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HOW SOCIAL MEDIA HAS AFFECTED RELATIONSHIPS

Many people spend a lot of time on their phones and less time communicating in person.

Regardless of age, social media is transforming our experience of reality.  The urge to check our phones and social media engagement, is getting stronger and stronger.  These urges are driven by the need to connect.  After food and shelter, our need to belong and feel positively connected to others, is arguably the number one predictor of well-being and happiness.

Social media can be addictive and self-absorbing.  Instead of deriving pleasure from face-to-face experiences with people around you, you rather seek it (along with validation) from your phone.  Your brain’s pleasure centers respond positively to novelty, which social media offers in a constant stream of new interactions, new posts, and new pictures every second.

Without the opportunity to look into someone’s eyes, observe their body language, hear their tone of voice, we cannot intuitively sense their feelings.  Consequently, a sense of responsibility for one’s actions can easily vanish and deep emotional connection can become virtually impossible when the phone is constantly checked.

One study showed that the mere presence of a cellphone when two people are talking interferes with feelings of closeness, connection, and communication. We are social creatures wired to connect with others. We are exquisitely fine-tuned to understand people by internalizing the minutest changes in their body language and faces.

When going on to social media, an idealised persona can easily be created where confidence is portrayed without the imperfections of being human and experiencing negative feelings.  There is little room in the midst of all of this perfection for genuine intimacy or authentic connection. Social media is addictive and self absorbing.

Technology also allows you to hide.  Dr. Julie Gottman from the Gottman Institute says: “People sometimes use technology as a mask – so that they don’t have to be looked at and don’t have to make eye contact with anyone else. They don’t have to feel their own or the other person’s tension.  They don’t have to suppress it or deal with it in any way.”

If devices constantly interfere with our conversations, we undermine our ability to connect with others. We miss the flicker of emotion in our child’s eye, the look of exasperation on our partner’s face, or the attempt of a friend to share something meaningful with us.  In theory, social media is meant to connect us, but in reality, it acts as a barrier.  Paradoxically, our impulse to broadcast our lives makes us miss out on them.

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