Social Reasons Part 1: The Social Benefits
“3. While networking may help you land a job or catch up on Syria, social networking can also be purely for, well, social reasons. Some people use it for updating statuses and checking up on friends, co-workers, classmates and family. Social media websites allow users to store photos and posts indefinitely with time stamps. Moving away from friends and losing your precious photo album to a house fire are things of the past. Some people worry that social networking damages relationships, more on this later.”
Great, now people are more connected than ever, but does it harm real relationships? Some people say yes, other research suggests no. It’s both and neither. It enhances the good in friendships and intimate relationships, but it also enhances the bad and the ugly.
The majority of internet users said that using online communication had a “modestly positive impact” on communication with family and friends.1 I agree with this. Facebook has allowed me to communicate with people that I would normally meet one time, and then never speak with again. We now have quick access to networks of people we know well, or have only just met.
Sure, online networking doesn’t carry the quality of face-to-face interactions. Gestures, body movements, and facial are not present. I don’t think anyone is arguing that. However, research suggests that mediated communication enriches social networks. Mediated communication makes it easier to maintain existing relationships. Busy schedules, time-zones, distances no longer apply.1 Some recorded benefits of social media include:
- Social media users have more social networks than nonusers.
- Social media is a source of glocalization, or connecting people to distant friends and relatives that contact may have ordinarily been broken to.
- The text-only format breaks down social barriers such as class, gender and age.
- People are more likely to open up to strangers and develop relationships online than on the street.1
I hold that face-to-face allows superior, clearer interaction. People cannot go out to eat or see a movie together. Social media will never replace physical interactions. However, I think social media will continue to grow and enhance the way people create and maintain relationships. I don’t think it will be responsible for reducing people to faceless text-only conversations.
Continued in Part 2
1 Looking Out Looking In (2011)