Social media usage is here to stay, it’s not going anywhere and I think that communications among people are going to happen more and more through social media websites (and tools). It will be the main form of human interaction.
Is this a good thing? It is an inevitable thing in my opinion, but it is not necessarily increasing the quality of human interactions. For one, face-to-face time seems to be diminishing. All around us we see people more absorbed into looking at their mobile phone screens then they are into looking at each other.
Texting (WhatsApp), sending pictures (Snapchat) and commenting (Blogs, Facebook, Twitter) are the preferred way of interacting with friends and others who share our interests. People congregate around shared content, with less space given to voice talks and offline talks.
People generally refer to the intrusion of social media upon their social lives as a positive influence. They can get in touch with way more people this way, and share more content and information.
A few numbers (from PewInternet.org):
– 74% of the adult Internet users who report that the internet had an impact on their marriage or partnership say the impact was positive. Still, 20% said the impact was mostly negative, and 4% said it was both good and bad.
– 25% of married or partnered adults who text have texted their partner when they were both home together.
– 21% of cell owners or Internet users in a committed relationship have felt closer to their spouse or partner because of exchanges they had online or via text message.
– 25% of cell phone owners in a marriage or partnership have felt their spouse or partner was distracted by their cell phone when they were together.
– 41% of 18-29 year olds in serious relationships have felt closer to their partner because of online or text message conversations.
– 42% of cell-owning 18-29 year olds in serious relationships say their partner has been distracted by their mobile phone while they were together (25% of all couples say this).
Brands talk about using social media to build relationships with consumers and create two-way conversations, so it is ironic that I think its use negatively impacts actual human-to-human interactions.
From the control and information production side of things I think social media create conversations around content and widespread sharing. People in social media are actors and not passive receivers of information, that’s a positive development in my opinion (even though a few trusted curators of information could still go a long way, a tale well told by all those shares of misinformation we see everyday). On the other hand all this involvement and availability of access creates an environment ripe for absorbing the users time and stealing it away from face-to-face off line interactions.
I don’t see this trend going anywhere but up, with mobile broadband becoming cheaper and widespread people will only increase the time they spend interacting with each other through social media. We have to get used to it and develop ways to foster intimacy and true connections in a world that clamors for quantity over quality.