I was just asked by a young person (in high school) to comment on social media, and in particular, it’s impact on relationships. Here’s my (unedited) answers to the questions she posed:
Social Media is just the evolution of how people want to communicate. Prior to any technology we all did this face to face. Then technology comes along… the printing press, the phone, the fax, the mobile phone, SMS, email, the internet, MSN, skype, social media, facebook, twitter, snapchat….
It’s all just an evolution, and as with each jump in evolution, it takes time for everyone to progress. And in that time, mistakes get made, people use it wrongly, get into trouble, use it for bullying, people say it’s anti-social, everyone panics and says it’s ruining society. The media tend to focus on all the negatives, and often forget about the multitude of advantages that each jump in evolution gives us.
What is Social Media? It’s just a way for people to communicate with each other. As with any communication, some is good, some bad and some ugly. For the majority of people, it’s used to chat to friends, business partners, family etc. It’s used to engage with brands that people like, and for those brands to market more effectively to those potential customers.
2. What are the advantages of using an online network?
Convenience, speed, always-on, ever-connected, the world is expanding, and the people want everything NOW, and personal connections (social and business) are valued more than ever. I won’t buy the new camera because Sony shows me an advert on the telly (as I don’t trust advertising), but I’ll buy it because I value and trust the views of my friends and peer group – and they like and recommend it (because they told me, or I saw the evidence on Facebook or Instagram).
The value of any social network (online, or in the real world) is based on the value from the relationships within it. If you’re on Facebook, just connected to actual real friends, who share a real friendship, and use the online tool as an extension of their real-world chat, than it’s very valuable. If you’re on ASK.fm purely to reinforce how pretty you are (and therefore get instantly bullied by the millions of idiotic trolls who just want to hide behind anonymity and use these tools to cause misery) then there is no value. As I say – good, bad and ugly… with the same value (or lack of it) that you’ll find in any network (real or virtual) depending on how you use it and who you’re using it with.
3. Do you think that social media has a huge impact on relationships?
YES. On one level, we’re maybe all spending too much time online, and not enough in the real world (anti-social). On another level… it’s making us MORE social (hyper-social?) whereby we can socialise with infinitely more people, more often, and with no physical borders.
It’s like everything in life – too much of one thing (to the detriment of alternatives) is usually a bad thing. Social Media as a concept is not having a negative impact of human relationships. Overuse, and “getting lost” in social media, forgetting that a real world exists, and that facebook isn’t the only opinion in the world… that’s a problem.