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Social Media: a Tool for Relationships or Merely a Substitute?

As cell phones and social media continue to place themselves at the center of our social lives, we wonder what effect its importance has on the quality of our social life. Is the pressure to answer every tritone and whistle distracting us from meaningful human interaction? Or is maintaining contact with otherwise long-lost friends through Facebook leading to longer-lasting friendships?

Here are some of the arguments for and against social media as presented by The Wall Street Journal:

Social Media is Detrimental to Society:

  • We spend too much time on social media to build real connections: “We spend so much time maintaining superficial connections online that we aren’t dedicating enough time or effort to cultivating deeper real-life relationships.”
  • We are on our phones even when we’re not talking: “Worse, we don’t even need a beep or vibration to distract us anymore. In one study of more than 1,100 teens and adults, my fellow researchers and I found that the vast majority of smartphone users under 35 checked in with their electronic devices many times a day and mostly without receiving an external alert.”
  • Empathy is lost in emoticons: “In one study we found that while empathy can be dispensed in the virtual world, it is only one-sixth as effective in making the recipient feel socially supported compared with empathy proffered in the real world. A hug feels six times more supportive than an emoji.”

Social Media is a Tool We Use to Maintain Relationships:

We’re doing a good job of staying in touch: “Social ties that we once would have abandoned as we left high school, changed jobs and moved from one neighborhood to another now persist online.”

  • Seemingly trivial messages communicate much more than you think: “It is tempting to dismiss as trivial many messages exchanged online. But together, the small sips that come from the steady contact of social media can add up to a big gulp of information about the activities, interests and opinions of the people we connect with. They communicate mutual awareness and closeness along with information that we wouldn’t otherwise receive.”

Are we moving to an ever more interconnected society or one that will soon forget how to interact with one another? Is your social presence going to be more valuable than what you present in person? What is sure is that the way we relate to one another is changing and adapting to the way people now connect will be key to success in your business.

Click here for the full article on The Wall Street Journal