Week 5 – Social Media and Relationships

Social media can be both good and bad for personal relationships, depending on when, where and how and why it is used, depending as well on the nature of the relationship between user and recipient. Social media can be very positive when it allows individuals to connect and/or reconnect with one another, resulting in a relationship that flourishes, but it can also be equally detrimental when it causes a personal relationship to sour. There are no secrets anymore- pretty much anything can and will be found about anyone on the internet, knowledge that will eventually appear on social media.

          However, social media is solely not to blame if a user- one that is already suspicious of his or hers’ partner’s actions as regards fidelity or truthfulness or honesty- uses it to check on his or her activities. Or, vice versa, when a user utilizes social media to betray one’s partner by conducting affairs through it and is discovered to have done so, the consequences can be shattering. The easy access to any/all types of interaction with other users that social media offers can be both negative and positive.  It’s interesting that user indiscretion has not gone unnoticed in social media; in fact, indiscretion and infidelity have found a place in the social media world. Companies such as “Ashley Madison” cater to users that are solely looking to have an affair with an understood “no strings attached” policy.

            So, while social media can connect users with similar tastes, allowing them to exchange thoughts and ideas, it also has the ability to divide them as well. Relationships that were once nurtured through personal and physical interactions no longer require the same level of “work” to maintain them since the work is, essentially, done through the platform of social media. Such online interactions can also build a false sense of a social life and intimacy as users are continuously exposed to updates and photos of other users’ personal lives, one that outside of the social media confines, they actually has no part of.

The more prominent social media becomes, the more individuals can lose their social skills as a result. It is now not necessary to leave one’s home to have a social life- one can create one on Facebook. And, even if one does leave one’s home to meet friends in a social setting (a bar; a restaurant), when such a group gets together, most often they are not interacting with each other; they are busy checking social media on their phones.

Social media has developed into a society onto itself and, as is the case with any society, has created its own language and social structure. It is also starting to influence a new style of writing -one that is much more blunt and almost incomprehensible- given that Twitter, Facebook, and other countless similar social forums typically tend to allow a maximum number of words. And such forms of communication are not only restricted in characters but are also very impulse driven- users type what is taking place at that moment in time and are not crafting well thought out ideas, feelings and thoughts.   Writing is no longer something that is thought provoking, contemplative, and time consuming, but rather a quick two-sentence burst of a personal thought and observation that carries no reasoning behind it; not only is this abrupt and truncated style affecting the writer, but the reader as well.

The allure of Twitter and Facebook updates is that users have a vehicle to express what they feel in that moment. The problem with relying on those methods as a device to connect with others risks that people can potentially become conditioned to only think in short and concise spurts. These abbreviated forms of expressing one’s own instant reaction to events are not conducive for deep thinking. The constant use of such brief, unique ways of communication- through the limited use of proper words to express what an individual is thinking, feeling or witnessing- is very restrictive. After posting short, immediate descriptive bursts of what has transpired, the user quickly moves on to something else when he or she wants to update his or her followers with another post that has nothing to do with the previous entry.

The reality is that once those thoughts are posted and/or sent out into the universe, they can never be retracted. Positive or negative thoughts are displayed that are there for all eternity, for all to see. Consequences of writing such thoughts, ideas that come to the writer on the spur of the moment- in anger; while under the influence; in a rush; thoughtless comments- can be devastating. No amount of wishful thinking will make them go away. (A perfect example of that which was widely reported in the media was the situation in Miami when a student posted a comment on Facebook giving details of her family’s confidential settlement following a lawsuit, an indiscretion that cost them $80,000.)  Lately, it has become known that such diverse entities such as human resources departments of companies and/or corporations and college admissions officers have used social media to research the backgrounds of applicants. Important, life altering decisions have been made based on their findings. 

It’s true that Facebook, Twitter, etc., are in some ways, a form of conversation, but it comes at the expense of social interaction. There are benefits to being able to have viral conversations that, without technology and its global reach, would never have taken place. However studies have shown that children are spending hours in front of a computer instead of interacting with one another. Nowadays, in a majority of public places- airplanes or in restaurants- children (even toddlers) and/or a young adults are continuously distracted by some sort of technology- playing with their iPhones, watching movies on their iPads, texting, etc., They are blissfully unconcerned with all that is going on around them, and, sadly, their parents approve as it is easier to keep them entertained by electronic devises rather than social interactions. 

In this ADD world, attention spans will eventually become shorter than they are now and I wouldn’t be surprised if in the long run, the lead cover stories in articles in such periodicals such as Time Magazine or the Wall Street Journal will only be a few paragraphs long, if that.















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