Social media has emerged as a cultural phenomenon that has changed interpersonal communication in a variety of ways. Creating ease of communication and increasing access to people all over the world, social media is instrumental in connectivity, learning and general relationship building. However, its massive size and near ubiquitous presence in human life has been alleged to have damaged how people communicate face-to-face, as well as their relationships.
Social media offers a lens directly into the lives of everyday people and celebrities, but where it may damage relationships is in the expectations and “roles” that come with that hypervisibility. Research from the Pew Research Center suggests that less than a quarter of individuals think that technology has a negative impact on their relationships. In terms of reomantic relationships, tehcnology is in couples’ littlest and largest moments, arguing over when to use it, who the other is in contact with on it and when to abstain from it (Lenhart & Duggan, 2014).
While technology can serve as communication and support, it has also impacted lives engatively by takeing people out of the moment. 42 percent of 18-29 year olds in relationships that owned cell phones reported that their partner has been distracted by their mobile phone when together, which takes away from quality time spent together. In more serious (and perhaps invasive cases), shared passwords, accounts and calendars make a couple a unit, but also disallows for privacy and sense of individuality. The Internet is also a place of apperances—only the happy, romantic moments make it online and everyone—even couples—begin to question the authenticity of long, heartfelt posts and what reality truly lies behind them.
Social media is an important venue of interaction for adults and youth alike. It connecst people with friends new and old, but the same sharing and connectivity can also lead to negative comparisons and other negative feelings based on who and what they are connected to online. More than half of social media using teens report witnessing social gatherings to which they were not invited, which does not happen often (Lenhart, 2015), but that oversharing and hypervisibility can create feelings of being left out or alienated from important peer groups.
Social media breeds a comparison trap and it is easy to do so when people prsent their most happy and aspirational selves onilne, but when this feeds into anxiety and low self-esteem, the mind suffers. It has led to a comparison trap that negatively affects self-perception. A study by Erin Vogel et al. (2014) hypothesized that frequent Facebook use was associated with lower self-esteem. They found that when acconts on Fcebook exhibit “upward comparison information,” particpants’ self-esteem and self-evaluations were lower after eamining the target person’s profile (Vogel et al., 2014). For those who come to envy and vie for the life of those with whom they are close, this silent suffering can breed resentment and damage relationships.
Finally, social media allows us to maintain relationshpis from a distance and stregnthen connections, but it has also created a need for constant communication that some may not be able or willing to maintain. Real-time in-person communication is delayed and timed based, but the availaiblity of stats on when a person is online or was last online, plus seeing their activity, adds pressure to friendships and romantic relationships. While it seems trivial, it is an inevitable effect of seeing activity, but wondering why a person has not heard from someone they wish to engage with. Texting and online activity in this age of constant communication creates anxiety as multiple notifcations of likes, tweets and texts come in and it all can be quite overwhelming, even for the digital native.