As we have increasingly turned to social media to conduct our personal, professional, and social lives, what started as a convenient means of organizing our lives, building networks, and staying connected with family and friends has become an invasive nuisance. If you are like most, you communicate with family and friends the majority of the time through a thread on your Facebook page. We have allowed ourselves to become deceived into thinking that someone liking or commenting on a photo or a post is the same as having a connection. We often do not even think of how odd it is that our sister, brother, aunt, uncle, or cousin who actually has our telephone number will choose to communicate with us via a thread on that same phone within which our actual contact information is stored. Our social media presence has created a paradox in which we have allowed a window into our innermost lives all the while becoming more and more distant from friends and family.
Over the past few years there has been an increasing number of Facebook members who have found themselves having to unfollow, unfriend, or even block family members and friends (Sibona & Walczak, 2011) who rather than picking up the phone, emailing, or texting will air grievances of current or past misunderstandings before the eyes of anyone who has access to that member’s Facebook page (Christofides, Muise, & Desmarais, 2012). Some commentary reads more like trolling than communication (Zhao, Grasmuck, & Martin, 2008). Many members report having to drop so many family members they now have fewer family members in their Facebook friends’ list than they do new friends (Farrugia, 2013). How did we get to this point and how is it affecting our ability to have face-to-face relationships?
Our ability to interact face to face with those important to us is in danger (Błachnio, Przepiórka, & Pantic, 2015), but it is something that we can correct. Granted there are those connections who are not living near enough to meet for a cup of coffee, but we can still connect via phone or email. Relationships are likely to be healthier if kept private, and disagreements more likely to be resolved if kept between the two parties involved, rather than involving an entire online audience. However, due to a false sense of bravado derived from perceived anonymity, some find it easier to post a rant about a relationship issue than to make a call, or even send a text to discuss the issue (Zhao, Grasmuck, & Martin, 2008). This is unhealthy, and though public, very isolating (Błachnio, Przepiórka, & Pantic, 2015). There is something to be said regarding counting to ten before speaking. We should count to ten and disconnect before typing words that even once deleted have made their mark and ended a valued relationship. Relationships, whether they are family, friends, or colleagues require nurturing. This nurturing comes from real communication about topics that are germane to both. If there is not a balance of online and offline time with family and friends, then those relationships are in need of righting, not writing.
Błachnio, A., Przepiórka, A., & Pantic, I. (2015). Internet use, Facebook intrusion, and depression: Results of a cross-sectional study. European Psychiatry, 30(6), 681–684. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eurpsy.2015.04.002
Christofides, E., Muise, A., & Desmarais, S. (2012). Risky Disclosures on Facebook: The Effect of Having a Bad Experience on Online Behavior. Journal of Adolescent Research, 27(6), 714–731. https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558411432635
Farrugia, R. C. (2013). Facebook and Relationships: A Study of How Social Media Use is Affecting Long-Term Relationships, 50.
Krombholz, K., Merkl, D., & Weippl, E. (2012). Fake identities in social media: A case study on the sustainability of the Facebook business model. Journal of Service Science Research, 4(2), 175–212. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12927-012-0008-z
Sibona, C., & Walczak, S. (2011). Unfriending on Facebook: Friend Request and Online/Offline Behavior Analysis. In 2011 44th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (pp. 1–10). https://doi.org/10.1109/HICSS.2011.467
Zhao, S., Grasmuck, S., & Martin, J. (2008). Identity construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(5), 1816– 1836. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2008.02.012