We’ve all heard the statistics. The numbers are staggering. There are now more than 800 million people on Facebook, 225 million on Twitter. On average, we will share 415 pieces of content on Facebook each year, spend 23 minutes a day on Twitter, upload 196 hours of video and send countless emails. There are now over 2.8 billion social media profiles, representing around half of all internet users worldwide.

When we consider why social media networks flourish, we need to first consider human behaviour in general. It’s human nature for people to want to connect with others and social forums are a great way for people to reach out and connect with other like-minded people. Social media is changing the way connect with each other. This can have both a positive and negative impact of our self-esteem and sense of self.

With social networking, we are all seeking:

  • Acknowledgement
  • Sense of belonging
  • Attention
  • Appreciation
  • Acceptance

The Up Side Of Social Networks

It can be exciting, at first, to connect with long-lost friends. We can reminisce about high school, laugh at “the old times” and reclaim the feelings we had when we were younger. When we meet new “friends” online, we have that burst of exhilaration we had in high school when we met new people. With social media, we also find it easier to approach others in a low-stress, low-commitment, low-rejection way. We can “poke” or give a virtual gift without much effort. With social networking, we can compare ourselves to others and feel good when we re-connect with old friends who are “worse off” than we are.

Blurred Lines

As with anything, however, there is a downside to social networking. True friendship comes with sharing experiences. When you think of who your real friends are, it’s likely people who you know, those you grew up with or shared a period of your life with, usually face-to-face. It is easy to mistake digital intimacy with real-life intimacy. The distinction between our genuine friends and our acquaintances is becoming blurred. People are spending time maintaining relationships with people they don’t really care about, perhaps to the exclusion of the offline friendships.

Getting Caught Up In The Numbers

With some, getting caught up in the numbers can be a complication. Using the number of your following as external validation of your acceptance and popularity can only lead to disappointment. It’s important to remember that real relationships take time, nurturing and are usually worth the effort.

The Internet is Written In Ink

The ease and anonymity of social media can lead to regret and remorse. It’s easy to forget that what goes online, stays online, meaning that anything you post on a social networking site stays accessible for a very, very long time. Using poor judgement by posting something you may regret can cause shame and guilt.

Redefining Behaviour

As human beings, our strongest motivator in life is to build relationships. With the advent of the Internet, we’ve made gigantic leaps in how we think, share, become friends with and relate to one another in a very short time. With social networking, we are, perhaps, interacting in ways we never thought we would have in real life. And while it is possible to make true, genuine and long-lasting relationships with like-minded people online, it’s important to understand the difference between what constitutes a real friendship with a virtual one.



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