As social media networks gain in importance, they may be taking the place of telephony within interpersonal communication. The question arises of whether this is doing more good than harm, and the answers aren’t easy to come by.
What is clear is that these networks are not one-size-fits all. The type of network a person chooses to use varies according to their age, interests and relationship status. Moreover, different types of content can influence the way that relationships evolve, even though this isn’t always immediately apparent.
For example, in some cases, social media helps to maintain and even strengthen pre-existing family ties. In this case, it can be a great advantage for couples in long-distance relationships as they can keep up to date with each other’s lives and see each other regularly via pictures and video chats.
However, in some other cases, it can make them feel disconnected as they spend less and less time together and have a harder time communicating verbally. It can also have a negative impact on a relationship if couples fall into the trap of ‘phubbing’ – looking at their mobile phone whilst they are in the company of other people – which has been linked with lower levels of relationship satisfaction and more feelings of ambivalence.
It is also possible that these kinds of networks are reducing the power of weak ties as they tend to favour a more homogenous grouping of people which limits the range of ideas and news that is encountered, resulting in what is often called a filter bubble. It is a good idea to try to develop strong ties with people outside of your immediate circle as this will help counteract this effect and ensure that you are exposed to a wide range of opinions.