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Building Relationships via Social Networking

By: K. Brown

Social networking plays a key role in many people' s lives today. We live in the world of web 2.0 where people interact with each other more often online than they do in real life.  A world where Facebook and Twitter have pretty much replaced the need for conventional methods of interaction.  A world where terms like "tweeting," "trending," "friending," and "unfriending," are commonly used in everyday speech.  With this being the case, one cannot help but raise the question – Is social networking a boon or bane for personal relationships?

Connecting with People Through Social Networking  

Social networking websites like Google+, MySpace, and Twitter allow you to connect with people from all over the world. They are built on the concept of human connection. One of the biggest advantages of these websites is that they make it extremely easy for you to contact and connect with other people.

For example, getting in touch with someone on Twitter or Facebook only takes a few seconds. All you need to do is start following them (in case of Twitter) or send a friend request (in case of Facebook). You can then send messages and exchange information to know more about each other.

Building a Relationship

When you spend a lot of time on social networking websites, you tend to develop a bond with your online friends. You may even want to take the relationship to the next level. It, however, is not as easy as it sounds.

One of the biggest advantages of social media is that it offers you instant gratification. You do not have to wait or strive for anything. Need to get in touch with someone? A tweet or a message will do. Need to let people know about your life? A mere status update is all it takes. Need to express your feelings toward someone or something that someone said? An acronym or a smiley face is more than enough!

Sadly, it is also one of the biggest disadvantages of social media. It creates a make-believe world where instant responses are the norm. Unfortunately, things do not work that way in real life.  You have to call the person you like and talk to them. You may have to send an email or a letter that conveys your feelings and emotions. Above all, you have to meet them in person and tell them how you feel. No smiley faces, no acronyms, and certainly no pokes, likes, or dislikes. You have to deal with real people, real emotions, and real feelings. It takes time, effort, and, most importantly, patience.

What it means is that when you want to take your relationship with an online contact to the next level, the first thing you need to do is step out of the social media circle and step into the real world.

Social Media Overdose

One of the biggest complaints against social media is that it shrinks people’s sense of relationship. It fosters the idea that relationships can be developed and ended easily. It creates a false sense of satisfaction and security among people. The effects can be seen in many people – especially young people – today.

Studies show that a significant number of social networking website users spend more time with their online friends than they do with their offline friends. Many people admit that they interact with people they would not otherwise interact with. Many people feel a voyeuristic pleasure in sharing their personal information with their online contacts. They feel an urge or need to update their status on social networking sites on a regular basis.

In some cases, people think of online relationships as a substitute for real life relationships. They are addicted to social media and have a virtually non-existent social life. They spend a lot of time online. Time that could be used to go out and form real relationships. Time that could be used to cultivate healthy habits. Time that could be spent with their loved ones. This is one of the main reasons why experts warn people against spending too much time on social networking websites.

Improving Relationships through Social Media

Based on all these data, it is easy to come to the conclusion that social media is bad news for personal relationships. Surprisingly, it is not so.  Social media tools, if used the right way, can help you form and maintain real, long lasting relationships. They can be a stepping stone to deeper, more meaningful relationships.

One of the biggest upsides of social networking websites is that they lower your inhibition. They allow you to contact anyone – even people you do not know – easily. For example, you can easily send a friend request or a tweet to a person you want to be friends with. In real life, however, you would probably think twice before approaching or making small talk with someone you do not know.

You can use social media to find interesting people to whom you feel connected and get to know each other. You can check out their profile on Facebook and Twitter, read their blog, and chat with them. Once you reach the stage where you feel that you are ready to take things to the next level, you can send emails, make calls, and meet them in person.

Social networking websites also offer an excellent opportunity to stay connected with the people you love. They can be particularly helpful for people who are in a long distance relationship. Instead of spending tons of money on long distance phone calls, you can tweet, update each other’s statuses, post messages, and chat with each other regularly to feel close and connected.

Personal Relationships in the Social Media Era

Social media is an excellent tool that can help you learn new things, find new people, and form new relationships. At the same time, it is important to understand that it is the starting point, not the focal point of relationships. At the end of the day, nothing can replace the human factor.