Is Social Media Ruining "Real" Friendships?


Posted Dec 01, 2014

Social media touches every part of our lives, including our romantic relationships, parenting, work life, communication habits, and entertainment. Do you have a question about how social media is affecting your life or how to handle it? Send it! I'll answer one or two questions every Monday on this topic.

Dear Jen,

With all the overuse of social media, isn't it ruining our real friendships?


Elizabeth in Illinois


Dear Elizabeth,

Your short question has a lot packed into it!

First, I don't think it's fair to call some friendships "real" if it implies others are fake. Online interaction is still communication, and two people can develop everything it means to be true friends in the online world.

Second, you say we are "overusing" social media, but I don't think I agree with that, either. Certainly, some people spend far too much time online or they hide behind online interactions. But most people don't. The average American spends 40 minutes on Facebook every day. That may sound like a lot, but we spend an average of five hours watching TV. It's something we use, but current rates are far from what I'd consider "overuse".

Finally, your actual question – is social media use hurting our offline relationships? Absolutely not.

This is a question I get a lot, and I point out to people that, as a professor, I'm surrounded by the demographic that spends the most time on social media. College students use these tools more than anyone else. Yet, the bars and parties and social events are always packed every weekend. It's a myth that young people (or any people) are giving up their in-person social interaction in favor of sitting alone in a room, hiding behind a screen.

Certainly, we don't want a world where people only interact through text and distance. There's a lot that comes through best in in-person interaction. But social media is not the enemy of that. It's a booster!

Good luck!

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