Social media claims to connect us, so why are we so disconnected?
By Mikayla Foss, Staff Writer
If you didn’t change your relationship status on Facebook are you actually in a relationship?
“Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them,” according to Facebook’s public mission statement.
Since Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, there are now 1.44 billion monthly active users, according to the 2015 Facebook First Quarter Report.
Social media connects us with people we don’t have the luxury of regularly seeing in person, but what about the people standing in front of us? With our eyes always glued to a screen and our minds always thinking about what to post, we miss out on the present moment. We no longer experience life for the moment; we experience it for the picture that will get the most “likes.”
New relationships are exciting. We want to share with our friends how happy we are and all the cool things we are doing. But broadcasting our relationships on social media takes away the privacy factor. If everything we do is posted to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat, what’s personal to the relationship?
The truth is, what we post is an edited, filtered version of our own reality. We want to build a positive reputation for ourselves by making our lives seem better than they actually are. We post about an amazing date we went on, or about that one time our significant other bought us flowers.
It’s almost impossible to not compare our relationships with the ones we see around us. We see the highs more than the lows. We see people at their best, not their worst. Always seeing what everyone else wants us to see can be deceiving, and can make us question how great our own relationships truly are.
In 2012, Anxiety UK conducted a survey on social media use and its effects on emotions. Published in Medical News Today, the survey found that 53% of participants said social media sites had changed their behavior, while 51% of these said the change had been negative. Those who said their lives had been worsened by using social media also reported feeling less confident in their personal achievements in comparison to their friends.
“This problem has definitely gained recent attention,” Dr. Shannon M. Rauch, Assistant Professor of Psychology at Benedictine University told Medical News Today. “We know that many people on social media sites often present idealized versions of their lives, leading others to make upward social comparisons, which can lead to negative emotions.”
Texting is a great way to miscommunicate how we feel and misinterpret what other people mean. Although instant messaging can be extremely useful for relaying information and making plans, words in writing can be taken out of context.
Without being able to hear the inflection in someone’s voice or see the expression on their face, it’s hard to know exactly how they are feeling. There’s no emoji for “My feelings for you are complex; I’m very attracted to you and want to kill you sometimes, but I’m not ready to end this relationship.”
This can lead to more misunderstandings and arguments within relationships. If all we had was face-to-face contact, a lot of these problems would not arise.
The Los Angeles Times published a study, led by Thomas V. Pollet of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, examining 117 people age 18 to 63. They filled out an extensive questionnaire about the time they spend on instant messaging and social network sites, the number of relationships they had overall and the closeness of those relationships.
The study reported that, “spending a lot of time online was not linked to having a larger number of ‘offline’ friends. Moreover, the relationships of people who socialized online weren’t any closer or stronger than people who didn’t socialize online.”
So ask someone on a date that you met on campus, not on Tinder. Turn off the phone and take in all of the beauty and resist the urge to post a picture of it on Instagram. Write family members a letter and send it in the mail instead of sharing a link to their Facebook wall. Drive over to a best friend’s house and ask them about their day. More physical contact will strengthen any relationships.