Social Media: A preferred tool for teens to stay connected

Diverse people using their phones

By Sanjana Karthik

Social media is often be reputed as toxic. Although this notion can often hold to be true, but it is important that we also address the second side of the coin that 64% of teens have said to build relationships with new people, by utilizing social media platforms, and the use of social media has extended to interactions with friends for 94% of the teenagers. In addition, social media lends itself to more than 83% of teen social media users feeling more connected to their friends.

According to R.I.M. Dunbar, a professor in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford, we need to interact with those whom we consider very dear to at least once a week, once a month for close friends, and at least once a year to maintain the relationships with friends and acquaintances that we are associated with.

Although sending posts on social media provides an opportunity for continued interactions, it does not invest in or maintain a deeper level of connection that we are required to have to fulfill the above needs. While overuse of social media hinders relationships, between friends, family members, and partners as well. A study conducted indicates that “those who were phubbed by their partners felt conflict that led to lower relationship satisfaction”. According to James A. Roberts, Ph.D .“These lower levels of relationship satisfaction, in turn, led to lower levels of life satisfaction and, ultimately, higher levels of depression.” We can see how the same feelings can be commonly held in friendships as well, as social media can often neglect and obscure in-person relationships and communication between people.

The detriments of social media do not simply cease at a lack of attention, or authenticity in conversations, but also arouses feelings of jealousy, and insecurities among friendships. 53% of social media-using teens have witnessed others’ postings regarding gatherings, events, or parties that they weren’t invited to, which gives rise to the feeling of exclusion or jealousy. Additionally, postings on social media that simply capture people’s flourishing, can inspire feelings of inadequacy in friends who feel that they do not compare well with them.

It is evident that social media can often mold relationships with people, in an unpleasant manner. Removing social media however is not the solution, to filtering its negative presence in friendships. Rather, prioritizing and allocating time towards in-person interactions with people would proffer the best solution.

As maintained by the 1971 book Silent Messages in-person interaction dictates our relationships with people. A person’s expression is evoked by various factors, including 7% verbal feelings, 38% vocal feelings, and 55% facial feelings.” The degree of understanding between two people can only be impacted by conversations that holistically include these various factors.

In addition, as informed by Italian neuroscientist Giacomo Rizzolatti “mirror neurons” are evoked in in-person conversations and help to formulate a shared perspective on topics as well. For instance, when you lend a smile in a conversation, a smile, and the feeling behind it can often be reciprocated as well, constructing mutual understandings regarding ideas.

These in-person interactions often mitigate any misunderstandings and comparisons between people and allow for authentic conversation to be upheld. Although social media provides a platform for connection, it’s important that we validate in-person interactions and integrate them into our schedules, as this extends itself to fortified bonds with others.