Is social media detrimental to personal relationships? This was a question I asked myself recently when looking at some of my own relationships — friendship, professional, and family alike. Social media plays a role in many of those relationships these days, and what I have noticed is that it isn’t always for the better
Here’s what I noticed when looking at my own relationships. Those that were primarily based on contact through social media outlets were much less substantial than those relationships where we kept in touch in person, over the phone, or via email on a regular basis.
For example, I have several friends that I stay connected with online. Many of them I keep in touch with solely through twitter, social networks like facebook comments, and blog comments. Those relationships tend to be much more casual, and we tend to know much less about each other. Once we begin emailing each other though, things change. Those relationships were much deeper than the social media based ones. We could have more personal conversations. We could have longer conversations. And I found that people tend to open up much more about things via email than they did in social media. Social media based relationships seemed to be more surface relationships in my experience.
The same was true with family. Those who keep in touch and worked on maintaining a deeper personal connection generally turned to email, the phone, and in some cases snail mail. Those who only kept in touch via social media did so much more casually and the interaction seemed much more impersonal.
I'm discovering that social media outlets tend to encourage relationships of convenience. It has become this world of 140 characters or less, "Like" buttons and emoticons, making it quick and simple with minimal interaction. Social media seems to have become more like the drive thru window of relationships. Which when it comes to personal relationships I find a bit concerning.Now I'm not saying that I think social media is totally damaging to personal relationships. We have the responsibility of whether or not we let our relationships slip and stop making a decent effort just because social media is “easier.” In fact, I think social media can do positive things in helping to build relationships. Social media outlets have the ability to serve as a stepping stone to deeper and more personal relationships with those we want to build them with. I think what it comes down to is being conscious of what we are doing, being aware of how we are investing our time and not making social media a substitute for personal relationships.
What about you? I find it hard to believe that this could be exclusive to me and my network of connections. How has social media affected different types of personal relationships in your life? Does it really bring you closer just because you might stay in touch more often, or is the quantity sometimes a substitute for quality conversations in those relationships? Do you reach out enough to the people you care about, or do you let social media suffice? I'd love for you to share your own thoughts and stories with me.
I've been doing my own reflecting recently and have decided to take an indefinite break from personal updates on my blog and other social outlets. I've been blogging regularly for well over a year now and in many ways I think it's time to step back for awhile. A part of me is really welcoming the break and a part of me feels reluctant. I receive lots of positive feedback from many of you through comments and emails about my blog and how many of you even "look forward to" my posts, so in a way I feel like I'm letting some of you down. But I know you understand and are supportive. Not sure how long of a break I'll be taking but I enjoy writing too much to give it up completely. I'm not giving up email, phone calls or Skype though so we will definitely stay connected that way...so don't be a stranger! :)