The Impact of Social Media on Human Relationships and Society

“If you didn’t put it on your Snapchat story or Facebook, did it even happen?” I cannot count the number of times I have heard that quote, or noticed the accuracy of it in the day and age of today. The ubiquity and popularity of social media makes it nearly impossible to avoid, and makes everyday tasks in life seem as if they must be broadcasted to the entire network around us. From posting pictures of every meal eaten to writing a status update about a new job, to posting “selfies” on Sunday and making the first move attracting a potential mate, social media is undoubtedly the easiest way for people to feel connected with their friends and family. Ironically, the ability of having the world’s information and everyone’s agendas at their fingertips can also be very detaching. While social media is a significant technological advancement, the only way for it to be beneficial to society is if society uses it in a way that allows for it to be a helper, instead of an isolator, and to not substitute virtual communication for human-to-human communication. In The Tyranny of Email: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox, author John Freeman begins his work by introducing the oldest love poem in the world, a carved-in clay proclamation of the most sought-after part of life since the beginning of time. While this is not necessarily related to social media today, it is related to the core concept of social media: communication. “Communication-the conveyance of meaning from one person to the next… The second most important question we must face, after choosing to communicate at all, becomes how we deliver what we want to say. Four thousand years after this poet bent over his writing desk, we have as many options as we have languages” (Freeman 344). Humans have evolved intellectually tremendously in their short time thus far on Earth, from the birth of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, to the development of computers in the late twentieth century.

The emergence of computers and telephones were some of the greatest scientific and technological advances in history and gave us a doorway to many other assets, constant and quick communication being one of them. Now that social media is present, communication is almost never-ending, and there are multiple platforms available to do so. Everyone has the ability to reach almost every other person in the world at any time they wish. However, has the emergence of social media broken down the ability for us humans to connect with each other in the physical world? Facebook, one of the most popular social media applications in the world, tallies almost one billion users (Bonnano), a seventh of the world’s estimated population. The program is highly sophisticated, and enables users to share almost anything with their “friends,” such as their location, photographs, and status updates with added-in current emotion selections. While at first all those options seem as if they would make sharing details about one’s life easier and more fun (and they do have the potential to do just that), they can become overwhelming and annoying. I will admit, even I check Facebook multiple times daily, and occasionally post pictures or share links with my friends. While I do not post pictures or updates every single day, I do notice how frequently my fellow users do, and sometimes this happens three or four times a day. There is nothing wrong with wanting to share slivers of joyful past events with familiar faces (or random ones); however, it seems as though there is an unintentional movement to integrate the real, physical world with the virtual one. The search for immediate gratification that accompanies human-to-human interaction, not surprisingly, has become present in the virtual world also. Previously stated, social media is not the spawn of the devil, and the intent of the invention is to only make life easier; as with all things in life, however, there are unavoidable pros and cons to social media applications.

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Christine Rosen, the author of an article titled The Image Culture, began her piece by taking readers shortly back in time to devastating Hurricane Katrina, and how pictures and coverage of the natural disaster were available “to anyone with a television set or an Internet connection” (Rosen 322). She also began to discuss the speed of the coverage and how universal the devastation had become, and wondered if this changed the political response. I believe the mass coverage of the event was more helpful than it was negative, and I believe this is one “pro” that comes with the usage of social media: the ability to spread news in a matter of seconds, which can be extremely beneficial in cases such as Hurricane Katrina or 9/11. Having the world at one’s fingertips means that that individual also has any news article or coverage from any event in the world at their fingertips, which is a plus in my mind. I am a firm believer in how you use something is the only determination of whether or not it will hurt or help you in the immediate or distant future. A quote that caught my attention from Stephen Marche’s article Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? was, “[Facebook] is like a car. You can drive it to pick up your friends. Or you can drive alone. But hasn’t the car increased loneliness?” (Marche 302). This quote roughly sums up my thoughts on the effects social media has on whether or not it actually is a social helper. When I say Facebook can be a “social helper,” I mean that it is being used in order to make real, face-to-face connections with other people. For example, a great way to use Facebook as a helper is to set up a graduation party for a high school graduate, and invite many of their friends via the app. If a person solely logs onto a social media platform to stalk other people, or gaze at pictures of them, their friends, their families, they might end up becoming less social and lonelier. However, if they use social media to, in fact, socialize with friends, and perhaps plan events at which they can further socialize with people, they will probably end up becoming less lonely.

Social media will only create immediate isolation if it is substituted for real-life, face-to-face interaction with other individuals. Many people that I know state that they have a preference of voice-calling people over text messaging them. The rest of the people that I know prefer either texting others, or flat-out real-world conversations with them. I would absolutely agree with the latter part of that statement. To me, it is immensely more satisfying to have a genuine, physical conversation with another person, where facial expressions and voice tones are present. Over the phone, it is easier to converse and perceive true emotions via hearing that other person’s voice. Text messaging and social media platforms, however, skew all perceptions of what certain statements are trying to convey. “Emojis,” or small iconic pictures of different facial expressions or objects, have helped minutely in this problem of misunderstanding, but there is still an inescapable element of these types of communication that leads to misperceptions and hurt feelings. These particular aspects of texting and virtual communication only solidify my opinion that these methods are not how people should primarily talk to one another. It is inevitable that everyone has their own busy schedules and priorities that make it extremely tough to physically see certain people in their lives each and every day; texting and social media certainly help bridge that gap.

Sending a close friend a text that wishes them a happy holiday is a perfect example of this, or wishing them good luck on an exam or job interview. It is true that we as humans, especially in the twenty-first century, can be considered worker bees: always buzzing around most hours of each day, whether that is to take the kids to soccer practice or to search the bustling aisles at Wal-Mart for grocery items. With each new breakthrough in technology, we find ourselves sometimes preferring the spiffy gadgets and “tinker toys” over our fellow Homo sapiens. It is true, there are benefits that accompany social media and cell phone communication. It is also true, though, that while it is much easier to send someone a text or tweet than to take time to meet up with them in person, the most gratifying, satisfying part of life comes from friendly face-to-face interaction with close friends and loved ones.

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The Impact of Social Media on Human Relationships and Society. (2022, Sep 13). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/the-impact-of-social-media-on-human-relationships-and-society/