Relationships and the social media : Social Development

Relationships and the social media

This is the second article in a week long special series about social media. Check out yesterday's article about Social Media, Digital Trails, and Your Reputation. Click "Share this Article" below to quickly and easily post to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

How does social media affect our interpersonal relationships, if at all? This is a question that has been addressed by scholars, commentators, and people in general. Social/New media have been the primary communication change of the past few generations, which likely accounts for the attention they receive. Some scholars in sociology have decried the negative effects of new technology on society and relationships in particular, saying that the quality of relationships is deteriorating and the strength of connections is weakening.

Social Media Affects How We Use The Word "Friend"

Facebook greatly influenced our use of the word friend, although people’s conceptions of the word may not have changed as much. When someone “friends you” on Facebook, it doesn’t automatically mean that you now have the closeness and intimacy that you have with some offline friends. And research shows that people don’t regularly accept friend requests from or send them to people they haven’t met, preferring instead to have met a person at least once.

Some users, though, especially adolescents, engage in what is called “friend-collecting behavior, ” which entails users friending people they don’t know personally or that they wouldn’t talk to in person in order to increase the size of their online network. This could be an impression management strategy, as the user may assume that a large number of Facebook friends will make him or her appear more popular to others.

Social Media Affects How We Think About Our Offiline Social Networks

Although many have critiqued the watering down of the term friend when applied to SNSs (social networking sites), specifically Facebook, some scholars have explored how the creation of these networks affects our interpersonal relationships and may even restructure how we think about our relationships.

Even though a person may have hundreds of Facebook friends that he or she doesn’t regularly interact with on- or offline, just knowing that the network exists in a somewhat tangible form (catalogued on Facebook) can be comforting. Even the people who are distant acquaintances but are “friends” on Facebook can serve important functions.

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