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Does Social Media Affect Personal Relationships?

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A friend of mine asked me this question recently and it got me thinking.  I myself have often wondered if people really like to spend so much time on social networking websites and, even if they do, how they are able to balance their online and offline social life.  

Social media, undoubtedly, is the in-thing today. Almost everyone I know has a Twitter account, a Facebook account, or, in many cases, both. Tweeting and updating the status on their Facebook page has almost become a daily ritual for many people.

With the membership base of popular social networking sites running into hundreds of millions, it is safe to say that an extremely large number of people in the world are drawn into the addictively exciting world of social media.

Can You Really Connect With People through Social Media?

Social media enables you to connect and stay in touch with a large number of people. It allows you to connect with people from all walks of life. It also boosts your self-esteem. When people respond to your posts, ‘upvote’ or ‘like’ your comments, and discuss things with you, you feel important, loved, and respected. So, there is nothing inherently wrong with using social media to enrich your life.

The only problem is that it is very easy to confuse online intimacy for real intimacy. A lot of people find the social media experience so interesting that they forget that they can actually go out, talk to real people, and develop real relationships. They become so obsessed with their online social life that they simply do not feel the need to form real-world relationships.

Twitter and Facebook may help you connect with people, but you can only learn so much about people by following their status updates and tweets. You can try to engage in a private conversation with a person, but there is only so much you can convey through a 140-character tweet or a Facebook wall post. Most importantly, no amount of online chat can replace the need for a friendly, face-to-face conversation.

It is important to understand that the experience of connecting with people via social media, as interactive as it may be, is not a substitute for connecting with people in real life.

Taking Your Online Relationship to the Next Level

Picture this. You find someone on Twitter or Facebook. You find her interesting and feel connected to her. You both feel that you are ready to take things to the next level. What do you do next?  This is the stage at which many people realize the stark difference between an online and offline relationship.

An online relationship requires very little effort from both the parties involved. You can tweet, exchange messages, or post something on each other’s walls using your Smartphone or tablet. It’s not a relationship between two real people, but the online personas of two people. It is, most of the times, very casual.

An offline relationship, on the other hand, requires a lot of effort. You need to find time to talk to each other on the phone, email each other, and hang out together. You need to make an effort to get to know each other’s interests. It takes time and effort to make a deep, personal connection and to cultivate a genuine friendship.

One of the reasons why many people tend to take an online relationship very casually is that they know that they can get out of it any time they want at the click of a button. All they need to do is unfollow or block the person.

It does not work that way in a real-world relationship, as you have to meet each other in person, have a heart-to-heart conversation, and break up with each other.  

It’s not always easy, but it’s real.



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