People have a natural inclination to communicate, connect, and share their experiences with others, and with the rise of social media and other digital channels of communication our definition of relationships is shifting.
It’s very rare to find someone who doesn’t use some form of mobile device or PC. The internet and social media have become a normal part of our everyday interactions.
Consider the fact that Facebook has more than 500 million active users, which is about 2 million more than the entire population of the United States.
The staggering amount of online interactions is even more astonishing when including the many other sites like Twitter, Linkedin, and Myspace, which account for millions of users between them.
So, what’s the quality of these social interactions? Is this digital communication a positive transition or a detriment to the overall human connection?
It of course depends on your perspective, and there has been of many contending arguments for both the pros and cons of social media.
Some research reveals a decline in participation and collaboration with family members due to technology superseding quality time with family. Also, a major criticism of social media is the problem of cyber-bullying and a lack of privacy.
Though, there are many positives points of view, such as the fact that we are able to connect with a much wider and diverse range of people. We can keep in touch with friends and family we may not have been able or willing to in the past, and can also keep in more constant contact with others.
Social media can greatly enhance the maintenance of business relationships as well. Businesses can connect with others in a more authentic fashion using transparency in their marketing and branding, which provides consumers much more economic influence.
It’s quite possible that the quality of connections people make online is completely subjective, but the fact remains that social media is an ever expanding phenomenon that will pervade future generations lives.
Learning how this tool can be a benefit and valuable platform to communicate and interact with others provides an opportunity to better peoples’ lives.
What successful relationships involve:
Affection - In general affection involves hugging, kissing, and physically embracing another. This may not be possible through electronic means but we can sure show verbal affection by saying, “I love you,” and telling people we care. This may be a valuable source of affection when physical presence isn’t possible.
Respect - Taking time to listen to others and showing we are proud of them is a major source of respect. This can mean being engaged in another’s life and appreciating what they do. Social media offers the perfect platform to leave positive messages of congratulations and admiration.
Support - Doing kind acts for someone, taking time and energy to lend a helping hand, or giving much needed advice is so crucial in relationships. What do you think? Can social media offer a means to give and receive support in a healthy manner?
Quality time – This may be the one area where social media can’t quite stack up to the in-person experience. Spending time with people we care about and making efforts to really connect at these moments is what quality time is all about. In my opinion, social media may detract from true quality time. What do you think?
Appreciation - Showing we are grateful for another person by saying thank you and showing recognition is another important part of relationship satisfaction. Social media definitely offers an opportunity to show our gratitude and appreciation for others.
So, consider these aspects of successful relationships, does social media and other online networks help enhance these behaviors in relationships?
Social media doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, so beginning to consider how it relates to our social world is of paramount importance.
We obviously can’t completely disregard in-person interactions, as these are the framework for any real human connection, but social media may have a place in helping people connect in a more thorough and extensive manner.
Photo credit: Ivan Walsh
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Last reviewed: 20 Apr 2011