Advances in technology, on the one hand, have made it possible for us to stay in touch with people living across the globe. It allows us to maintain acquaintances easily. Our social circles are thus much more extensive and diverse… On another side, it is said that online friendships are obscuring those in the real world, and people are finding it increasingly difficult to interact in real life. There is a belief that many risks are associated with using the Internet, such as addiction, FOMO, showing life off, and manifesting materialistic values. So, where does it stand – is the Internet bringing people together or distancing them?
The Internet sets unrealistic expectations.
Most of what you see on social media are selected posts that are filtered to display a picture-perfect and, therefore, absolutely unrealistic image. When you spend so much time on social media, you often compare your life and relations to what you see on social media platforms. This makes you want to measure up to that level. But ultimately, you can’t live up to unrealistic standards. Inevitably, real life won’t always look like viral videos on Instagram. This can be a huge disappointment and a real danger for life satisfaction and sociality.
When you spend your days online, it’s hard to accept that your life won’t be the same as what you see on other people’s created channels. In fact, 78% of Americans think social media networks have made them jealous of other people’s lives. This will affect not only you as a person but also your relationships. There are many instances where people begin to feel jealous of others and their relationships and resent their partner or friends for not being the same. Such feelings can create an extremely toxic environment, making it difficult for a relationship to last.
Internet connections and a sense of social support.
Does the number of friends on Facebook or followers on Instagram translate into real social support? Not at all, says a study by Kim and Lee (2011). In fact, we can have many social media friends and only a few fulfilling relationships among them or hundreds of virtual contacts and just ten quality ones within them. The feeling of social support and belonging is rather built by the number of satisfying interactions with people than an increasing number of people around.
Increased relationship-building opportunities
We can all agree that Facebook and other social media sites provide an opportunity to connect with others. They make it easier for us to get to know new people and maintain existing relationships. So, a large number of friends or followers can be positive and give us great potential. Thinking logically about it – the greater the number of friends, the greater the chances of having supportive ones among them.
Addictive dopamine spikes during internet use
Many researchers compare social media addiction to drug addiction. Why? Because the mechanism is actually quite similar. Social media use is a highly escalating behavior. The more time you spend on social media, the less satisfying it becomes. So in order to feel the same gratification as before, you start spending more and more time on it. Also, the more time you spend online, the less time you get to spend with your loved ones in real life. Scientifically, the phenomenon is called social displacement. Ironically, social media, which aims to bring the world closer together, is the cause of this displacement and social isolation for many people.
Social media can bring us a sense of social support. However, it’s not about the numbers that matter here. As in any relationship, we need to devote our time and effort to establish relationships. It depends on us in what way we use the technology given into our hands and whether it turns out to be positive or negative in its effects. We all need to work on using social media wisely and not fall into the dopamine spikes trap
By Magdalena Sadowska
About the author: Magdalena Sadowska, the Community Manager of PhotoAiD. With a background in psychology, she is fascinated by how people interact and create their reality. As a travel enthusiast, given a choice of sea or mountains, she chooses both.