Is Social Media Making us Closer or Apart?

“Some think that friendship is becoming more important because people are accumulating more ‘friends’ on sites like Facebook. Others declare that the notion of friendship is becoming devalued since you could not possibly be ‘real friends’ with all of the people in your online social networks.”
- Rodney H. Jones, Christoph A. Hafner

Sure many of us keep checking or updating Facebook status every day, curious about who has commented on your status or photos when the little red notification number pops up on our PC screens, or when seeing the Facebook logo appears after our cell phones vibrate. Did we being so eager to get response from our friends before the invention of such social networking sites? Does they really make people become closer?

To me, yes. Social media makes people become closer because:

  1. People have more ways and are easier to contact with each other.
    Through social networking sites, you are able to know many of your friends’ updates by simply scrolling down the page. It is just so easy and natural. But still remember the days without Facebook or Twitter? It’s hard to know what’s happening on your friends unless you really talk with them, not mentioning those old classmates who you still want to keep in touch but not sure how to start a conversation. With social media, you can know what your friends are thinking about, any good or bad things happen to them through their posts. On your busy days when you cannot take time talking to all your closest friends separately, it would be easier to leave a comment on their status to keep in touch but without using certain amount of time to interact.For friends and relatives overseas, it was always hard to contact them because of different time zones and the expensive phone calls or overseas SMS. Even though there were free instant messaging services like MSN, it was still hard for a person in Hong Kong to sit in front of the computer on an early morning to chat with a person in America who is about time for bed. In such case, social media provides a new platform for people to interact by liking or commenting on each others’ posts, chatting through private messages for free and without the need to wait for immediate reply.
  2. It makes easier to establish new relationships.
    There is an advantage if you have met new people and “friended” them on Facebook. You will be able to have a picture about the personality, lifestyle and interests of them through their profile, posts, photos and what pages they have “liked”. It is now easier to know whether or not the person you have just met can be real friends with you, or only a “friend” on Facebook.Besides, the nature of social media creates chances for us to approach the people who we want to know for long.

    “Given the informal nature of social media, it’s easy to approach someone you’d like to meet, and this can be done more easily and fluidly. It’s easier to extend your sphere of influence and enlarge it to include people you’d like to meet, or would like to know better. This means that influence will beget more influence.”
    - Dr. Rachna Jain

    The relatively casual form of communication on social media allows us to start a conversation or interaction with someone we’d like to meet, minimized the embarrassment that may arise from the face-to-face one or the worry of interrupting the person. On social networking sites, we may also be able to find some old friends again through friends in your circle that are having contact or just being an online friend with them. It is much easier to start chatting with them online, at least you won’t feel weird of sending out “How are you recently?” to such an old friend but may feel so if you bump into them on street and ask it.

Of course, there are also negative sides of using social media to interact. People can get addicted to the sites easily because of the satisfaction gained from likes or comments. They may spend most of their time on checking and updating their pages, even forget to interact with others in the real world.

However, if we can make use of social media wisely and avoid being controlled by it, we can surely benefit from this new form of interaction. Most importantly, we should limit the time we spend on social networks and maintain a balance between online and offline life. Spending too much time surfing on social sites will take away our time of handling other things or being with our family and friends. We should remember that we need to interact with people face-to-face, but not only on social networking sites. We have to cultivate a real-life network as well.

References:

  1. Jones, R. H., & Hafner, C. A. Understanding Digital Literacies:A Practical Introduction. London: Routledge, 2012
  2. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/4-ways-social-media-is-changing-your-relationships/
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