonymous online interactions make it easier to engage in behavior and abusive speech without considering the consequences of our actions. A study found that college students are 40% less empathetic than they were 30 years ago.
False expectations and fake behavior thrive on on social media
Revealing harmful personal information and secrets, body-shaming, and posting embarrassing pictures/videos are all issue that endup harming relationships. The Kaspersky study found that 58% acknowledge being upset or embarrassed because of a friend posting a photo that they did not want to be seen. Another study, conducted by the Boston Globe, found that “people have fewer confidants today than they did twenty-five years ago”.
Online scamming, baiting and harassment are rife on social media, yet 59% of millennials consider online dating as a good way to meet new people today. As people tend to put their best face forward on social media, the relationships formed can be less than genuine.
Social media is creating a generation that lives in a “perfectionist culture” where people’s identities are defined by digitally ”retouched” perfect images and beautifully-crafted posts – at the expense of authentic emotions and conversations that provide a genuine experience of human relationships.
The impact of social media on marriage
A recent scientific study has revealed a strong correlation between social media use and unhappy marriages and divorce. A poll by the Pew Research Center also reflects the rising impact of social media in the way we handle relationships with a spouse. Some 45% of millennial respondents said that social media has had a “major impact” on their relationships.
While such studies do not prove any causation, they do point to a disturbing trend of social media causing serious damage to relationships.
While individualism and independent thought have become highly cherished traits in modern society, as human beings, we are social animals by nature. We are characteristic by our need for social interaction and our ability to co-operate effectively as a species. Thanks to social media, the digitally native social media generation of millennials, are developing a preoccupation with themselves and how they are perceived, without learning the lessons of real life social interaction.
Being constantly connected has caused a dependence on others for validation in the most basic way, but is decreasing the ability to have actual meaningful relationships. Social media is turning this into the most addicted to connection generation, but paradoxically, they are losing the ability to form genuine relationships.