Social networks have modified the way we communicate with the environment and with others, they have changed our interpersonal relationships.
There are more than 3.4 billion users of social networks worldwide, about 50% of the planet’s population. The figures show the huge impact and reach in the way we express ourselves, interact with companies, governments and leaders, and connect with other people.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Linkedin, WhatsApp, among other digital channels, allow instant communication. Through the use of computers, tablets, smartphones, we can establish contact with other people wherever we are. It is a significant change from the past, when there was no technology to connect people immediately.
With social networks, virtual relationships are established, and it is possible that they are maintained for a long time without ever transcending face to face. Saving distances is just one of the characteristics of this new type of relationship. The speed of contact with all those involved in the relationship as generators and receivers of information is another hallmark of the deal via social networks.
In the networks, people have found space to express their feelings and opinions more freely. It also encourages the meeting of people with common interests who are grouped in virtual communities that develop their own identities. Community members are recognized, their ties are strengthened, and their most influential users emerge as opinion leaders. The messages, news and opinions of the influencers are disseminated and multiplied at high speed, going viral.
Social networks modify interpersonal relationships in a positive way because:
- We can communicate quickly and regardless of distance with family, friends and acquaintances.
- It is possible to interact and establish relationships with people who are inaccessible in the real world.
- They allow shy and low self-esteem people to communicate more easily.
- We can join forums, communities and virtual groups according to our interests.
- They allow people who live in remote places or have some type of disability that prevents them from moving, to communicate and to establish bonds with others.
- We feel more uninhibited to express opinions and criticisms.
- They facilitate communication with our peers at work both locally and internationally.
Interpersonal relationships in danger
Just as they have advantages, social networks also pose dangers for our interpersonal relationships.
One of the dangers is that they limit or substitute real world relationships for which they are maintained through the networks. This scenario would imply isolation and the absence of real physical contact with other individuals, and would create social, affective, and emotional problems. Socialization would be reduced or canceled and the attachment bond that influences the way we relate to others would be affected.
With the use of social networks we lose part of our Privacy, we are more exposed. When opening an account on a network and starting to interact, we must be aware of the information we share. We have the possibility to activate security and privacy filters for each network, but the most important thing to safeguard privacy is to manage them with caution.
Likewise, we must be cautious when interacting, since we can be victims of deception by anonymous people or with false identities. There are also people who are dedicated to creating conflicts and controversies that could create disturbances in our virtual communities and in ourselves as individuals.
Another of the dangers of social networks is that could become an addiction. Long hours consulting or interacting on social networks rob us of sleep time and concentration and productivity at work.
Living glued to the computer or mobile device to constantly know what the networks are saying, verify and respond to notifications, involves a double risk. On the one hand, we lose track of time, of the hours we spend on the networks. On the other hand, we are absent even though we are together with other people in the real world. We dive into the phone and we don’t pay all the attention to what is spoken or is happening around us.
The desire to be visible on the networks could lead us to participate in multiple communities and forums without having enough time to do so. We could fall into Lack of compromise, not persevere, and in feelings of anxiety and fear of failure.
The misuse of social networks could also lead us to pretend that we have a different personality from the offline world. Taking false attitudes and postures is a danger, as well as idealize the life reflected by our contacts in the networks. This situation can arouse envy and generate anxiety, sadness and frustration.
Our work relationships are also at risk of being affected by addictive use of social networks. If we remain connected 24 hours a day, every day, including weekends, sharing work information, we will annoy our colleagues, subordinates or bosses.
Increased use of social media can make people children and young people put aside activities in the real world. Games and outings with friends could be diminished. Also, their participation in training, cultural and sports activities.
The compulsive use of the networks can imply, especially for children and adolescents, the fear of being marginalized and excluded. Syndrome FOMO (fear of missing out), fear of missing something, produces overwhelm and anxiety. Born of the desire to share everything, participate in all the options offered by the networks, and feel accepted in the virtual world.
Young people as part of their development seek recognition and acceptance. In virtual reality, searching for them by likes and number of followers could generate addiction to social networks.
If they are already dependent on the digital world, young people run the risk of being less tolerant of frustrations
already easily bored. Similarly, they may experience more difficulty coping with and responding to conflict situations in real life.